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date: 26 September 2017

Imperialism, Mission, and Global Power Relations in East Asian Religions in the United States

Summary and Keywords

The history of East Asian religions in the United States is inextricably intertwined with the broader history of United States–East Asian relations, and specifically with U.S. imperialism. For most Americans in the 19th and into the early 20th centuries, information about religious life in China, Japan, and Korea came largely through foreign missionaries. A few prominent missionaries were deeply involved in the translation of important texts in East Asian religions and helped promote some understanding of these traditions. The majority of missionary writings, however, condemned the existing religions in these cultures as part of their critiques of the cultures as degenerate and in need of Christianity. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the women’s foreign mission movement was the largest women’s movement in the United States, women missionaries’ representations of East Asian religions as inherent in the oppression of women particularly reached a large audience. There was also fascination with East Asian religions in the United States, especially as the 20th century progressed, and more translations appeared from people not connected to the foreign mission movement. By the 1920s, as “World Friendship” became an important paradigm in the foreign missionary movement, some missionary representations of East Asian religions became more positive, reflecting and contributing to a broader trend in the United States toward a greater interest in religious traditions around the world, and coinciding with a move toward secularization. As some scholars have suggested, the interest in East Asian religions in the United States in some ways fits into the framework of “Orientalism,” to use Edward Said’s famous term, viewing religions of the “East” as an exotic alternative to religion in the West. Other scholars have suggested that looking at the reception of these religions through a framework of “Orientalism” underestimates and distorts the impact these religious traditions have had in the United States. Regardless, religious traditions from East Asia have become a part of the American religious landscape, through both the practice of people who have immigrated from East Asia or practice the religion as they have learned from family members, and converts to those religions. The numbers of identified practitioners of East Asian religions in United States, with the exception of Buddhism, a religion that originated outside of East Asia, is extremely small, and even Buddhists are less than 2 percent of the American population. At the same time, some religious traditions, such as Daoism and some variants of Buddhism (most notably Zen Buddhism), have exercised a significant impact on popular culture, even while a clear understanding of these traditions has not yet been widespread in the United States. Some understanding of Confucianism as well has recently been spread through the propagation of “Confucian” institutes in the United States. It is through these institutes that we may see the beginnings of the Chinese government exercising some influence in American universities, which, while not comparable to the impact of Christian missionaries in the development of Chinese educational institutions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nonetheless can illuminate the growing power of China in Sino-American relations in the beginning of the 21st century.

While the term “East Asian” religions is frequently used for convenience, it is important to be aware of potential pitfalls in assigning labels such as “Western” and “Eastern” to religious traditions, particularly if this involves a construction of Christianity as inherently “Western.” At a time when South Korea sends the second largest number of Christian missionaries to other countries, Christianity could theoretically be defined as an East Asian religion, in that a significant number of people in one East Asian country not only practice but actively seek to propagate the religion. Terms such as “Eastern” and “Western” to define religious traditions are cultural constructs in and of themselves.

Keywords: American Foreign Missionary Movement, American women missionaries, Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, imperialism, Orientalism

East Asian Religions

The purpose of this essay is to explore imperialism and global power relations in the history of the transmission of East Asian religions to the United States, with a focus on the foreign mission movement, rather than to offer an in-depth understanding of these traditions. The essay must nonetheless begin with definition of religious traditions that are commonly defined as “East Asian” religions. On the most basic level, the major religions traditions in China are Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, with some scholars adding “popular religion” as a fourth category. In Japan, the major religious traditions are Buddhism and Shintoism, with some Confucian influence, and in Korea, Buddhism, Confucianism, and a form of Shamanism. In all of these countries, individuals and families have drawn from more than one of these traditions at a time. Referring to China, one scholar suggests that prior to the Jesuits coming to China in the 16th century, “it is difficult to find any references to Chinese religion as a distinct entity, even within China itself,” because the “conceptual isolation” of religion from “wider cultural elements” is a “relatively recent (and peculiarly Western) phenomenon.”1 This same general sentiment could be applied to religions in Japan and Korea. Because the religious traditions are part of each country’s political history, this section will give a brief overview of how these religious traditions functioned in each country, rather than treating each religion in isolation.

Some of the earliest written records in China, dating from before the beginning of the Shang dynasty (approximately 1600 to 1046 bce) are writings on sheep or deer bones asking yes-or-no questions of ancestors or gods. Forms of shamanism, ancestor veneration, and written communication with various gods therefore date back to the beginning of recorded Chinese history.2 However, the two religious traditions most associated with China, known in English today as Confucianism and Taoism, developed during the late Zhou period in China, during a long period of political disunity and widespread military conflict (the spring and autumn and warring states periods 770 bce to 221 bce).

Confucuis, or Kongzi, lived between 551 and 479 bce. Kongzi was part of a movement of scholars known as Ru, a group dedicated to bringing back the rituals of the early Zhou dynasty as a foundation for social harmony and a well-run, politically integrated state. His teachings were compiled by his students into a text known in English as the Analects (Lunyu), which some scholars date as late as 140 bce. Kongzi’s ideas were developed by later followers in subsequent centuries, most notably by the scholars known as Mengzi (Mencius) and Xunzi. While there are different schools within this tradition, foundational beliefs are a deep respect for, or possibly worship of, one’s ancestors; filial piety; a belief in the value of education and cultivation in producing a “superior,” benevolent,” or “human-hearted” (ren) man capable of advising rulers; and a focus on ritual and filling one’s proper role in a hierarchical set of relationships (i.e., behaving appropriately as a husband, wife, ruler, subject, elder brother, younger brother, etc.).3 In the Han dynasty (221 bce to 220 ce), the Analects and texts by later scholars following in the same tradition became the basis of a civil-service exam, where the highest scorers would earn positions in government. While the exam was discontinued after the Han dynasty, it was taken up again in the Song dynasty (960–1279) and, while discontinued during the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty, was practiced again in the Ming (1368–1644) and almost until the end of the last dynasty, the Qing (1644–1911).

