Although evangelical Christianity has seen a remarkable revival in China, we must not forget that superstition and false religions are also thriving. New Buddhist temples and shrines are being built everywhere by rich patrons both from China and overseas. The structures bring in huge revenues, especially at festivals as crowds of worshipers flock in, praying for riches, sons, success in exams and healing.
In May of this year the world’s largest statue of Buddha was unveiled at the Donglin Temple in Xingzi, Jiangxi province. At 157 feet high, it dwarfs the far older statue of Buddha in Kamakura, Japan and the colossal Buddha erected some decades ago on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. It cost more than $150 million to build, which is not surprising, considering that it is plated with 106 pounds of pure gold.
We may wonder why a communist state allows such blatant superstition. Perhaps more important than the policy of “freedom of religious belief” is the laissez faire of officials who may actually encourage superstition if it brings in thousands of pilgrims and tourists from all over the country and from Buddhist countries abroad. Visitors bring plenty of cash, which boosts the local economy—likely the greatest benefit of tourism in the government’s eyes.
An even more amazing example of the extent to which superstition grips many people in China is the case of Mr. Luo Shun, a 31-year-old magician living in Hunan province. Mr. Luo’s witchcraft is thoroughly high-tech; he set up his “service” on the Internet last October. Since then he has been swamped with customers seeking paranormal solutions to their distinctly human problems—finding love, atoning for sin or improving relations with their mothers-in-law.
Initially set on a career in accounting, after two years at Changsha University of Science and Technology, Mr. Luo decided his future lay with the ancient art of feng shui (geomancy or divining). In 2002 he started to work as a freelancefeng shui consultant, charging for advice on auspicious dates and names. Then last October he opened an online store on Taobao (the Chinese Amazon) in hopes of reaching many of the country’s 538 million-plus Internet users. His site offers more than 160 different spells and products. In June 2013 his online shop sold 2,825 spells, the most popular being a $50 love charm. Mr. Luo declined to discuss how much money he was making, but it is believed to be more than $150,000 every month (Daily Telegraph, May 22 and July 10, 2013).