Constructing China's Jerusalem: Christians, Power, and Place in Contemporary Wenzhou


Nanlai Cao

Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific


Stanford: Stanford University Press

Available From: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8047-7360-7
Binding: paper
Pages: 232


Constructing China's Jerusalem: Christians, Power, and Place in Contemporary Wenzhou is the seventeenth title in the East-West Center book series, Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific, published by Stanford University Press.

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth life history interviews, this illuminating book provides an intimate portrait of contemporary Chinese Christianity in the context of a modern, commercialized economy. In vivid detail, anthropologist Nanlai Cao explores the massive resurgence of Protestant Christianity in the southeastern coastal city of Wenzhou--popularly referred to by its residents as "China's Jerusalem"--a nationwide model for economic development and the largest urban Christian center in China.

Cao's study of Chinese Christians delves into the dynamics of activities such as banqueting, network building, property acquisition, mate selection, marriage ritual, migrant work, and education. Unlike previous research that has mainly looked at older, rural, and socially marginalized church communities, Cao trains his focus on economically powerful, politically connected, moralizing Christian entrepreneurs. In framing the city of Wenzhou as China's Jerusalem, newly rich Chinese Christians seek not only to express their leadership aspirations in a global religious movement but also to assert their place, identity, and elite status in post-reform Chinese society.


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List of Maps, Illustrations, and Tables

Introduction: Putting Christianity and Capitalism in Their Place

  1. The Rise of "Boss Christians" and Their Engagement with State Power
  2. Of Manners, Morals, and Modernity: Cosmopolitan Desires and the Remaking of Christian Identity
  3. The Business of Religion in the "Wenzhou Model" of Christian Revival
  4. Gendered Agency, Gender Hierarchy, and Religious Identity Making
  5. Conversion to Urban Citizenship: Rural Migrant Workers' Participation in Wenzhou Christianity
  6. Conclusion: Religious Revivalism as a Moral Discourse of Modernity
Character List


Cao gives us the best picture I have seen of the complex pattern of relationships among the different components of contemporary urban Christianity in China today. There is nothing to compare with this stimulating read.

--Daniel H. Bays, Calvin College