Jesuit missionaries, who began to come to China in the 16th century, coined the term “Confucianism,” which first appeared in 1687.4 Later scholars have debated extensively whether Confucianism can be defined as a “religion” or is better understood as a “philosophy.” Because Kongzi’s writings focused on human relationships and did not emphasize engaging with the supernatural, some scholars have argued that Confucianism is “anthropocosmic,” centered on humans rather than God or gods. However, in Confucianism there is also a focus on ritual (li) and an emphasis on the “will of Heaven,” leading other scholars to classify Confucianism as a religion.5

Scholars have also engaged in debates over the religious components of Daoism, often Romanized as “Taoism” in English-language sources. The central texts of Daoism are the Daode jing, an early version of which can be traced to 300 bce, and the Zhuangzi. While the Daode jing has been attributed to a hermit known as Laozi, translated as “Old Master” or “Old Infant,” more recent evidence suggests that it is the work of numerous authors. Scholars generally believe, however, that at least part of the Zhuangzi (the “inner chapters”) was composed by an identifiable historical figure, Zhuang Zhou, who lived between 370 and 290 bce.6 Daoism as an organized religion can be traced to the Han dynasty. The literal translation of the Dao is the “Way,” and a central tenet of Daoism is the impossibility of clearly defining this “Way.” Another central idea of Daoism has been translated as “non action” or “leaving alone” (wu wei), and a corresponding focus on meditation and appreciation of nature. Searching for immortality and health through cultivating inner harmony has also been an important part of Daoism as it has developed over the centuries. In the past, scholars have attempted to separate a “philosophical” Daoism, which focuses on ideas such as “non action,” from a “religious” Daoism that focuses on alchemy, health practices, and immortality, with an obvious preference for the former. However, recent scholars of Daoism have rejected such a dichotomy. Louis Komjathy, for example, emphasizes that although “there are ‘philosophical dimensions’ of Daoism, these are almost always rooted in a religious world view as well as in religious experience.”7

Buddhism first entered China through Buddhist missionaries from Central Asia in the Han dynasty through the Silk Road, and was most influential during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 ce). However, while Buddhism declined in official influence, many scholars today emphasize the ongoing importance of Buddhist traditions on Chinese thought. Buddhism brought the concept of monasteries, monks, and nuns to China, which were then adopted by Daoists, significantly impacting Daoism in China. “Neo-Confucianism,” which developed in the Song dynasty (960–1279 ce) and became the dominant form of Confucianism in China, showed significant Buddhist influences. Ideas about heaven, hell, karma, and past and future lives popularly held in China derive from Buddhism, even when Buddhism is not formally practiced. Just as Buddhism impacted China, Buddhism was also changed in its Chinese context, and Chinese Buddhism came to exercise an influence on the practice of Buddhism globally. Mahayana, or “Greater Vehicle,” Buddhism is the form of Buddhism usually practiced in China and the rest of East Asia. The tradition of bodhisattvas, or Buddhist deities (or quasi-dieties) who could help believers toward enlightenment, became important in China.8 In China as well, in the early 8th-century the Chan school (known in Japanese as Zen) developed, focusing on sitting meditation and dialogues between masters and students that are “characterized by various types of logical disjunctions, inexplicable and iconoclastic pronouncements.”9

While Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism have competed for dominance and official patronage at various times in Chinese history, in the everyday religious practice of many Chinese, the three have been combined into something that scholars have termed “popular religion.” As one scholar emphasizes, the term “popular religion” is “primarily a heuristic concept and not an unambiguous empirical phenomenon,” useful to “direct attention to the ‘lived religion’ of Chinese people in different periods and different regions of the cultural sphere.”10 It is not limited to the poor and uneducated, but includes all classes. While there can be significant local variation, practices include a “veneration of ancestors,” worship of or making requests to various gods, appeasing potentially harmful ghosts, and various other practices of “religious self-cultivation inspired by insights and practices that originated in one or more of the three religions.”11 Historically, therefore, most Chinese have not chosen one religious tradition over another, but rather have taken elements from various traditions.

A similar synthetic approach was be found in Korea, a country with historically strong cultural and political ties to China. The religious tradition indigenous to Korea is referred to by scholars as “shamanism,” where a human intermediary, often a woman, communicates with, and often becomes possessed by, spirits or gods. People can consult the shamans to find supernatural causes of various problems they might be experiencing, and to seek guidance for decisions. While Koreans do not consider shamanism a separate religion (i.e., Koreans do not usually identify today as “shamanists”), shamanism remains an important part of South Korean culture.12 Buddhism first came to Korea in the late 4th century through Chinese monks and Central Asian monks traveling from China to Korea, originally appearing as a more powerful folk religion but eventually becoming established in Korea through monasteries. Confucianism and Daoism came to Korea along with Buddhism, although Confucianism played a much more major role than Daoism. In the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), neo-Confucianism became the official state ideology. While there was official condemnation of some aspects of Buddhism, however, most Koreans continued to practice a popular Buddhism, praying to deities, and also continued shamanistic practices. Neo-Confucianism had its greatest impact on family structure, making elite families in particular more male dominated.13

As in Korea and China, in Japan religious traditions also often mix together in popular practice. The oldest religious tradition in Japan is known as Shinto, or “Way of the Gods,” although scholars distinguish this older tradition from the “State Shinto” that developed after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. This religion both stressed a Japanese creation myth and focused on reverence for kami, which can be translated as “gods” or “spirits,” in all natural elements, such as trees and mountains. One scholar suggests that “the early Japanese took it for granted that they were integrally part of the cosmos, which they saw as a ‘community of living beings, all sharing the same kami (sacred) nature.”14 Buddhism came to Japan through Korea in the late 500s ce, as did Confucian ideas. Unlike in Korea, Confucianism was never adopted as a state religion or philosophy in Japan but rather existed alongside Shinto and Buddhism.15 By the 12th century ce, as Chan Buddhism became the dominant form of Buddhism in China, Japanese Buddhists translated the term as “Zen” and made important contributions to this form of Buddhism.16

Imperialism, Missionaries, and the Introduction of East Asian Religions to the West

Europeans first became familiar with the religious tradition translated into English as “Confucianism” through the writings of Jesuit missionaries, who began mission work in China in the 16th century. Jesuits during this period tried to adapt to the customs of the Chinese elite, including learning the “Confucian” texts that were central to success in the civil-service exam, and hence to political power in China. The best-known Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, became especially successful at memorizing Confucian writings, helping him gain access into elite quarters.17 In both the late Ming and early Qing periods, Jesuits also served in the astronomy bureaus, as they brought some advancements in astronomy. However, during this period the Chinese rulers did not view the ability of the Jesuits to contribute to the astronomy bureaus as indicating any broader value in ideas from Western nations. Not only did Chinese rulers view China as the center of civilization, Jesuits also wrote admiringly about Chinese culture. Their descriptions of Confucian culture, especially the civil-service exam, interested many European Enlightenment thinkers, most famously Voltaire, who composed a poem in honor of the Chinese emperor.18 The debates about the religiosity of Confucianism began with the Jesuits, who were anxious to portray Confucianism as a sophisticated moral system that had readied the Chinese for conversion to Christianity, not a rival religion. Jesuits insisted, for example, that the building of temples and devotional offerings to ancestors was “not religious,” but was rather a mark of respect and an expression of filial piety. In 1715, Pope Clement XI officially rejected this view, decreeing that Chinese Catholics could not participate in ancestor worship.19 By setting Christianity against respect for ancestors, a key value in China, this decree had the effect of causing the imperial family to view Christianity as a destabilizing and dangerous religion, and led to an imperial decree outlawing Christianity in China in 1724. As Paul Cohen has emphasized, during this period the Chinese government could, “at its pleasure, tolerate or persecute [Christianity] without regard for the consequences.”20 China was powerful and had no fear of Western imperialism.

