Religion through the Lens of the May Fourth Enlightenment: A Discussion Centering on the Cultural Practices of the Zhou Brothers

     The vicissitudes of religion in the 20th and 21th century China have much to do with the May Fourth Enlightenment, after which religion has long been repressed and demonized as being “superstitious” based on the ideas of modern science and secular humanism. Today, as religion has been reviving throughout the Chinese society since the 1980s with the sanction of the state, it is imperative to revisit the period around the May Fourth to explore the ways through which the enlightenment thinkers have endeavored to include religion into the construction of the “new culture.” Among these thinkers, the Zhou Brothers (Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren) demonstrate the most in-depth and comprehensive thinking about the topic through different modes. While Lu Xun mainly uses religion as a cultural trope to express his existential anxiety through literary creation, Zhou Zuoren, resorting to rational analysis based on Western cultural anthropology, mainly focuses on common people’s psychological needs that can be fulfilled only by religion. Both modes are illuminating today in reconfiguring the relationships between the secular and the religious in this post-secular era.

Track: 

  • East Asian Studies