Popular Christianity, sensation and Ling’en authority in contemporary China

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Analyses of aesthetic and sensorial characteristics of religion encourage us to think beyond the limits of a rational lens in order to rediscover the more magical elements of religion. This article explores the ways in which Spirit-orientedauthority is produced through sensational forms in popular Christianity in China. Based on extensive ethnographic research in urban “Three-Self ”-affiliated churches in China between 2009 and 2015, I argue that officially recognized “Three-Self ” congregations maintain their legitimacy in the broader Protestant community through sensorially rich encounters with the Holy Spirit, which, at the same time, have the capacity to unnerve the state because they go beyond officially defined limits on religious activity. This article contributes to our understanding of how state-sanctioned religious institutions are (carefully) engaging with the wider “signs and wonders” movement in China and suggests that aesthetic approaches to examining Christianity in China might provide an alternative lens to the problematic and somewhat tired distinction between congregations categorized as “Three-Self ” and “house church.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-153
Number of pages27
JournalAsian ethnology
Issue number1
Early online date10 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Aug 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sensation
  • religious authority
  • ling’en
  • Three-Self
  • signs and wonders
  • charisma
  • Protestantism


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