This state of affairs changed after the Opium War (1839–1842), and even more after the Second Opium War (1856–1860). Facing military defeat from a superior British Navy, in the Treaty of Nanjing following the Opium War, the Chinese government allowed Christian missionaries to reside and proselytize in five treaty port cities. Protestant missions from Britain and the United States joined Catholic missionaries in setting up missions. Further weakened at the end of the Second Opium War, and contending with the Taiping Rebellion, in 1860 the Chinese government allowed Christian missionaries into the interior of China. Throughout the 19th century, the Chinese government faced attack from foreign powers if they did not protect the foreign missionaries from assaults by local Chinese who resented and feared Christian missionaries. During this period Christian missionaries were able to practice in China because of the imperialism of their governments.

Americans during the 19th century first became aware of East Asian religions through the writings of foreign missionaries, both British and American. A British missionary to China, James Legge (1815–1897) translated major Confucian works, focusing on the texts that were central to the civil-service exam, and two Chinese Buddhist texts. He was also a key figure in introducing English language speakers to “Taoism,” a term that appeared in English first in 1839, through translating the Daodejing and Zhuangzi, and becoming, as Legge’s biographer Norman Girardot suggests, “one of the inventors of the Daoist tradition in the West.”21 Legge, who became a professor at Oxford after his missionary service, was a key figure in developing “Sinology” as an academic discipline. Legge’s translations were later eclipsed by Arthur Waley, who translated the Daodejing and the Analects in the 1930s, along with volumes of Chinese and Japanese poetry.22 As Girardot points out, by the early 20th century, as universities grew more secular, Legge’s missionary roots were considered problematic by many academics. Many Sinologists continued to have roots in the mission field, especially as children of missionaries, but most explicitly separated their academic work from any connection to the missionary enterprise.23

Despite the separation of missionaries from academic treatments of East Asian cultures, the majority of Americans continued to gather most of their information about religious traditions in East Asia from missionaries. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many more Americans read missionary periodicals than pored over English language translations of Chinese sacred texts. Most missionaries portray Chinese religious ideas as dangerous superstition, part of a culture that needed to be redeemed by Western missionaries. While Jesuits often spoke of Chinese culture in admiring terms, 19th-century American missionaries were writing at a time when China was becoming known as “the sick man of Asia.” Especially as the 19th century progressed, ideas about Asians as an inferior “race” grew stronger, leading, for example, to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, and more virulent discrimination against Chinese immigrants to the United States. The majority of missionaries did not overtly endorse the idea that Chinese were an inferior race, and in fact, the idea of a spiritual equality among all people was fundamental to the missionary endeavor. Many missionaries spoke against exclusion acts and discrimination against the Chinese in the United States. In their writings, missionaries often spoke in positive terms about Chinese who had converted to Christianity, or who they hoped would convert soon, and sometimes admired specific aspects of Chinese culture. However, while some scholars have focused on missionary opposition to racism, others have pointed to the extent that racial segregation structured many missionary communities, suggesting that ideas about race then popular in the United States also permeated the missionary community.24 Many missionary critiques of Chinese religious customs as barbaric could provide support for beliefs that people of Asian descent were racially inferior, whatever the intention of the individual missionary may have been.

Women missionaries’ writings in particular had an important impact on American perceptions of East Asian religion. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the women’s foreign mission movement was the largest women’s movement in the United States.25 As Joan Jacobs Brumberg has argued, “masses of American women . . . embraced the study of ethnology” as early as the 1870s, focusing on women in other cultures and gaining most of their information from literature produced by American women missionaries. Most of this literature was “geared to developing women's overall conception of the emancipatory nature of Christianity versus the oppressions of the ‘ethnic religions,’” and Brumberg suggests that “the popularization of the notion of female exploitation at the hands of non-Christians is an inseparable part of the story of how public opinion in the United States shifted from anti-colonialism to genuine imperialism.”26 Other scholars have since complicated this picture of American women missionaries, finding more of a range of representations of other cultures in their writings. Whatever their original views of the cultures when they arrived, American women missionaries were often changed by their relationships with people from the host country. The missionary enterprise also underwent change over time, with a “World Friendship” model emerging by the 1920s that emphasized missionaries working with the people in the host country rather than imposing ideas on them. During this period missionaries were less likely to make sweeping statements condemning religious practices already existing in the country.27 Yet most scholars would agree with Brumberg’s contention that women missionaries exercised a powerful influence on how many Americans viewed religion in East Asia, and that these writings did much to sanctify American intervention in China.

Missionary involvement in introducing Western medicine and in the educational system in China also influenced perceptions of existing religion in China, both in the United States and in China itself. Western missionaries were responsible for the introduction of Western medicine in the 19th century. While the Chinese government, Japanese advisers, and the Rockefeller Foundation would become more important in constructing a healthcare system in the early 20th century, medical mission work remained a major part of the Chinese health landscape until the Communist Revolution in 1949. Missionary writings portrayed existing health practices in China as unhygienic and dangerous, part of a broader corrupt religious system. There were connections between popular religion and healing practices, especially among folk healers. The various healing traditions referred to now as “traditional Chinese medicine” continued to be used by most rural Chinese, and form an important part of China’s medical-care system today (and are increasingly used by people around the world). However, in the early 20th century in the wake of the Boxer Uprising in 1901, many elite urban Chinese began to see Western medicine, and in particular Western ideas of “hygiene,” as key to China’s ability to resist partition from Western and Japanese powers. The preference for Western medicine increased when the Republic of China was established in 1911.28 While most elite Chinese did not accept the missionary proposition that Christianity was essential to modernization, many viewed popular religion and folk healing as a potential road block to modernity.

In the 19th century, mission schools were also the main source of high schools and colleges offering English courses and Western science, although again, Chinese government schools offered these subjects in the 20th century.29 In 1905, China abolished the civil-service exam based on Confucian classics in order to encourage more widespread study of Western science and technology, again with the goal of resisting Western and Japanese imperialism. In subsequent decades, Chinese intellectuals began to critique Confucianism more vigorously, viewing the focus on hierarchical relationships and obedience to elders not as a source of societal stability, but as the root of an oppressive society and, like folk religion, as an impediment to the modernity needed for Chinese national survival. Referring to Edward Said’s path-breaking 1978 book Orientalism, Arif Dirlik refers to Chinese intellectuals with these critiques of China as practicing “self Orientalism.”30 While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) embraced some aspects of traditional medicine after taking power in 1949, the new government condemned folk religion and Confucianism even more vigorously, with Confucianism the focus of attacks especially during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976).

