Renewed Faith Grows in Post-Communist China

April 24, 2006

Source: TIME Magazine,13673,501060501-1186613,00.html

On April 24, 2006 TIME Magazine reported, "Everything is for sale on nanjing Road. Shanghai's version of Fifth Avenue offers diamond rings from Tiffany, halter tops from Vivienne Westwood, even fresh sea urchin flown in from northern Japan. One of the most coveted items, however, is a certificate handed out for every 150 yuan ($19) donated for the construction of an $18 million, 2,000-kg gold Buddha at Nanjing Road's Jing'an Temple. The donation certificates are flying off shelves faster than Gucci wallets. Since 2002, the temple has collected 180,700 contributions from people who want to exchange part of their newfound wealth for spiritual sustenance. 'Our society is in need of religion,' says Cao Pingjiang, the director of the gold-Buddha project. 'People are searching for something besides money to worship, and Buddhism has a long history in China.' China's officially atheist Communist Party couldn't agree more. As the country tackles the negative side effects of two decades of unfettered economic growth—most notably a growing urban-rural income divide and burgeoning social unrest—Beijing's leaders are looking to soothe the masses by filling a spiritual vacuum left by the demise of Marxist ideology. In landmark comments earlier this month, China's top religious official, Ye Xiaowen, rejected decades of state ambivalence toward religion by telling the state's Xinhua News Agency that 'religion is one of the important social forces from which China draws strength.'"