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Empirical Studies of Values in China (ESVIC)

Director of ESVIC


F. Carson Mencken 

Director of ESVIC

A grant in the amount of $1,730,000 from the John M. Templeton Foundation was awarded to the Institute for Studies of Religion in May 2006 to conduct the first series of nationwide empirical studies on values in China.

Probably the most significant current religious development in the world is the very rapid growth of Christianity in China. In 1949, the Marxists came to power and expelled all foreign missionaries. At that time, there were an estimated 2 million Christians in China. Now, after decades of repression, a renewed Chinese Christianity has burst forth and their numbers are variously estimated at 50 to 120 million, and growing.

From 2006-2010,  The Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) at Baylor University worked on a major initiative dedicated to promoting the scientific study of values in contemporary China. With the generous support of the John M. Templeton Foundation, the Empirical Study of Values in China (ESVIC) created a new program dedicated to generating ground-breaking scholarship and thus building a new field of empirical research on values in contemporary China. The emphasis enabled Chinese scholars to do the primary research. To this end, ESVIC actively completed the following objectives:

  • In August 2007 we welcomed our first three post-doctoral scholars from China, and in August 2008 we  welcomed four additional post-doctoral scholars. We have been providing ongoing training in quantitative research methods, and supporting their scholarship on this topic.
  • In July 2008 ISR hosted the 8th annual Sino-US-Euro Summer Institute on the social scientific study of religion at Renmin University in Beijing. This workshop included lectures from American scholars to Chinese graduate students interested in the scientific study of religion. The focus of this conference was on collecting empirical data for quantitative analysis.
  • We were active in the translation into Chinese influential Western works.
  • In partnership with Horizon Inc, an international research firm based in Beijing, we had access to a national random sample of religion, religious practices, beliefs, and values in China. Unlike many recent studies of China, this study contains over 7,000 respondents from both urban and rural China.
  • We provided support for small-scale research projects in China, conducted by scholars at Chinese universities. These projects included Metropolitan Worker churches in the Metropolitan Cities, conducted by Dr. Jianbo Huang, an anthropologist of religion at Renmin University.

These objectives are producing the synergy to accurately document and understand the changing role of values in China.