The foreign missionary presence in China was the largest in East Asia and, indeed, one of the largest globally. Missionaries from China therefore dominated American views of East Asian religion. However, the foreign missionary movements in Japan and Korea differed in important ways. Japanese officials, after a relatively favorable reception to the Jesuits when they first came in the 16th century, by the end of the century banned Christianity and all missionaries after they associated Christianity with causing rebellion, outlawed Christianity, tortured Japanese Christians who would not renounce Christianity, and confined relations with Western powers to the non-missionary Dutch. Japan was “opened” to the West in 1853, when the American naval commander Matthew Perry demanded that Japan sign trading treaties with Western powers. Japan engaged in a period of aggressive modernization, especially after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. At first, Japan seemed to embrace missionary education and medical care, leading to a hope among foreign missionaries in Japan that Christianity would spread quickly in Japan. In fact, however, by the end of the 19th century, the Japanese government soon established a healthcare and educational system that made foreign missionaries largely unnecessary. Foreign missionaries continued to practice in Japan until 1941, running hospitals, schools, and universities, but they did not have the same importance as in China.31

Also in contrast to China, Japan did not find indigenous religious traditions as opposed to modernity, but rather embraced the religion of Shinto as a vehicle to promote Japanese nationalism. This has been referred to by some scholars as “State Shinto,” although scholars debate the meaning of the term.32 In 1895, after its victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan became an imperial power itself, controlling Taiwan and Korea, which became a colony of Japan in 1910. Establishing Shinto shrines in these countries, Japanese authorities made worship at these shrines a part of imperial rule. While fearing Japanese imperialism, Chinese reformers in the early 20th century used Japanese advisers in their own attempts at modernization. The Japanese example was a clear refutation of missionary claims that Christianity was a key factor in a nation’s ability to modernize. Even after Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and Japanese actions in the Second Sino-Japanese War had inspired intense anti-Japanese sentiment in China, Japan remained an important example of a non-Christian, Asian nation becoming powerful and modern.

As the “Hermit kingdom,” Korea conducted its diplomatic affairs through China, and so did not directly receive Jesuit missions. However, a Confucian scholar visiting China encountered Jesuit missions in 1784 and returned to found a Catholic community. While Korean Catholics initially considered Christianity a supplement to Confucianism, because of the papal decision to consider rites for ancestors as religious ceremonies, Korean Catholics came into conflict with the Korean government, with the government executing prominent Catholics. Catholics fled urban areas and formed their own communities, with infrequent contact with the rest of Korea. These communities were necessarily small and isolated. In 1876, Japan “opened” Korea to outside trade in the same way that the United States had “opened” Japan less than twenty years earlier. This led to treaties with other nations, which included clauses on accepting foreign missionaries and allowing converts. The first Protestant missionaries came in 1884 and quickly became a force for modernization, opening schools and hospitals. While Western missionaries were associated with Western imperialism in both Japan and China, this connection was not as strong in Korea, as the main threat was Japanese imperialism. After 1910, in fact, Korean Christians resisted the imposition of State Shinto, some being executed by the Japanese government for refusing to worship at Shinto shrines.33 Particularly in the post-WWII era, after the splitting of the Korean peninsula into North and South Korea, Christianity experienced significant growth in South Korea, with 29 percent of the population identifying as Christian, the largest religious affiliation in the country in the early 21st century, with the next largest Buddhists at 23 percent, and the largest group (46 percent) identifying no religious affiliation.34 Moreover, South Korea has become the country sending the second largest number of Christian missionaries, behind only the United States. Interestingly, South Korean missionaries have a significant presence in the United States working to “re-Christianize” the country, complicating the categories of “Eastern” and “Western” religions.35

East Asian Religions in the United States

Despite the negative view many Americans held of East Asian religions in the 19th century, Buddhism resonated with small groups of Americans. Scholars have shown how American Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were influenced by Buddhist thought in the 1840s. Thomas Tweed shows that a wider range of Americans found Buddhism compelling, some of whom identified themselves as Buddhists, especially in the end of the 19th century. Tweed argues that those who found Buddhism appealing appreciated the compatibility of Buddhism with ideals of science, the ethics of Buddhism, and the perceived esoteric nature of the religious tradition. However, Tweed argues that Americans arguing for the value of Buddhism were not able to overcome popular perceptions of Buddhism as a passive and nihilistic religion. Tweed argues as well that “nineteenth century Euro-American Buddhist sympathizers had more in common with their mainline Protestant contemporaries” than with most other practitioners of Buddhism throughout the world.36

From the late 1840s onward, Chinese immigrants came to the United States, with over 100,000 in the United States by the 1880s, overwhelmingly concentrated in California. Some of these immigrants set up Buddhist temples and practiced religious traditions that combined Buddhism with Daoism and Confucian ideas. While there were far fewer Japanese immigrants in the 19th century, with only a bit over 2,000 by the 1890s, Japanese Buddhists made more of an impact on the American religious scene. Shaku Soen, a practitioner of a form of Zen Buddhism, participated in the 1893 World Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the 1893 World’s Fair, introducing Zen Buddhism to more Americans.37 However, as Tweed argues, Chinese and Japanese Buddhists did not set up an institutional framework to support the expansion of Buddhism into the U.S. population more generally. The 1924 Immigration Act eliminated Asian immigration, thus making further strengthening of East Asian religious structures from practitioners from East Asia more difficult.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 rescinded the wholesale restriction of Asian immigration, giving preference to relatives of U.S. citizens and to individuals with skills deemed valuable to the United States. At the same time as Asian immigration was reinstated, countercultural movements in the United States increased the interest of a wider variety of Americans in East Asian religion. In 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, 0.7 percent of the U.S. population identified as Buddhist.38 A 2008 Pew Research Center report on Buddhism in the United States classified 32 percent of American Buddhists as “Asian,” and the majority, 53 percent, as “white.”39 The number of Daoists is much smaller, folded into the category of “other world religions,” which made up 0.3 percent of the U.S. population.40 Christianity is the most common religion for Asian Americans (42 percent), with the second largest category “unaffiliated” (26 percent) and Buddhists at 14 percent. Daoists again are folded into “other religions,” which together account for 2% percent of the religious affiliations in the Asian American population.41

