The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (2017) tells the story of one of the world’s great spiritual revivals. 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.

This book is the culmination of a six-year project following an underground Protestant church in Chengdu, pilgrims in Beijing, rural Daoist priests in Shanxi, and meditation groups in caves in the country’s south.

Along the way, I learned esoteric meditation techniques, visited a nonagenarian Confucian sage, and befriended government propagandists as they fashioned a remarkable embrace of traditional values. 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.

With the launch of the Vintage and Penguin paperbacks in early 2018, the formal book tour is over. For more recent talks on China, religion and society, please see the general speaking page.

UCLASchool of Law
19 March 2018
"China's Search for Faith and Values"
12 noon to 2 pm. Details here
UC Irvine
20 March 2018
Search for Meaning: Return of Religion and Spirituality in China
3-4 pm. Details here.
UC San Diego
21 March 2018
"The Return of Religion and China's Future"
5 pm. Details here.
Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting
Washington, D.C.
24 March 2018
Book signing. 
2-3 pm.
Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Random House booth.
Purdue University
27 March 2018
Center on Religion and Chinese Society
"The Confucian Dream?"
West Layfayette Public Library
4:30-6 pm. Details here.
University of London
School of Oriental and African Studies
15 January 2018
5-7 pm. Details here.
Cambridge University
16 January 2018
5-7 pm. Details to come.
Chatham House
(Royal Institute of International Affairs, London)
17 January 2018
1-2:30 pm. Details here.
Reform Club
18 January 
Invitation only. 
14 December 2017
Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies, Berlin 
Details here.
ThinkIn China Beijing
5 December  2017
Event report and pictures here.
Singapore Writers Festival
11 November 2017
5-6 pm "Media: Friend or Foe?"
8:30-9:15 pm "China Soul-Searching"
12 November 2017
2:30-3:30 "Turning to Faith" 
Details for all events here.
Hong Kong University
6 November 2017
Details here.
Hong Kong Baptist University
6 November 2017
Details here.

Hong Kong Literary Festival

4 November 2017
11 am to 12 noon, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences
"The Souls of China."
Details here
5 November 
13:30-14:30, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Science
hosting Zhang Lijia talk about her new novel, "Lotus."
Details here.
National Committee for U.S.-China Relations
26 October 2017
"The Souls of China"
New York City.
Details here.
Yale University
23 October 2017
"The Battle for China's Soul"
Luce Hall Auditorium, 4:30 pm
Details here.
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
19 October
"China's Religious Revival"
East Asia Center, 5 pm. 
Details here.
Young China Watchers
18 October 2017
Discussion of faith, values and the Communist Party's once-every-five-year meeting.
New York City.
Details here.
Columbia University 
18 October 2017
Discussion on "Souls of China," moderated by Andrew Nathan. 
Weatherhead East Asian Institute, 12 noon to 1:30 pm
Details here.
University of South Florida
16 October 2017
Centro Asturiano,
1913 Nebraska Avenue, Tampa
Details here.
15 May, Shanghai FCC. Details here.
16 May, Duke Kunshan campus.
18 May, Beijing International Society. Details here.
18 May, Foreign Correspondents Clubs of China. Details here.
-->CANCELED: 1 June, 7 pm. The Beijing Bookworm. Details here
San Francisco:
April 29, 2 pm Overseas Press Club/West. Mechanics Institute. Talk with Jennifer Lin, who has a new book (Shanghai Faithful)  on the history of her Christian family. Our talk will be hosted by Mary Kay Magistad, former of PRI's The World and current host of the podcast "Whose Century Is It?"
More details and registration here.
May 1, 12:30-2 pm keynote talk and panel discussion. Stanford University. Presentation of the 2017 Shorenstein Journalism Award. Details here
May 2, 4 pm to 5:30 pm, University of California, Davis. Joint talk with Jeffrey Wasserstrom of UC Irvine: "The Presence of the Past in the Future: Facing China." Details here
Notre Dame
April 27, 4 pm.Kellogg School of Public Policy. Details here.
April 24, 12 noon to 1:30 pm. Northwestern University. Details here.
April 25, 6 pm. University of Chicago bookstore reading and Q&A, hosted by Dali Yang. Details here and on Facebook here.
Durham, NC
April 20. 7 pm Duke University. Hosted by Prasenjit Duara and Ralph Litzinger. Flyer here.
April 17, 3:30-5 pm Wilson Center. Hosted by Robert Daly. Details here.
April 17, 6:30-8 pm. East City Bookshop. Details here
April 18, 3-4:30 CSIS. Talk with Scott Kennedy about the book and how spirituality dovetails with Xi Jinping's agenda. Details here.
April 19, 4-5:30 pm Georgetown University. Hosted by James Millward. Details here.
New York City:
April 12, 6-7:30pm. New York University Bookstore. 746 Broadway. Details here.
April 13, 12 noon, The King’s College | 56 Broadway | New York, NY 10004. Q&A with my former colleague from the Wall Street Journal, Paul Glader. Details here.
April 13, 7 pm, Asia Society and the New York Review of Books. Talk, reading, and Q&A hosted by the writer Ian Buruma. Details here
April 11. 4-6 pm. Harvard University Belfer Center.  1730 Cambridge St. Details here.
Souls of China map, from the book's frontispiece. By Angela Hessler
Published Reviews
In reverse chronological order:
Check out the website "Shepherd's" reviews of Souls, as well as reader recommendations.
American Academy of Religion Reading Room
13 March 2018
"The Souls of China is a book that could never have been written by a modern academic, and I mean that by way of praise. It is the work of a generalist who is comfortable conversing with dissident Christians, Buddhist gurus, and conservative Confucian intellectuals, and one who has the social, cultural, and linguistic fluency to navigate the complexities of myriad encounters with people from diverse cultural, religious, and economic backgrounds. Johnson, ever the modest Canadian, never vaunts these skills, remarkable though they are, and infuses many of his encounters with a self-deprecating humor that portrays him as the typical confused and ignorant foreigner stumbling through the complexities of Chinese culture. Do not be fooled by this literary device for one minute. Johnson is a master of his material, fully conversant with the latest academic scholarship on China, and has written an instant classic that deserves high praise and a wide readership."
Read the full review by Queens University Professor James Miller here.
The World of Chinese
25 December 2017
"The book is just as much about urbanization, alienation, economic development, competition, aspiration, corruption, city planning, agricultural reform, globalization, nationalism, and politics as it is about any particular religious group."
Read the review by Jeremiah Jenne here.
The Economist
10 December 2017
One of the best books of 2017.
Review here.
Australian Book Review
December 2017
A review by David Brophy of the University of Sydney.
Read it (paywall) here.
11 November 2017
"A compelling read."
Read the review here
VoegelinView one of best books of 2017 here.
Times Literary Supplement
12 September 2017
"Compelling...The Souls of China is a seminal piece of work taking the reader well beyond the prejudices and clichés that so often mark writing about religion in East Asia."
Read the review by Yuan Ren here.
Healing Tao
6 September 2017
"Souls is also unique in the wide scope of culture and history of China that is woven into the gripping personal narratives. It is so skillfully done you don’t even realize you just got a Masters Degree in the evolution of multiple religions under 'scientific' communism. It not only covers Taoism, China’s indigenous religion, but the foreign Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam as well."
Read the rest of the review by one of North America's foremost popularizers of Taoism, Michael Winn, here.
Current History
September, 2017
