The proliferation of social media in China has provided traditional religious authorities with multifarious digital features to revitalise and reinforce their practices and beliefs. However, under the authoritative political system different religions pick up the new media to varying degrees, thereby showing different characteristic and style in their social media use. This paper examines the public discourse about Buddhism and Christianity (two of the great official religions in China) on China’s largest microblogging platform-Sina Weibo, and seeks to reveal a distinct landscape of religious online public in China. Through a close look at the social media posts aided by a text analytics software, Leximancer, this paper comparatively investigates several issues related to the Buddhism and Christianity online publics, such as religious networks, interactions between involved actors, the economics and politics of religion, and the role of religious charitable organizations. The result supports Campbell’s proposition on digital religion that religious groups typically do not reject new technologies, but rather undergo a sophisticated negotiation process in accord with their communal norms and beliefs. It also reveals that in China a secular Buddhism directly contributes to a prosperous ‘temple economy’ while tension still exists between Christianity and the Chinese state due to ideological discrepancy. The paper further points out the possible direction for this nascent research field.
Linking concepts from networks, identities, and ecology, I draw on material collected during sixty interviews to show how a group of culturally homogeneous Chinese graduate students, when placed in two sociocultural environments in the United States, displayed different processes of religious identity network formation. In a large and heterogeneous community with more possible identities, students showed human agency by forming religious identities less constrained by networks. Human agency is also exemplified in the expansion of their religious circle of friends once they developed a religious identity. Religious identity often preceded networks. However, in a small and homogeneous community, students did emotion work to stay in pro-religious groups, presumably due to the limitations they had in choosing friends, particularly Chinese friends. The formation of networks more likely preceded the emergence of religious identities premised on the coexistence of multiple relationships in dyads and solidarity within primary groups. The narratives demonstrate how ecology matters for the formation of network ties and religious identity.
根据对60个对硕士博士研究生的采访，通过运用网络分析、身份研究、和环境研究领域的概念，本文详述同属一个文化的中国留学生当处于美国两个不同城市文化环境中时，通过生活圈子发展特定身份的不同过程。在一个大型、充满差异的城市里，留学生的身份选择具有多样性。其主体性表现在自主选择宗教认同并扩大有宗教信仰的朋友圈子。他们的宗教认同常常先于他们的宗教朋友圈。而在一个小型、倡导同化的城市里，由于可选择的中国朋友人数少，留学生常常通过控制自我感情来维系与亲宗教的朋友的关系。他们的宗教网络常常先于他们的宗教认同。在这种环境中，当两人有多重社会关系，并处于一个高度团结的小群体中时，宗教认同才得以传播。本研究显示社区规模和文化是重要的影响身份和社会网络的环境因素。 (This article is in English.)