These figures, however, do not reveal the extent to which knowledge about Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, and Daoism has increased in the United States since the mid-20th century. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the establishment of numerous Zen communities, with the majority of the members being in their early twenties. While many of these communities had folded by the late 1970s, they nevertheless left a much greater awareness of Zen Buddhism in the broader culture.42 Several books by Western authors further popularized the term Zen. Zen in the Art of Archery, published in 1953 by German philosopher Eugen Herrigel, helped to popularize the term “Zen.”43 The best-selling book with the related title of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974, further inspired the casual use of the term “Zen” in the United States, despite the fact that author Robert Pirsig explicitly disclaimed any intention of explaining the tenets of Zen Buddhism, and led to a plethora of books with titles that begin with Zen and the Art of.44 J. J. Clarke’s 2000 book The Tao of the West: Western Transformations of Taoist Thought explores the ways in which Western authors have engaged with, and transformed, Daoist ideas.45 The 1983 best-selling book The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff did much to familiarize a broader range of Americans with some aspects of Daoist philosophy, and inspired a host of works with titles beginning The Tao of.46 While acknowledging that Western constructions of the “Tao” often depart considerably from Daoist texts produced in China, Clarke nonetheless rejects “the more reductive aspects of the Orientalist critique,” finding that “the relationship between Daoism and Western thought is too complex to be shoehorned into a simple model of Western power imposed on a passive East.”47

This very cultural permeation of terms such as Zen and Tao/Dao has created problems in identifying practitioners of Daoism and Buddhism in the United States. In her article “Who is a Buddhist?,” Jan Nattier discusses the question of how to identify and categorize Buddhists in the United States, asking, for example, if an American college student reads a book on Zen Buddhism, and subsequently identifies as a Buddhist “without ever having encountered any form of Buddhism beyond the printed page,” should the student “be included within the scope of a study of Buddhism in North America”? Nattier suggests that many scholars and practicing Buddhists would say no. Yet as she points out, requiring “official membership in a specific group” would be to impose a stricter criteria than is used to measure people identifying as Christian or Jewish.48 Louis Komjathy identifies a similar issue in his discussion of Daoism in North America, noting that discussions of who can be considered a Daoist are complicated by the idea that “philosophical” Daoism is a more authentic form of Daoism than various religious practices of self-cultivation. Komjathy considers a wide variety of engagement with Daoism as part of the “landscape of Daoism in North America,” seeing a spectrum with those with “close relations” to Daoism, such as “Daoist priests and lineage holders,” on one end, to those “distant relations,” such as those he terms “Pooh-Bear Taoists” on the other.49 Other scholars are more critical of those who engage with Daoism casually. In his review of Clarke’s Tao of the West, Russel Kirkland notes that Clarke implicitly legitimizes various Western interpretations of Daoism, regardless of how different they are from original Daoist texts, which can be seen as “appreciating” aspects of Daoism that “speak to our world.” Kirkland, in contrast, finds in this view an “unjustified colonialist appropriation.”50

Yet another view of receptions of East Asian religious traditions in the United States can be found in the “Confucius Institutes” sponsored by the People’s Republic of China at over ninety American universities. While Americans and many Asians (especially Chinese) viewed “Confucianism” as an impediment to modernity for much of the 20th century, many now see Confucian values as contributing to the promotion of economic growth. The official Communist party position is currently, in the words of one scholar, that “Confucianism represents what is best in China’s cultural past and the hope of China’s cultural identity in the future.”51 The PRC government’s willingness to fund “Confucius Institutes” to promote the teaching of Chinese culture and language can be enormously helpful to cash-strapped American universities and their students. Yet in a 2014 statement, the American Association of University Professors expressed concern that as “an arm of the Chinese state,” Confucius Institutes could lead to a loss of academic freedom.52 A number of prominent scholars of China discussed both the benefits and potential problems of establishing “Confucius Institutes.” Some emphasized the importance of introducing American students to Chinese language and culture and the value of the funds from the institute when appropriations for language study and the liberal arts more generally are shrinking on college campuses. On the other hand, other faculty expressed concerns about “self-censorship,” for example, that scholars at universities with Confucian Institutes would simply avoid such topics as Tibet and the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989, in order to keep harmonious relations with an important source of funding.53 Whatever else this debate may indicate, it makes clear that the People’s Republic of China is now exercising considerable power in the relationship with the United States, and attempting to impose a degree of control over how the American public perceives Chinese culture, and, by extension, religious traditions.

The long history of Western imperialism in China continues to impact the understanding of many Americans of Chinese culture and religion (entities that have historically been inseparable). As the power relationship between the United States and East Asian countries shifts, however, there are new sources of images of traditional East Asian religious traditions. Whatever the future of East Asian religions in the United States may be, the practice of these religions will remain part of the broader web of global relationships.

Review of the Literature

Buddhism as a religion is much more widely practiced in the United States than Daoism, Shinto, Shamanism, or Confucianism, and therefore there is also much more scholarship on Buddhism in the United States than on these other religions. There is a line between works by Buddhist practitioners for nonscholarly audiences that explain and encourage the practice of Buddhism, and scholarship from either historians or religious studies scholars that analyzes the development of Buddhism in the United States. However, this is not an absolute division, as many scholars of Buddhism are also practitioners.54 An important way in which scholarship on Buddhism differs from books that seek primarily to spread Buddhism is a more critical consideration of issues of Orientalism, imperialism, and cultural appropriation. Other works have dealt more explicitly with these themes.55 Recent scholarship has raised explicit questions about the possibility of practicing Buddhism in the United States without engaging in a kind of Orientalism; these debates relate to deeper issues of the validity of seeking after “authentic” religious traditions.56 Other scholars explicitly challenge the use of “Orientalism” to describe American interest in Buddhism.57

The main book-length scholarly study of Daoism in Western countries (Europe as well as the United States) has been The Tao of the West, J. J. Clarke’s follow up to his Oriental Enlightenment.58 A sense of the debates among scholars of Daoism raised by the book can be found in a 2002 special issue of the Religious Studies Review devoted to The Tao of the West.59 Livinia Kohn and Louis Komjathy, both prolific scholars and of Daoism, have included references to Daoism in the United States in their broader histories of Daoism.60 Komjathy has also critiqued representations of Daoism in the West and written articles on Daoism in the United States, wrestling with issues of Orientalism and cultural appropriation while nonetheless supporting the value of people all over the world engaging with Daoism.61 While many scholars have insisted that Confucianism should be defined as a “religion” rather than a philosophy, and while some families in the United States, particularly those of East Asian descent, practice rituals associated with Confucianism, there are not “converts” to Confucianism in the United States in the way that there are to Buddhism and to a lesser extent Daoism, and few self-identify as “Confucianists.” 62 There have, however, been recent scholarly discussions of Confucianism as a “world religion” and discussions of how Confucianism fits into the “modern world.”63 While Shinto is a very old religion in Japan, it was central to Japanese nationalism from the period of the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912) to WWII. While practitioners of Shinto in Japan separated the rituals associated with individual temples from “State Shinto” in the wake of WWII, the connection of Shino with Japanese actions during WWII make it difficult for the religion to spread globally.64 There are Shinto temples in the United States, but there have not been scholarly monographs dedicated to Shintoism in the United States.

