Sacred Shanghai by photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley, explores the spaces, rituals and communities – in official, unofficial, public and private forms – that together weave the spiritual fabric of China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.
After decades of suppression during the Mao era, China has been undergoing one of the great religious revivals of our time. Unsettled by the pace of development and globalisation, millions are turning to faith for meaning and hope in the alienating mega cities that now dominate Chinese life.
Shanghai has around 26 million inhabitants and is the tenth wealthiest city in the world. Synonymous with consumerism, it is known for economic dynamism and architectural daring, and yet it is at the forefront of religious resurgence. The megalopolis is home to a multitude of religions from Buddhism and Islam, to Christianity and Baha’ism, to Hinduism and Daoism and many other alternative faiths, which are constantly growing and evolving.
‘Freed from being defined by where they were born, China’s urbanites have created new identities, discovering for themselves what they truly believe with the aid of new technologies, social media and a convergence of faiths and cultures. Some of this religious life takes place in skyscrapers and apartment blocks, but also in the pockets of the past that still dot Shanghai: a traditional New Year’s dinner, the persistence of burning paper houses, cars, and money for the dead, or a rambunctious music group announcing a wedding, birth, or funeral.
Faith in China may be vulnerable, yet its unwavering importance is beyond doubt. Its very presence in people’s hearts makes it impossible to eradicate. More than economics or politics, it is these moments that are the new heart of China.’
– Ian Johnson, Pulitzer prize winning journalist and specialist in Chinese religion from the introduction to the book.