* Fenggang Yang

* Professor: Religious growth in China fueled by economy

September 15, 2008

Professor organizes scholars to promote studies of religions in China

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University professor is encouraging collaboration between Western and Chinese scholars, as interest continues to grow about religious changes and trends in China.

Fenggang Yang, associate professor of sociology and director of Purdue's Center on Religion and Chinese Society, is organizing the Beijing Summit on Chinese Spirituality and Society on Oct. 8-10 at Peking University. The event is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

"Since the reform era started in 1979, there has been significant development in religious studies in China, with many research centers and departments emerging in the 1990s," Yang said. "Until recently, Chinese researchers have had limited access to contemporary Western scholarship, and Western scholars often face significant barriers, such as language and politics, to conducting research on religion in China. The Beijing Summit will serve to bridge Chinese and Western scholars on Chinese religion and society.

"Many people in America and China seem to have a lot to say about Chinese economy or Chinese politics, but not many people know much about religion in China. This is unfortunate. Without knowing the Chinese spiritual world, it will be difficult to understand the dynamism of Chinese economy and politics. As a matter of fact, many kinds of religions or spiritualities are reviving and thriving in China and some of the changes could have significant impacts on Chinese economy, domestic politics and foreign religions. Of course, the recent Olympic Games in Beijing attracted the world's attention to China including the growth of Christianity, Islam and other religions."

The summit's first keynote speaker is Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He will present "The Complexities of Comparative Research." The second keynote speaker is Tu Weiming, professor of Chinese history, philosophy and Confucian studies at Harvard University. He will present "Confucian Humanism as a Spiritual Resource for the 21st Century." Other well-known Chinese and Western scholars will speak on various religious topics.

Yang's research currently focuses on the reasons of the rapid growth of Christianity in China and whether various religious ethics have an impact on the emerging market economy. He also directed a three-year project from 2005-2008 that focused on training Chinese scholars to study religion and improve Americans' understanding of religious issues in China. That project is supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

He is the author of "Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation and Adhesive Identities" and is co-editor of "Asian American Religions: The Making and Remaking of Borders and Boundaries" and "State, Market and Religion in Chinese Societies."

He spoke at the Washington, D.C., National Press Club seminar in May about "China, Religion and Human Rights" and at the June symposium on "Religion and the Future of China" at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Fenggang Yang, (765) 494-2641,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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