Religion in Contemporary China

Along with China’s astonishing economic growth in recent years, Chinese religions have enjoyed a remarkable renaissance. Buddhist, Daoist, and popular religious temples have flourished. Last year, official ceremonies commemorating Confucius’s 2565th birthday were held nationwide, mostly in the newly revived Confucius temples. China is home to more than 20 million Muslims, and the number of mosques, including women-only mosques, has been rapidly growing. China is also predicted to become the world’s largest Christian nation within ten years. Tibetan Buddhism, once a minor religion, nowadays attracts a large number of followers among the wealthy and educated Chinese middle class.

What is the meaning of this religious renaissance? And what are its implications?

On April 7th, 2015 the George Washington University Religion Department hosted a panel on religion in contemporary China; the GW Confucius Institute was a co-sponsor for this event. Participating scholars included George Washington University Professors Eyal Aviv and Xiaofei Kang, as well as invited guest speakers: Ori Tavor, a Lecturer from University Pennsylvania; Professor Zhaohui He, Shandong University and Matthew S. Erie, a Postdoctoral Research Associate from Princeton University. These five professors of religious studies from the US and China participated in a panel which will shed light on different aspects of China’s current religious resurgence and the role of religion in contemporary Chinese society. The discussion covered a wide array of religions, including Tibetan Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and Islam. Community members, ranging from high school students to retirees, gathered to listen to the experts speak about their research on various topics including the importance of religion’s influence on contemporary China, the reason for successful resurgence of religion in China, the role of women in religion, etc. The audiences engaged in thoughtful discussion about the presentation topics and asked insightful questions, such as the comparison to religious resurgence in American. Through this dialogue with experts, participants gained a much deeper understanding of religion in contemporary China.


Speakers Included:

Robert Eisen: Chair, Religion Department, GWU

Eyal Aviv: Assistant Professor, Department of Religion and Honors Program, GWU

Ori Tavor: Lecturer of Chinese Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Xiaofei Kang: Associate Professor of Religion, GWU

Zhaohui He: Professor of History, Shandong University, Visiting Fulbright Scholar at GWU

Matthew S. Erie: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton University