Conversion in post-Mao China

From ‘rice Christians’ to ‘cultural Christians’

Authored by: Zheng Yangwen

Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415635035
eBook ISBN: 9781315758534
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636465


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An increasing number of mainland academics visit the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester on government-funded schemes. As scholars who work on China, many of us at the Centre for Chinese Studies have either hosted or befriended them. I came to know Cheng Yang, a dance scholar from Shanghai in 2010. She was expected to give a talk and attend our seminars. After the first few days, I soon realised that her English was minimal and she had no interest in our research. In addition, she was often nowhere to be found. Whilst we were not concerned about her joining the illegal immigrant crowd, we wondered what she was doing. After a few weeks, I bumped into her on the street. A few minutes into the conversation, it was obvious that she had been attending church and bible studies. When I told her that she should be careful as sometimes they can be fundamentalists who hold extreme views, she defended the church and her friends by telling me how wonderful they were and above all how much she had learnt about Western culture and society. Not only that, she became a missionary herself as she managed to persuade other visiting scholars from the mainland to join her. She spent her hard-earned sabbatical studying the Bible rather than researching and debating about dance with me and other dance scholars in Manchester.

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