Scholarship on imperialism in American foreign missionaries in East Asia has been voluminous, with much of the scholarship centering on China, the largest foreign mission field. The earliest scholarship was produced by participants in the foreign missionary movement, who did not emphasize the relationship between imperialism and the missionary enterprise, although much of this scholarship is well researched and remains a valuable source of information and statistics.65 After the 1949 Communist Revolution, most scholars viewed the missionary enterprise as a failure and emphasized the conflicts between Christian missionaries and Chinese.66 John King Fairbank’s 1974 edited volume on the American missionary enterprise in China did much to promote the importance of the study of the American missionary enterprise as an important topic in both Chinese and U.S. history. In that volume, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. made the argument that missionaries practiced “cultural imperialism,” as distinct from other kinds of imperialism.67 From the 1990s, especially with the publication of Daniel Bays’s edited volume Christianity in China, scholars have focused more on the ways in which Chinese Christians have interpreted and adapted Christianity.68 From the 1980s, scholarship on women and gender has become increasingly central to the study of missions, and here, too, we see a shift in focus from American women missionaries to Chinese women and other Chinese who engaged with the work of American women missionaries.69 This scholarship has led to a critique of the concept of “cultural imperialism” as too simple a framework to understand the complex engagement between missionaries and Chinese, and especially not recognizing the ways in which Chinese Christians combined nationalism and Christian faith.70 A recent book on a Chinese Catholic village suggests that in addition to exploring how Chinese Christians have adapted Christianity, it is also important to look at how Chinese Catholics in particular have come to increasingly view themselves as part of a Global church.71

Japan and Korea had significantly different histories with Christian missions than did China. In Japan, American missionaries only briefly exercised any significant power at the beginning of the Meiji era, as Japan itself became an imperialist power by the end of the 19th century. Yet scholarship on Japanese missions, like scholarship on China missions, focused increasingly on the experience of Japanese Christians and Japanese interpretations of Christianity, and also specifically on relationships between American women missionaries and Japanese Christian women.72 The Korean view of Christian missions has in general been more positive than either the Japanese or Chinese, as the imperialist power in Korea was Japan, and Christian missionaries seemed to offer a path toward modernity, including a “modern womanhood” in Korea. Recent scholarship has explored the meaning of this “modernity” and also focused more on Korean Christians and the complex relationships between Korean Christians and missionaries.73

Further Reading

Works on the American Foreign Mission Movement in East Asia

Bays, Daniel, ed. Christianity in China: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Chang, Derek. Citizens of a Christian Nation: Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Chin, Carol. “Beneficent Imperialists: American Women Missionaries in China at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.” Diplomatic History 27 (June 2003): 327–352.Find this resource:

Choi, Hyaeweol, Gender and Mission Encounters in Korea: New Women, Old Ways. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Cohen, Paul. China and Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Anti-Foreignism in China, 1860–1870. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963.Find this resource:

Dunch, Ryan. “Beyond Cultural Imperialism: Cultural Theory, Christian Missions, and Global Modernity.” History and Theory 41 (October 2002): 301–325.Find this resource:

Fairbank, John King. The Missionary Enterprise in China and America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.Find this resource:

Grimshaw, Patricia. Paths of Duty: American Missionary Wives in Nineteenth Century Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Hill, Patricia R.The World Their Household: The American Woman’s Foreign Mission Movement and Cultural Transformation, 1870–1920. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Hunter, Jane. Gospel of Gentility: American Women Missionaries in Turn-of-the-Century China. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Ion, A. Hamish. American Missionaries, Christian Oyatoi, and Japan. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Ishii, Noriko Kawamura. American Women Missionaries at Kobe College, 1873–1909. New York: Routledge, 2004.Find this resource:

Kwok Pui-lan. “Unbinding Our Feet: Saving Brown Women and Feminist Religious Discourse.” In Post-Colonialism, Feminism, and Religious Discourse. Edited by Kwok Pui-lan and Laura Donaldson, 62–81. New York: Routledge, 2002.Find this resource:

Lian Xi. The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in America Protestant Missions in China, 1907–32. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Lodwick, Kathleen. Educating the Women of Hainan: The Career of Margaret Moninger in China, 1915–1942. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995.Find this resource:

Porter, Andrew. “Cultural Imperialism and the Protestant Missionary Enterprise, 1780–1914.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 25.3 (September 1997): 367–391.Find this resource:

Reeves-Ellington, Barbara, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Connie Shemo, eds. Competing Kingdoms: Women, Mission, Nation and the American Protestant Empire, 1812–1860. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Robert, Dana. American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Shemo, Connie. The Chinese Medical Ministries of Kang Cheng and Shi Meiyu, 1872–1937: On a Cross-cultural Frontier of Gender, Race, and Nation. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Snow, Jennifer. Protestant Missionaries, Asian Immigrants, and Ideologies of Race in America, 1850–1924. New York: Routledge, 2007.Find this resource:

Works on East Asian Religions in the United States

Clarke, J. J.Oriental Enlightenment: The Encounter between Asian and Western Thought. London: Routledge, 1997.Find this resource:

Clarke, J. J.The Tao of the West: Western Transformations of Taoist Thought. London: Routledge, 2000.Find this resource:

Coleman, James William. The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition. New York: Oxford University, 2001.Find this resource:

Girardot, Norman. The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Hobson, John M.The Eastern Origin of Western Civilization. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Kohn, Livia. Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, and Ritual. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Komjathy, Louis. “Tracing the Counters of Daoism in North America.” Novo Religio 8 (November 2004): 5–27.Find this resource:

Komjathy, Louis. The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.Find this resource:

Prebish, Charles. Luminous Passage: The Practice and the Study of Buddhism in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Prebish, Charles, and Kenneth K. Tanaka. The Faces of Buddhism in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Powers, John. A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2008.Find this resource:

Tweed, Thomas. The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844–1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Tweed, Thomas, and Stephen Prothero. Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.Find this resource:


(1.) Randall Nadeau, “Introduction,” in The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions, ed. Randall L. Nadeau (Malden, MA; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 1–24, 2.

(2.) Daniel Overmeyer, Religions in China: The World as a Living System (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986), 24.

