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Pulitzer Center Update April 17, 2017

Ian Johnson Publishes "The Souls of China"


Cover of Ian Johnson's book, "Souls of China."
Cover of Ian Johnson's book, 'Souls of China.'

Ian Johnson, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and Pulitzer Center grantee, has written "Souls of China," a revelatory portrait of religion in China today. Johnson describes in detail China's religious history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which religion is influencing China's future. 

The book tells the story of how China's spiritual revival took place after the demise of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the Communist Party of China. 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 searching for new guideposts. 

The book begins with a fascinating and vivid description of the Chinese New Year and its origins. Johnson details the importance of religion in China centuries ago, and why it disappeared from China's forefront in the later years. His writing is crisp, clear, and draws the reader in, even if one does not have a lot of knowledge about China. His characters are strong and interesting to follow, and give the story a very human touch. 

Johnson has reported from the Greater China region for much of the last 30 years. He has also worked on a project, "Speaking About China," with the Pulitzer Center. The resurgence of religion in China has affected the country's culture and economy, and Johnson documents what it means to be Chinese during the current political and cultural tension there. 


teal halftone illustration of praying hands