"The Souls of China is written like top-flight journalism—it is driven by the stories of real people, and the analysis flows out of their lives. At the same time, a reader who knows the literature (and who reads the endnotes) will see just how thoroughly grounded Johnson is in the broader range of scholarship."
Read the full review by Robert Weller of Boston University here.
Asian Review of Books
26 August 2017
"With the patience of the ethnographer, and the precision of a journalist, Johnson has produced an enduring account of China’s inner life at a time of disorienting social and economic change."
Read the full review by Jonathan Chatwin here.
The Irish Times
"Johnson provides the broad background so essential to telling the story of China, a country where the scale and size of population makes events difficult to grasp, and he renders the data meaningful by listening to ordinary people and telling us their side."
Read the full review by Clifford Coonan here.
22 August 2017
"Johnson’s deep familiarity with China, keen observations, and excellent Chinese language skills enable him to provide rich descriptions on social and political practices."
Read the review by Rana Siu Inboden here.
19 July 2017
"To call Johnson’s work monumental would not be an overstatement. For anyone seeking to engage in the spiritual life of China, it is a must-read."
Read the review by ChinaSource founder Brent Fulton here.
The New Yorker
3 July 2017
"With a subtlety born of years spent in China, Johnson explains how traditional rituals help people overcome urban anomie and answer the “pragmatic but profound issue of how to behave” at critical life junctures."
Read the "Briefly Noted" review here.
The Deskbound Traveler
28 June 2017
"written in prose that’s rhythmical but unshowy, with scarcely a metaphor, and with a gentle sense of humour."
Read the review by Michael Kerr and explore his interesting blog on travel writing here.
The Christian Century
13 June 2017
"exceptionally valuable and moving study"
Read the in-depth review by Baylor professor emeritus of global Christianity, Philip Jenkins, here.
The New York Review of Books
8 June 2017
"a masterpiece of empathy and observation."
Read the review by Roderick MacFarquhar here.
Literary Review
June 2017
"This is a well-written, rich, and thoughtful book that deserves to reach a wide audience."
Read the full review by Nick Holdstock here.
God, Gold, and Generals
6 June 2017
"I recommend this book very highly. Read from a secular perspective, it's a very insightful and moving account of all how kinds of belief in China have not only survived but flourished. For a Christian, it shows that God has done, without really any outside "help" from anyone, an astounding miracle."
Read the full review by Jeremy Marshall here.
The Gospel Coalition
31 May 2017
"For anyone interested in looking beyond the headlines to understand the complexity of religious life in China today, The Souls of China is a must-read."
Read the full review by Joann Pittman here.
The Washington Post
19 May 2017
"Ian Johnson brilliantly demonstrates that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Under the surface lies a world of vividly imagined hopes and dreams. Johnson ventures far off the beaten path and listens to ordinary Chinese who introduce him to their world of the spirit.... In Johnson’s telling, there is not one but many souls of modern China, all engaged in a sometimes cacophonous quest for meaning, community and justice."
Read the review by the pioneering sociologist of Chinese religion, Richard Madsen, here.
Christian Science Monitor
12 May 2017
"Ian Johnson has written a deeply knowledgeable, eminently readable and important book that reveals a side of China that foreigners rarely explore. He is an excellent and companionable guide."
Read the full review by Peter Ford here.
The Spectator
10 May 2017
"He skilfully relates his vivid reportage to the wider political and social context."
Read the full review by Roger Garside here.
Los Angeles Review of Books
2 May 2017
"It is precisely Marx’s notion of how religion serves a purpose for several different Chinese communities that Ian Johnson’s wonderful book captures so well."
Read the review by Johan Elverskog here.
The Financial Times
17 April 2017
"Aborbing and often surprising"
Read the review by Maura Cunningham here.
The Wall Street Journal
12 April 2017
"These lives represent China’s immense diversity of experience. Yet they also reveal a widespread desire for spirituality. The lack of a moral “bottom line” at every level of society has left Chinese grasping for something to believe in."
Read the full review by Hugo Restall here.
The Guardian
7 April 2017
"Full of moving encounters with Chinese citizens struggling to find the 'lost middle.'"
Read the review by Julia Lovell here.
The Economist
31 March 2017
"a fascinating panorama"
Read the review here.
The Useless Tree
27 March 2017
"draws out the complexities of contemporary religious life in China in vivid and fine-grained detail."
Read the review by Sam Crane here
21 February 2017
"In touching, descriptive prose, Johnson brings his subjects to life amid a colorful backdrop. Engaging, timely, and humane."
*Starred review.*
Read the review here.
Library Journal
15 February 2017
“Through interviews conducted with a wide variety of practitioners, Johnson paints a vivid picture of the diversity of Chinese religious life….He provides a fascinating account of how traditional activities recovered after enduring severe repression during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76). An excellent work that is highly recommended for readers interested in Chinese culture or religion.”
*Starred review*
Read the review here (paywall).
Publishers Weekly:
February 2017
"Johnson’s writing is compelling and lyrical, and his research strikes a fluid balance between the political implications of a resurgence of spirituality in a society that for so long suppressed any official religious presence, and the implications for daily life and society found in the complex and human details of this new populist cultural development."
Read the review here.
Advance Praise 