(3.) Keith Knapp, “The Confucian Tradition in China,” in Wiley Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions, ed. Nadeau, 147–170.

(4.) Nadeau, “Introduction,” 5; and Lionel Jensen, Manufacturing Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997).

(5.) C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of their Historical Factors (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961); Nadeau, “Introduction,” 7; Overmyer, Religions of China, 29; and Rodney Leon Taylor, Religious Dimensions of Confucianism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990).

(6.) Louis Komjathy, “The Daoist Tradition in China,” in Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religion, ed. Nadeau, 171–196, 173–174.

(7.) Louis Komjathy, The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 5–6.

(8.) Mark Poceski, “Chinese Buddhism,” in Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religion, ed. Nadeau, 197–218.

(9.) John T. Strong, Buddhisms: An Introduction (London: One World Productions, 2015), 313. For more detail about the development of Chan Buddhism in China, see John R. McRae, “The Story of Early Ch’an,” in Zen: Tradition and Transition, ed. Kenneth Kraft (New York: Grove Press, 1988), 125–139.

(10.) Philip Clart, “Chinese Popular Religion,” in Wilely-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions, ed. Nadeau, 219–235, 219–220.

(11.) Nadeau, “Introduction,” 12–14; and Arthur P. Wolf, ed., Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974).

(12.) Don Baker, Korean Spirituality (Honolulu: University of Honolulu Press, 2008), chs. 1–2.

(13.) Baker, Korean Spirituality, 52–53.

(14.) Joseph M. Kitagawa, Religion in Japanese History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966), 12. See also Stuart D. B. Picken, Essentials of Shinto: An Analytical Guide to Principal Teachings (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994); and Thomas P. Kasulis, Shinto: The Way Home (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005).

(15.) Kitagawa, Religion in Japanese History, ch. 2.

(16.) Phillip Yampolsky, “The Development of Japanese Zen,” in Zen, ed. Kraft, 140–156.

(17.) Jonathan Spence, Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (New York: Viking Press, 1984).

(18.) A thorough treatment of Voltaire’s fascination with China can be found in Arnold Rowbotham, “Voltaire, Sinophile,” PMLA 47 (December 1932): 1050–1065. For a more recent treatment, see John M. Hobson, The Eastern Origin of Western Civilization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

(19.) Nadeau, “Introduction,” 6.

(20.) Paul Cohen, China and Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Anti-foreignism in China, 1860–1870 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 63.

(21.) Norman Girardot, The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 420; and Nadeau, “Introduction,” 2–3.

(22.) Ivan I. Morris, ed., Madly Singing in the Mountains: An Appreciation and Anthology of Arthur Waley (New York: Walker and Company, 1970); and John Walter DeGruchy, Orienting Arthur Waley: Japonism, Orientalism, and the Creation of Japanese Literature in English (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003).

(23.) Girardot, Victorian Translation, 513–514.

(24.) Jennifer Snow, Protestant Missionaries, Asian Immigrants, and Ideologies of Race in America (New York: Routledge, 2007); Weli Ye, Seeking Modernity in China’s Name: Chinese Students in the United States, 1900–1927 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), ch. 3; Carol Chin, “Beneficent Imperialists: American Women Missionaries in China at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Diplomatic History 27 (June 2003): 327–352; and Connie Shemo, The Chinese Medical Ministries of Kang Cheng and Shi Meiyu, 1872–1937: On a Cross-cultural Frontier of Gender, Race, and Nation (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press).

(25.) Patricia Hill, The World their Household: the American Woman’s Foreign Mission Movement and Cultural Transformation, 1870–1920 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985).

(26.) Joan Jacobs Brumberg, “Zenanas and Girlless Villages: The Ethnology of American Evangelical Women, 1870–1910,” Journal of American History 69 (September 1982): 347–371, 348,367.

(27.) Jane Hunter, Gospel of Gentility: American Women Missionaries in Turn-of-the-Century China (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984); Dana Robert, American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997); Barbara Reeves-Ellington, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Connie Shemo, eds. Competing Kingdoms: Women, Mission, Nation and the American Protestant Empire, 1812–1860 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); and Lian Xi, The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in America Protestant Missions in China, 1907–32 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997).

(28.) Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty Port China (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004); Bridie Andrews, The Making of Chinese Medicine, 1850–1960 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014).

(29.) Jessie Lutz, China and the Christian Colleges, 1850–1950 (London: Cornell University Press, 1971).

(30.) Arif Dirlik, “Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism,” History and Theory 35 (December 1996), 96–118.

(31.) Mark Mullins, ed. Handbook of Christianity in Japan (Boston: Brill, 2003); and Norkio Kawamura Ishii, American Women Missionaries at Kobe College, 1873–1909: New Dimensions of Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004).

(32.) Jason Anada Josephson, The Invention of Religion in Japan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

(33.) Baker, Korean Spirituality, ch. 4.

(34.) Phillip Connor, “6 Facts About South Korea’s Growing Christian Population,” Pew Research Center Fact Tank (August 12, 2014). Available online.

(35.) Rebecca Y. Kim, The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

(36.) Thomas Tweed, The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844–1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 155.

(37.) Charles S. Prebish, “Introduction,” in The Faces of Buddhism in America, eds. Charles S. Prebish and Kenneth K. Tanaka (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 1–10, 4, 10.

(38.) “Chapter 1: The Changing Religious Composition of the United States,” Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life (May 22, 2015). Available online.

(39.) “American Buddhists,” Pew Research Center (March 17, 2008). Available online.

(40.) “Chapter 1: The Changing Religious Composition of the United States.” For a discussion of race in American Buddhism, see Rick Fields, “Divided Dharma: White Buddhists, Ethnic Buddhists, and Racism,” in The Faces of Buddhism in America, eds. Prebish and Tanaka, 196–206.

(41.) “Asian-Americans: a Mosaic of Faiths,” Pew Research Center (July 19, 2012). Available online.

(42.) Kenneth Kraft, “Recent Developments in North American Zen,” in Zen: Tradition and Transition, ed. Kraft, 178–198.

(43.) Eugen Herrigel, Zen and the Art of Archery (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953).

(44.) Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (New York: Morrow, 1974).

(45.) J. J. Clarke, The Tao of the West: Western Transformations of Taoist Thought (London: Routledge, 2000).

(46.) Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh (New York: Penguin Books, 1983).

(47.) Clarke, Tao of the West, 8.

(48.) Jan Nattier, “Who Is a Buddhist?:Charting the Landscape of Buddhist America,” in Faces of Buddhism in America, eds. Prebish and Tanaka, 183–195.

(49.) Louis Komjathy, “Tracing the Counters of Daoism in North America,” Novo Religio 8 (November 2004): 5–27.

