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Confucianism as a World Religion:
Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities
Anna Sun

Winner of the 2014 Best Book Award, Sociology of Religion Section of the American Sociological Association
Winner of the 2014 Best First Book in the History of Religions Award, American Academy of Religion
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013

Paperback | 2015 | $22.95 | £18.95 | ISBN: 9780691168111
Hardcover | 2013 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691155579
272 pp. | 6 x 9 | 1 line illus. 9 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400846085 |
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Is Confucianism a religion? If so, why do most Chinese think it isn't? From ancient Confucian temples, to nineteenth-century archives, to the testimony of people interviewed by the author throughout China over a period of more than a decade, this book traces the birth and growth of the idea of Confucianism as a world religion.

The book begins at Oxford, in the late nineteenth century, when Friedrich Max Müller and James Legge classified Confucianism as a world religion in the new discourse of "world religions" and the emerging discipline of comparative religion. Anna Sun shows how that decisive moment continues to influence the understanding of Confucianism in the contemporary world, not only in the West but also in China, where the politics of Confucianism has become important to the present regime in a time of transition. Contested histories of Confucianism are vital signs of social and political change.

Sun also examines the revival of Confucianism in contemporary China and the social significance of the ritual practice of Confucian temples. While the Chinese government turns to Confucianism to justify its political agenda, Confucian activists have started a movement to turn Confucianism into a religion. Confucianism as a world religion might have begun as a scholarly construction, but are we witnessing its transformation into a social and political reality?

With historical analysis, extensive research, and thoughtful reflection, Confucianism as a World Religion will engage all those interested in religion and global politics at the beginning of the Chinese century.

Anna Sun is associate professor of sociology and Asian studies at Kenyon College.


"[T]his admirable book presents a fascinating, well-researched, historical account of the establishment of Confucianism as a world religion in tandem with the emergence of comparative religion as a discipline. Sun's keen sense of history serves her equally well as she turns to contemporary issues. . . . This well written book is strongly recommended not only for China specialists, but also for anyone seeking to understand the world's creeds and rituals. . . . An outstanding book."--Choice

"Confucianism as a World Religion is destined to become a classic, especially in Confucian studies and comparative religion. . . . [T]his text is likely to be very popular in graduate seminars on comparative religion, Confucianism, and the sociology of religion. More of an introduction to Confucianism may be necessary for a full understanding of what Sun is up to, but this book is certainly one of the most important English-language texts on Confucianism."--Andrew Stuart Abel, American Journal of Sociology

"Anna Sun's book makes an important contribution to the analysis of the contested claims about the meaning of Confucianism by boldly moving the site of this debate to actual conditions on the ground in contemporary China. Written in accessible, elegant prose, this book is well suited for courses on Chinese religion, Confucianism, or the emergence of World Religions as a discourse."--Thomas Wilson, Journal of Chinese Religions

"The religiosity of Confucianism poses a challenge to all people who study Chinese religion and culture. Anna Sun takes on this challenge admirably and clears up certain hurdles and barriers that prevent us from finding an adequate answer. . . . Sun's scholarly effort is a most welcome contribution to our understanding of historical and contemporary construction and reconstruction of Confucianism in China and beyond."--Xinzhong Yao, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

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