The influence of cyberization on folk religion: A case study of Chinese online religious group

Yuhang Zhang


Religious cyberization is a new way of dissemination and development of traditional offline religions. In the process of cyberization, all aspects of religions are likely to be affected by the new Internet environment. Taking a Chinese online religious group as Internet field, this article analyzes the influence of cyberization on belief system, religious authority and religious experience of folk religion, and makes a preliminary exploration of its causes in combination with the characteristics of Internet and folk religion. This study mainly adopted the method of participant observation, and conducted online and offline interviews with participants when necessary. In addition, the researcher also analyzed documents, audio and other files uploaded in the online group. In the case discussed in this article, compared with officially recognized religions in China, folk religion seems to be more adapted to the opportunities and challenges brought by the new territory of the Internet due to its unique diffuseness and inclusiveness.


folk religion; cyberization; China; online religion; religious group

Full Text:



Armfield, G. G., & Holbert, R. L. (2003). The relationship between religiosity and internet use. Journal of Media and Religion, 2(3), 129-144.

Brasher, B. (2001). Give me that online religion. Choice Reviews Online, 39(02).

Clark, L. S., Hadden, J. K., & Cowan, D. E. (2002). Religion on the internet: Research prospects and promises. Sociology of Religion, 63(4), 540–541.

Cobb, J. (1998). Cybergrace: The search for God in the digital world. Crown Publishers.

Fukamizu, R. K. (2007). Internet use among religious followers: Religious postmodernism in Japanese Buddhism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(3), 977-998.

Helland, C. (2000). Online religion/religion online and virtual communitas. In Religion on the internet: Research prospects and promises, ed. Jeffrey K. Hadden, Dougles E. Cowan, JAI Press, 8, 205-223.

Huang, L. P. (2018). The O2O model for Japanese religious groups:A case study of the Konkokyo Momoyama Church. The World Religious Cultures (01), 88-96. Retrieved from aspx?FileName=RELI201801017&DbName= CJFQ2018

Hutchings, T. (2007). Creating church online: A case-study approach to religious experience. Studies in World Christianity, 13(3), 243-260.

Krueger, O. (2004). The internet as distributor and mirror of religious and ritual knowledge. Asian Journal of Social Science, 32(2), 183-197.

Liang, W. G. (2020). The internet experience of believers and the changing governance of authority: A review of “internet + religion” research at home and abroad. Studies in World Religions, (03),183-188. Retrieved from detail.aspx?FileName= WORL202003021&DbName= CJFQ2020

Li, C. M., & Gu, F. Y. (2018). Characteristics, risks and comprehensive management of online religion. Inner Mongolia Theory Research of United Front, (5), 49-54. Retrieved from &DbName=CJFQ2018

Li, M. (2011). The religion’s internet communication and the believer’s group identification. Journal of Hebei Normal University of Science & Technology, 10(2), 32-36. Retrived from FileName=HZYS201102008& DbName=CJFQ2011

Ma, J. (2016). Cybermatics for cyberization towards cyber-enabled hyper worlds. 2016 4th IEEE International Conference on Mobile Cloud Computing, Services, and Engineering (MobileCloud).

Ma, N. (2020). Research on the current situation and management strategies of internet religious activities in China. Science and Atheism, (01), 29-35. Retrieved from FileName=KXWS202001007&DbName= CJFQ2020

Marsh, R. M., & Yang, C. K. (1962). Religion in Chinese society: A study of contemporary social functions of religion and some of their historical factors. American Sociological Review, 27(3), 439.

O’Leary, S. D. (1996). Cyberspace as sacred space: Communicating religion on computer networks. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, LXIV(4), 781-808.

Possamai, A., & Turner, B. S. (2012). Authority and liquid religion in cyberspace: The new territories of religious communication. International Social Science Journal, 63(209-210), 197-206.

Sa, J. X. (2018). An analysis of the “diffuseness” of religion in China. Jing Chu Academic Journal, 2018, (17), 122-124. Retrieved from FileName=HGZK201806001033&DbName=CPFD2018

Shi, L. (2016). Research on online religion, online society and social governance: A case study of S City. The World Religious Cultures, (5), 18-23. Retrieved from CJFQ2016

Shi, L. (2018). Reflection on the issue of online religion in China and its overall governance. Information Security and Communications Privacy, (3), 20-22. Retrieved from detail.aspx? FileName=TXBM201803006&DbName=CJFQ2018

Shi, L., & Lu, J. H. (2016). The rise of online religion and its social governance. China Ethnic News, 006. Retrieved from fr=xueshu

Tang, M. H. (2006). Exploring the social mechanism of the rise of online religion. Religious Studies, (4), 216-220. Retrieved from 200604043&DbName=CJFQ2006

Tang, M. H. (2008). Influence of network religion on Christians: A case study of religious life of online Christians in Changsha. Religious Studies, (2), 112-116. Retrieved from FileName=ZJYJ200802022& DbName= CJFQ2008

Tan, J. H. (2019). Research on the new form of religious activities on mobile internet: Taking the social interaction of Buddhist virtual community as an example. (Master Thesis, Wuhan University). Retrieved from CMFD201902&filename=1019903142.nh

Wang, H. & Wang, Y. (2016). An analysis of the online religion: Taking Gansu Province as the research object. Journal of Tianshui Normal University, (02), 60-64. Retrieved from aspx FileName=TSSY201602017&bName=CJFQ2016

Wang, N. N. (2016). Research on the current development situation and countermeasures of online religion in China. Journal of the Central Institute of Socialism, 201(3), 63-66. Retrieved from ZYSH201603014&DbName= CJFQ2016

Xing, G. Z. (2016). A Study on college students’ internet religion from the perspective of postmodernism. Studies on Marxism, (11), 132-140. Retrieved from STUD201611015&DbName= CJFQ2016

Xu, S., & Campbell, H. A. (2018). Surveying digital religion in China: Characteristics of religion on the internet in Mainland China. The Communication Review, 21(4), 253-276.

Yang, J. W. (2018). Connotation analysis of “internet religion” and its significance to internet governance. Information Security and Communications Privacy, (3), 13-16. Retrieved from FileName=TXBM201803004& DbName=CJFQ2018

Zhang, Y., Ma, X. C., & Zhang, Z. H. (2018). The communication and administration of online religious activities in China: Taking ethnic city x in Western China as an case study. Qinghai Journal of Ethnology, 29(4), 212-217. Retrieved from QHMJ201804033&DbName= CJFQ2018

Zhang, Z. (2018). Belief conversion in embedded networks: Ethnography of WeChat group based on “respecting the lord”. (Master Thesis, Liaoning University). Retrieved from CMFD201901&filename= 1018109452.nh



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Yuhang Zhang

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Simulacra has been indexed in these prominent indexing services:

Sinta 2DOAJIndex CopernicusEBSCOGoogle ScholarCrossrefDimensionsWorldcatHarvard LibraryOxford LibraryUniversiteit LeidenDRJIScilit MDPIPKP IndexROADBASEMorarefColumbia LibrarySheffield LibraryCORE


 Simulacra is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA and published by the Center for Sociological Studies and Community Development, Department of Sociology, Universitas Trunojoyo Madura, Indonesia.