(50.) Russell Kirkland, “On Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Dao,” Religious Studies Review 28 (October 2002): 309–314, 311.

(51.) Nadeau, “Introduction,” 13.

(52.) “On Partnerships with Foreign Governments: The Case of Confucius Institutes,” AAUP Reports and Publications (June 2014). Available online.

(53.) “The Debate Over Confucius Institutes,” ChinaFile (June 23, 2014). Available online.

(54.) For examples of scholarship see Charles Prebish, American Buddhism (North Scituate, MA: Duxbury Press, 199); Charles Prebish, Luminous Passage: The Practice and the Study of Buddhism in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), and the edited collection Charles Prebish and Kenneth K. Tanaka, eds. The Faces of Buddhism in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), and Prebish’s memoir on his experience as a Buddhist in the United States American Buddhist Life: Memoirs of a Modern Dharma Pioneer (Toronto: The Sumeru Press, Inc., 2011). Other examples include Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America (Boston: Shambhala Publication, 1992), and Sandy Boucher, Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism (Beacon, MA: Beacon Press, 1993).

(55.) Thomas A. Tweed, The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844–1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); Jeff Wilson, Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); and J. J. Clarke, Oriental Enlightenment: The Encounter Between Asian and Western Thought (New York: Routledge, 1997).

(56.) A good summary of these debates can be found in Natalie Quli, “Western Self, Asian Other: Modernity, Authenticity, and Nostalgia for ‘Tradition’ in Buddhist Studies,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 16 (2009): 1–38. Available online.

(57.) Judith Snodgrass, Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.)

(58.) J. J. Clarke, The Tao of the West: Western Transformations of Taoist Thought (New York: Routledge, 2000).

(59.) Religious Studies Review 28 (October 2002).

(60.) See, for example, Livinia Kohn, Daoism and Chinese Culture (Cambridge, MA: Three Pines Press, 2001), 198–202; and Louis Komjathy, The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction (New York: Bloomsbury Press Academic, 2013).

(61.) Louis Komjathy, “Tracing the Counters of Daoism in North America,” Novo Religio 8 (November 2004): 5–27; and Daoism: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014).

(62.) While somewhat dated now, a good summary of debates over the religious dimensions of Confucianism can be found in Rodney Taylor and Gary Arbuckle, “Confucianism,” Journal of Asian Studies 54 (May 1995): 347. For an interesting discussion of potential issues with the view of Confucianism as a “civil religion” in China, which also covers views of Confucianism in the United States, see Kiri Paramore, “Civil Religion and Confucianism: Japan’s Past, China’s Present, and the Current Boom on Scholarship in Confucianism,” Journal of Asian Studies 74 (May 2015): 269–282.

(63.) Anna Sun, Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013); and Daniel Bell and Hahm Chaibong, Confucianism for the Modern World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(64.) For more on the history of Shintoism and the distinction between “State Shinto” and Shinto as a religion currently practiced in Japan, see Helen Hardacre, Shinto and the State, 1868–1988 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989); Stuart D. B. Picken, Essentials of Shinto: An Analytical Guide to Principal Teachings (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994); Thomas P. Kasulis, Shinto: The Way Home (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005); Franziska Seraphim, War, Memory, and Social Policies in Japan, 1945–2005 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), ch. 1; Jason Anada Josephson, The Invention of Religion in Japan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014); and Trent Maxey, The “Greatest Problem”: Religion and State Formation in Meiji Japan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

(65.) Most notable in this category is Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (New York: Russell and Russell, 1929).

(66.) Notable works include Paul Cohen, China and Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Chinese Antiforeignism, 1860–1870 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963); Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

(67.) John King Fairbank, The Missionary Enterprise in China and America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974); see especially Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “The Missionary Enterprise and Theories of Imperialism,” 336–373.

(68.) Daniel Bays, ed. Christianity in China: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996); Ryan Dunch, Fuzhou Protestants and the Making of a Modern China, 1857–1927 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001); Joseph Tse-hei Lee, The Bible and the Gun: Christianity in South China, 1860–1900 (New York: Routledge, 2003); Lian Xi, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010); and Wu Ziming, Chinese Christianity: An Interplay Between Global and Local Perspectives (Boston: Brill, 2012).

(69.) Jane Hunter, Gospel of Gentility: American Women Missionaries in Turn-of-the-Century China (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984); Educating the Women of Hainan: The Career of Margaret Moninger in China, 1915–1941 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1995); Kwok Pui-lan, Chinese Women and Christianity, 1860–1927 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1992); Jessie Lutz, ed., Pioneer Chinese Christian Women: Gender, Christianity, and Social Mobility (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2010); and Connie Shemo, The Chinese Medical Ministries of Kang Cheng and Shi Meiyu: On a Cross-cultural Frontier of Gender, Race, and Nation (Latham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2011).

(70.) While most of the aforementioned works deal in some way with the idea of “cultural imperialism,” the most explicit critique can be found in Ryan Dunch, “Beyond Cultural Imperialism: Cultural Theory, Christian Missions, and Global Modernity,” History and Theory 41 (October 2002): 301–325.

(71.) Henrietta Harrison, The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

(72.) One of the earliest works, still used as an important reference, is Charles W. Iglehart, A Century of Protestant Christianity in Japan (Portland, OR: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1959). More recent work includes Mark M. Mullins, Christianity Made in Japan: A Study of Indigenous Movements (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998); Mark Mullins, ed., Handbook of Christianity in Japan (Boston: Brill, 2003); Ion A. Hamish, The Cross and the Rising Sun (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1990–1993); Noriko Kawamura Ishii, American Women Missionaries at Kobe College, 1873–1909: New Dimensions of Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004); Rui Kohiyama, “No Nation Can Rise Higher Than Its Women: The Woman’s Ecumenical Missionary Movement and Tokyo Woman’s College,” in Competing Kingdoms: Women, Mission, Nation, and the American Protestant Empire, eds. Barbara Reeves-Ellington, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Connie Shemo (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 218–239.

(73.) Hyaeweol Choi, Gender and Mission Encounters in China: New Women, Old Ways (Berkley: University of California Press, 2009); Sung-Deuk Oak, The Making of Korean Christianity: Encounters of Protestantism with Korean Religions, 1876–1915 (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2013); Albert Park, Building a Heaven on Earth: Religion, Activism and Protest in Japanese Occupied Korea (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2015); and Sonja Kim, “Missionaries and ‘A Better Baby Movement’ in Colonial Korea,” in Divine Domesticities: Christian Missionaries and Women in Asia and the Pacific, eds. Margaret Jolly and Hyaeweol Choi (Canberra, Australia: Australian National University Press, 2014).