The authors in this fourteen-chapter volume explore Chinese religions on a worldwide stage. They write in a globalizing context against the background of a stronger and more demanding China, substantiated, for instance, by its “aggressive business outreach and mass emigration” (viii). First published as a volume from the Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, the book exposes the nature of mixture and hybridity of Chinese religions, centering on the geopolitical landscape in the new era and the rise of new religions as one of its markers. The contributors from four different continents aim to challenge the usual dichotomized view of the western global and the Chinese local.
Eight chapters examine cases of Chinese religion and Chinese religious communities in Europe, involving Italy, France, Britain, Germany, and Austria—a good balance against much of the literature on immigrant Chinese religion that has been based on research conducted largely in North America. Despite the fact that most new Chinese immigrants seem to be closed to the outside world, the authors of chapter 3, Fabio Berti and Valentina Pedone, point out that the Chinese Buddhist Puhuasi Temple in Prato engages with Italian society by making donations nationwide, in contrast with their Christian counterparts. Chapter 10, as well highlights Yiguandao as a unique form of Asian spirituality that appeals to non-Chinese practitioners.
The remaining six chapters deal with overseas Chinese Christians in southeast Asia, Chinese Canadian evangelicals’ short-term missions to China, the global spread of Yiguandao, transnational Qigong networks, transnational Confucianism, and religious groups in Dubai, especially the Muslim diasporic community there. Recent restrictions on religion in China encourage Chinese house churches to redirect their resources overseas in a process known as “reverse missions.”
The volume provides an excellent analysis of globalized Chinese religions that are shaped by multiple forms of interconnectedness and by a new geopolitical landscape, leading to “multiple sinicizations” (xi). The contributors have helped us to identify new situational trends and fertile ground for practical theorization. It would have been helpful if the editors had discussed the semantic and etymological differences between “religion,” as it is understood in the West, and zongjiao (宗教), its characterization in Chinese. This has been a focus for Western writers as early Hegel. For example, one might ask, “Is Qigong a religion or a folk practice? Or is it a mixture of both?” Of course, the same question could be asked about Confucianism. As a new area of study, however, it is understandable that the volume is mainly descriptive. More theoretical and comparative exploration will stand the contributors in good stead.
Nevertheless, the book is a must-read for all those, professionals and nonprofessionals alike, who are interested in China and global Sinicization, especially in religions among immigrant Chinese communities overseas.