Comments from early readers of the book:

This entrancing and engaging book challenges the modern assumption that religion is a thing of the past; on the contrary, the dramatic resurgence of spirituality in China, after a century of violent persecution, suggests that it is an irrepressible force that may in some sense be essential to humanity. —Karen Armstrong, author of The Battle for GodFields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, and The Great Transformation: The World in the Times of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, and Jeremiah.

Ian Johnson peels back the gleaming surfaces of modern China to reveal a sacred landscape underneath – a web of ritual and tradition, myth and faith, that has sustained Chinese for centuries and is doing so anew. Over a year in the traditional calendar, Johnson takes us on an extraordinarily rich and intimate journey—from pilgrimages on holy mountains, to the thriving Protestant congregations in the nation’s booming cities, to the village farmhouses where Daoist funerals are held and fortunes told. Johnson shows us what is really in Chinese souls and hearts. This vividly written, deeply researched book will be the primary work about religious faith in China for years to come. —Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China.

The Souls of China is a marvel of reportage.  For more than five years, Ian Johnson travelled all around China to observe rituals that few outsiders ever witness:  funerals and temple fairs, fortune-telling and internal alchemy, Daoist cultivation exercises and underground Christian church services.  Johnson writes about Chinese believers with detail and insight, but also with great heart – their stories are often inspiring and moving.  At a time when most China books focus on politics or economics, this is the best exploration of the cultural and moral life of everyday citizens. —Peter Hessler, author of River Town: Two Years of the Yangtze and three other books on China

The Souls of China is a rich, informative, and timely book, which explores a major aspect of Chinese life. Ian Johnson carries erudition lightly and describes the people and events with deep insights and personal involvement. Section by section, the writing shows long-term dedication and meticulous research. At heart this is also a personal book, full of feelings and exuberance. It’s a tremendous accomplishment. —Ha Jin, author of War TrashA Free Life, and the National Book Award-winning Waiting.

On one level Ian Johnson’s book is about sages and spiritual pursuits, but it also embodies critical insights into Chinese society and its looming existential concerns. His engaging stories reflect a deep understanding of Chinese traditional religions: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, as well as the rebellious groups and sects popular among those in the bottom rung of society. I wonder if I can attribute such knowledge and insights to the author’s deep roots in China? Since the 1980s he has spent most of his time there, traversing the countryside and the city streets, calling on the impoverished and downtrodden, and immersing himself in the lives of ordinary folks. His tripartite masterpiece Wild Grass and his newest book, The Souls of China, are the most remarkable works to come from a western author in the past two decades. —Liao Yiwu, exiled Chinese author of God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China, The Corpsewalker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up, and For A Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey through a Chinese Prison.

Ian Johnson has long been a resourceful and bracing guide to the biggest national transformation of modern history. In The Souls of China he masterfully opens up a little explored realm: how the quest for religion and spirituality drives hundreds of millions of Chinese.  —Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger: A History of the Present.

Ian Johnson breaks new ground with a brilliant approach,  mixing theoretical explorations with real life vignettes from a convincing insider-outsider-combined perspective, making them commenting each other, illuminating in the same way as through the traditional Chinese criticism paradigm of  ‘I commentate the six classics which commentate me.’ The Souls of China is a must read for an understanding of China. —Qiu Xiaolong, author of The Inspector Chen Novels

The great Chinese writer Lu Xun once wrote that when many men pass along the same way, a new road is made. The Souls of China shows us how the Chinese people, some with heroic steps and others with hesitant ones, are making a new road for Chinese religion in the twenty-first century. The reappearance and flourishing of religion is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the dramatic changes in China in recent decades. With great sensitivity Ian Johnson guides us on a tour of the rituals, festivals, and above all some of the remarkable characters who make up this new Chinese religious world. This is a beautiful, moving and insightful book. —Michael Szonyi, author of Cold War Island and director, Harvard University's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

