China’s religious revival is a historic shift back to spirituality akin to America’s Great Awakenings of the 19th century–itself a time of social unrest and dislocation. Across China, people are returning to established religions and inventing new spiritual traditions. Buddhist and Daoist temples are flooded with believers and money, while Christianity has gained a permanent foothold, centuries after missionaries first introduced it to China–indeed, it’s probably the country’s fastest-growing and most politically active religion. And then there are new ideas, more spiritual or esoteric than religious: anthroposophy, yoga, Gandhiism, and hybrid mixtures of traditional and modern beliefs. Together, they are efforts by Chinese to make sense of their confusing world, to experiment with new ways of living, and to give meaning to their tumultuous lives. Some call for intense social activism, others for drop-out hedonism. All are helping to give a young, awkward country a spiritual underpinning–the soul of a new superpower.

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