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October 19, 2009

Sociologist hopes to inspire scholars to study the role of religion in China

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
Fenggang Yang
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A Purdue University sociologist is encouraging and empowering scholars to study religious trends and their effects on China.

Thanks to a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, Fenggang Yang, an associate professor of sociology, has developed a program to support new studies and train those researchers on methods to advance understanding on the role of religion in Chinese society.

"The transition toward a market economy, industrialization, urbanization and globalization are leading to religious changes in China," said Yang, who has published numerous books and articles on various religions in China and among Chinese-Americans. "On the other hand, the religious changes are having profound impacts on Chinese culture, economy, politics and international relations. The goal is for the program to generate new findings about religion in China so people around the world can better understand how religion affects individuals, families, communities, businesses and civil society in the country with the world's largest population."

The Chinese government officially allows only five religions: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism, Yang said. All of these religions and many other traditional and new religious groups are increasing rapidly, he said.

The new program is part of Purdue's Center on Religion and Chinese Society, which is housed in the College of Liberal Arts. The center focuses on religions in Chinese societies, including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other Chinese communities.

The Chinese Spirituality and Society Program will provide a total of $500,000 in research grants to Chinese scholars through a grant competition. The goal is to award two or three large grants to research centers and about 10 grants to individual projects. More information about the grant application process is available at http://www.purdue.edu/crcs

Grant winners also will participate in three workshops, the first in China and the other two at Purdue, which will focus on research design, proposal writing, research methods, data collection and analysis, and publishing findings. The Purdue program also will sponsor summer institutes in 2010 and 2012 in China to help prepare Chinese universities that are, or will be, offering sociology of religion courses.

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for research and discoveries relating to what scientists and philosophers call the "Big Questions." It supports work at the world's top universities in such fields as theoretical physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and social science relating to love, forgiveness, creativity, purpose, and the nature and origin of religious belief. The foundation also seeks to stimulate new thinking about wealth creation in the developing world, character education in schools and universities, and programs for cultivating the talents of gifted children.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Fenggang Yang, 765-494-2641, fyang@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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