O Clarim
30 November 2018
An interview with the Macau-based Catholic magazine O Clarim, which you can read here.
Spiritus Magazine
30 November 2018
An excerpt of The Souls of China in French in the Catholic magazine Spiritus. Read a PDF version of the piece by clicking here.
Jesuitas Em Portugual
7 November 2018
An interview with Father Miguel Pedro Melo, in Portuguese, on religion in China, the church and Xi Jinping's new policies. Read here.
Missio Magazine
18 June 2018
Interview in Germany with the Catholic magazine Missio, on religion in China and the travails of the church there. Read a PDF of the piece here.
Spirit Matters Podcast
30 April 2018
An interview with Phil Goldberg and Dennis Raimondi about China's search for values. Listen here.
China in the 21st Century
27 March 2018
A dialogue with Richard Madsen, a pioneer in the study of Chinese religions, as part of UCSD's 21st Century China podcast series.
Listen to it here.
El Confidencial
19 March 2018
Interview on the revial of Confucianism in Spanish. 
Read the article here.
Die Tagespost
22 February 2018
Interview by Michael Leh in the Catholic newspaper about Sino-Vatican relations, with a mention of the book. 
Read the article in German here.
Le Figaro
5 February 2018
Interview by Cyrille Pluyette on Xi Jinping's links to Buddhism--first reported in the Souls of China. Nice interview and shoutout for the book. 
Read the English translation of the article here.
5 January 2018
A 45-minute podcast in German about China, values, belief and the country's political future. Listen to it on Souncloud here.
The Classical Ideas Podcast
28 December 2017
An hour-long discussion with Greg Soden on his show that explores the world's religions and trends. Listen to it here
JWT Intelligence
29 November 2017
An interview with Chen May Yee for the newsletter of advertising and marketing giant JWT. Read it here.
Religion and Ethics Report
22 November 2017
Australian Broadcasting's weekly podcast on religion talks to me about the state's support and persecution of religion. Listen here.
My Radio
18 November 2017
One of Hong Kong's most fearless talk radio hosts Leung Kam Cheung (梁錦祥) talks about spiritualism, faith, and The Souls of China. Here's the show on YouTube.
National Committee on U.S.-China Relations
8 November 2017
During a recent trip to New York, I spoke at the NCUSCR and gave an interview on its China podcast series. Listen here.
   The event was also taped. You can watch the video here.
AGI Estero
11 August 2017
Interview with Alessandra Spalletta on god and Marx. Read it (in Italian) here.
The Sinica Podcast
4 August 2017
A free-wheeling discussion with Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn and David Moser about The Souls of China and China's spiritual awakening. Click here for the podcast.
BBC "Witness" Series
3 August 2017
This series explore events in history that still deserve our attention and this show is on the 1999 crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement. I was interviewed as an eyewitness to the crackdown and its historical significance. Click here to listen to the broadcast.
Faith & Leadership
24 July 2017
An interview by Bob Wells of Duke University's Faith & Leadership newsletter. Available online here.
2 July 2017
Article by Ofir Dor on China's religious revival in one of Israel's leading business publications, with quotes by me. Hebrew language. Please click here.
China Dialogue
1 June 2017
Interview with Ma Tianjie on China, religion, and the environment.
Please read the interview here
BBC Radio Scotland
28 may 2017
Thirty-minute interview on The Souls of China.
Click here for the show (interview is last half-hour.)
Mirror Media Group
25 May 2017
Video live stream of interview by Mirror Group a New York-based Chinese-language website. 
See the YouTube video of the interview here.

Purdue University Media Lab

22 May 2017
Interview on China, religion, politics, social trust, underground churches--you name it. Listen here.
Religion News Service
17 May 2017
A wide-ranging interview with one of RNS's senior correspondents, Kimberly Winston, during a recent visit to California. 
Read the interview here.
Leonard Lopate Show
16 May 2017
A talk with one of New York's best-known talk-show radio hosts on China's religious revival. 
Listen to the interview here
BBC Radio Ulster
14 May 2017
A 9-minute interview, part of the Sunday morning religion show "Sunday Sequence."
Listen to the interview here.
TimeOut Beijing
11 May 2017
Helen Roxburgh talks to Ian about his "fascinating new book." Read the interview here.
Radio Open Source
8 May 2017
Christopher Lydon in an extended talk with me about China, religion, North Korea, Xi Jinping, and Donald Trump. This was a really neat discussion at Chris's home in Boston.
Listen to the show here.
PRI Whose Century Is It?
5 May 2017
"Soul Searching:" Mary Kay Magistad interviews me and Jennifer Lin, author of a new book about her Christian family in Shanghai. Listen to the show here
PRI's The World
2 May 2017
"Religion is alive and kicking in atheist China."
Listen to the interview here.
RBB Inforadio
1 May 2017
Interview with Ruth Kirchner (in German) on China's religious boom. 
NPR's All Things Considered
12 April 2017
An interview with NPR's Ari Shapiro on China's spiritual awakening. Listen to the talk or read the transcript here.
Asia Society website
10 April 2017
Matt Schiavenza
Read here.
Young China Watchers
10 April 2017
Interview with Jun Liang Yap
Read here.
The Initium
10 April 2017 
Interview with journalist Zhao Han on China's religious revival. 
Read here.
The Wall Street Journal
China Real Time Report
31 March 2017
"Writing China: The Return of Chinese Soul-Searching"
Interview with Te-ping Chen
Read here
Christianity Today
30 March 2017
"An Inside Look at China's Remarkable Religious Resurgence"
Interview with Rob Moll
Read here
LA Review of Books Blog
29 March 2017
"Awakening, Returning, and Looking Forward: An Interview with Ian Johnson"
Interview with Ting Guo. 
Read here.





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