Capitalistically Communist and chaotically controlled, contemporary China presents the world with many an oxymoron. None is more perplexing to an Indian than its identity as an officially atheist but predominantly Buddhist culture. After being humbled by the country’s butter-smooth highways and awed by the modernity of its slum-free cities, it is to religion that Indian visitors to the middle kingdom direct their curiosity.
"Is it really true that all Chinese are atheist?" they often ask in tones that mix disgust and incredulity. Coming from a country where religion does not influence life so much as form the substratum upon which life is acted out, the lack of a constant and visible religiosity in China is understandably striking to them.