One of the Best Books of the Year: The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor
China is in the midst of one of the world's great spiritual awakenings: some 300 million Chinese currently practice a faith, while tens of millions more follow personal gurus, populist masters and New Age sages. This astonishing revival began in 1982 when the Communist Party pledged to allow what it thought would be a small-scale practice of religion under government supervision. But the faithful have expanded far beyond the Party's expectations: Today, China's cities and villages are filled with new temples, churches, and mosques as well as cults, sects and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Fueling this resurgence is a popular desire to rediscover a moral compass in a society driven by naked capitalism.
For six years, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Ian Johnson lived for extended periods with three religious communities: the underground Early Rain Protestant congregation in Chengdu, the Ni family's Buddhist pilgrimage association in Beijing, and yinyang Daoist priests in rural Shanxi. Johnson distills these experiences into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle that reveals the hearts and minds of the Chinese people—a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world's newest superpower.