Peter Hessler on China

March 3, 2015

Peter Hessler arrived in China with the Peace Core in 1996 and taught English for two years. After leaving the Peace Corps, Hessler freelanced for The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and The New York Times before becoming the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker until 2007. He lived in China about fifteen years.

Today, Hessler is better known for his books on China: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (2001), Oracle Bones (2006), and Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory (2010). His latest work is Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West (2013).

I agree with Hessler when he said in a CNNGo interview, “People in China are not forthcoming like Americans; they don’t like to tell you their personal story. It’s a type of modesty, I think, in a culture where people are not encouraged to see themselves as the center of the universe.”

I have a born-again Christian friend—a white American—who boasted about Christianity being the fastest growing religion in China. I wonder what he’d say if he’d read what Hessler thinks: “The Chinese relationship with religion is pragmatic and fluid; people often change their faith very quickly. And I don’t see them following religion to a degree where it’s clearly not in their self-interest.”

And I also wonder what my old fundamentalist Christian friend would think if he knew the results of the CFPS 2012 survey of 25 of the provinces of China that found only 10% of the population belonged to organized religions—specifically, 6.75% were Buddhists (87.8 million), 2.4% (31.2 million) were Christians (of which 1.89% Protestants and 0.41% Catholics), 0.54% were Taoists, 0.46% were Muslims, and 0.40% declared to belong to other religions. Although 90% (1.17 billion) of the population declared to not belong to any religion, the authors of the survey estimated that only 6.3% were atheists neither believing nor worshipping gods and ancestors.

On happiness, Hessler says, “At this particular moment I think that Americans … might be less happy than Chinese people. The Chinese can roll with the punches. … Everybody in China has seen ups and downs; if they get laid off from the factory, they just go back to the village and play mah-jong.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Organized Religions in China

February 19, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner once said, “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer difficult questions: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?” Source: Theocracy Watch

The answer to Justice O’Conner’s question may be the reason why China’s government keeps such a close watch on religions and decides which ones may practice there. In fact, there’s plenty of historical evidence that China’s restrictions on religions may be justified.

For instance, Roman Catholic Popes influenced the kings of Europe leading to the Crusades (1095 – 1291) with 1 to 3 million dead; the persecution and eradication of the Cathars, and the Medieval, Spanish, Portuguese and Roman inquisitions.

Then there were the Protestant-Catholic Wars: the Thirty Year’s War (1618 – 1648) with 3 to 11.5 million dead and the French Wars of Religion (1562 – 1598) with 2 to 4 million dead.

Next there are the major modern Islamic-Christian wars: The Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970) with 1 to 3 million dead; Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 – 2005) with 1 to 2 million dead, and the Lebanese Civil War (1975 – 1990) with 120 – 250 thousand dead.

Last there’s China’s Taiping Rebellion (1850 – 1864) led by converted Chinese Christians against the Qing Dynasty with 30 to 100 million dead.

You may have noticed from the few examples that religions with too much political influence and power do not have a good track record.

Then consider how many major religions there are. Why does it have to be so complicated? After all, there’s only one God—I think.

As it is, “China is a country with a great diversity of religious beliefs. The main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism… According to incomplete statistics, there are over 100 million followers of various religious faiths, more than 85,000 sites for religious activities, some 300,000 clergy and over 3,000 religious organizations throughout China. In addition, there are 74 religious schools and colleges run by religious organizations for training clerical personnel.” Source: Chinese Culture

If you visited the previous link, you discovered that China does allow people to worship God and join a few approved closely watched religions.

Reuters.com reports: “About half of China’s estimated 100 million religious followers are Christians or Muslims, with the rest Buddhists or Taoists, the government says, though it thinks the real number of believers is probably much higher.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline