Ian Johnson’s new book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (Pantheon, 2017),  was called “a masterpiece of observation and empathy”...

Ian Johnson’s new book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (Pantheon, 2017),  was called “a masterpiece of observation and empathy” by The New York Review of Books, and The Economist, who included the book on its Best of 2017 list, said the book, “Shows how a resurgence of faith is quietly changing the country.” The Guardian said the book is “full of moving encounters with Chinese citizens … Johnson succeeds in having produced a nuanced group portrait of Chinese citizens striving for non-material answers in an era of frenetic materialism.” I just finished the book myself and was stunning in its portrayals. If you hope to understand the trajectory of modern China, arguably the fastest-rising international superpower, understanding its spiritual traditions–Taoism, Christianity, folk religion, and Islam–will be helpful, if not essential.

A Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Ian Johnson is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New York Times; his work has also appeared in The New Yorker and National Geographic. He is an advising editor for the Journal of Asian Studies and teaches courses on religion in Beijing. He is the author of The Souls of China, Wild Grass, A Mosque in Munich, and The Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West.


Greg Soden is the host “Classical Ideas,” a podcast about religion and religious ideas. You can find it on iTunes here