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State and Religion in China cover

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ISBN 0-8126-9552-6

$26.00  paper

206 pages


State and Religion in China

Historical and Textual Perspectives

Anthony C. Yu

In State and Religion in China, Anthony Yu takes a fresh look at Chinese religion and its relation to politics. He argues, against those who claim that Chinese politics has been traditionally secular, or even that the Chinese traditionally had no religion, that religion has deep roots in the Chinese past, and that the Chinese state has from its creation always interfered in religious matters.

Professor Yu criticizes the common western view that ancestor worship was merely an exaggerated form of respect for the departed, and shows that it was a genuine manifestation of religion devotion. Both Daoism and Buddhism presented challenges to traditional religion, and both at times have been brutally persecuted by the Chinese state.

With its highly specific concept of "normal religion," the present Chinese government is "using religion to police and regulate religion," just as Chinese governments have done for millennia. If western commentators fail to understand this, their attempts at dialogue with Chinese rulers will be fruitless.

"State and Religion in China is a wise and learned discussion of relationships between religious traditions and the Chinese state, beginning with an excellent historical analysis of the term zongjiao, translated as "religion." Anthony Yu's book surveys this relationship in rituals and beliefs promoted by emperors and officials, and in Buddhism and Daoism, with some attention as well to popular religious sects and local traditions of ordinary communities. This volume is an important contribution to our understanding of the background of the contemporary situation of religions in the People's Republic of China."

—Daniel L. Overmyer, author of Religions of China and Religion in China Today

"State and Religion in China is remarkable for touching vividly on so many particulars of a truly vast subject in a concise, clear, and engaging presentation. Even more remarkable is that the particulars are skillfully woven into a compelling argument about the relationship between religion and political power in China over the past three and a half millennia. It is rare that a volume spanning so much history also speaks so urgently to contemporary matters of concern. At once a sweeping yet tightly coherent history, an eloquent and heartfelt statement, and a magisterial legacy to the next generation offered by a great scholar at the summit of his career, State and Religion in China will instantly become necessary reading for anyone hoping to fathom the deep roots of current and future relations between religion and authority in China."

—Robert Ford Campany, author of To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth: A Translation and Study of Ge Hong's Traditions of Divine Transcendents, and Strange Writing: Anomaly Accounts in Early Medieval China

Anthony C. Yu is Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor in Humanities and Professor in the Divinity School, the University of Chicago. He is author of Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber (Princeton University Press, 1997) and translator of the four-volume Journey to the West.

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