SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

China: Religion, Faith, and Politics

Ian Johnson talk
Ian Johnson

Date: 15 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 15 January 2018Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar

This event is free and open to the public. No registration is required. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.


Following a century of violent anti-religious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches and mosques--as well as cults, sects and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty--over what it means to be Chinese, and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is still searching for new guideposts.

Ian Johnson has spent six years researching this movement through five case studies: an underground Protestant church in Chengdu, Buddhist pilgrims in Beijing, Daoist priests in rural Shanxi, meditation groups in caves in the country's south, and propagandists fashioning the government's remarkable embrace of traditional values. Along the way, he  learned esoteric meditation techniques, befriended a nonagenarian Confucian sage, reread the Bible, and joined a martial arts pilgrimage group.

These experiences are distilled into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle--a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world's newest superpower.


Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer focusing on society, religion, and history. He works out of Beijing, where he also teaches university classes on Chinese religion and society.

Johnson has spent twenty years in China, first as a student, later as a newspaper correspondent, and now as a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New York Times. He also serves as an advising editor for the Journal of Asian Studies, and advises the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, and New York University's Center for Religion and Media. 

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823