Confucianism, Christianity and Religious Freedom:
A Historical Lesson

by LIU Yi
March 3, 2011

At the beginning of 2011, a statue of Confucius was erected in the Tiananmen Square, as a new symbol accompanying Chairman Mao. And just before the end of 2010, a few Chinese scholars protested against the local government’s sanction of building a Christian church in Confucius’s hometown. The two events remind us a historical debate at the beginning of 20th century, between Christians and Confucians, regarding religious freedom and state religion. The story began with Kang Youwei’s initiative during the 1898 reform movement, to make Confucianism a religion in a Christian way, and the Christians’ struggling for religious freedom after the Boxer Movement of 1900. The highlight is during 1912-1917 around the first constitution of Republican China. Should Confucianism be made the state religion, or should religious freedom be a guarantee for Christians? One hundred years later, how should we look on the historical lesson through a contemporary perspective?

LIU Yi is now a Post-doctoral Fellow at Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University. He is also Lecturer in Department of History and Executive Director of Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Shanghai University. He is author of Religion and Politics in a Global Context (Shanghai University Press, 2011) and a few academic articles, including one in Studies in World Christianity (UK) and one in Studies in World Religions (China). His most recent research is about the globalization of Chinese indigenous churches, with a comparison between True Jesus Church and the Local Churches.


Yi LIU and Fenggang Yang Audience Yi LIU Lecturing Yi LIU Lecturing