Vincent Goossaert and David A. Palmer

Apr 28, 2014

The Religious Question in Modern China

University of Chicago Press 2011

purchase at Social phenomena that some people like to call 'religion' has long shaped Chinese culture. In the twentieth century, defining the boundaries of what constitutes 'religion' has been central to the construction of a modern nation. In this far reaching book, The Religious Question in Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 2011), authors Vincent Goossaert, directeur d'etudes in Chinese religions at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, and David A. Palmer, professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong, help us tread the complex field of phenomena where 'religion' is the central question. The question is answered again and again by intellectuals, politicians, and practitioners each seeking their own objective in classifying particular social activities as religious or not. The authors lead us through the debates revolving around what various practices entailed and if they merit the classification 'religion,' such as athletic practices, lay Buddhist activity, traditional medicine, Confucian movements, self-cultivation, evangelic Christianity, dietary practices, and Falun Gong. Of course, the answer depends on who you asked and when. This rich book offers a detailed analysis of Chinese questions about religion, secularity, and modernity in a global world. It has garnered wide recognition and made an important contribution to the study of Chinese religions.

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Kristian Petersen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

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