Document Type

Conference Proceeding


American Society of Church History, Spring Conference


Portland, OR

Publication Date

Spring 2013


Religion and Philosophy


As the stereotypical model minority in the United States, Chinese Americans are rarely considered as religiously threatening. Those Chinese Americans who already were or became converted to mainstream Christianity are seen as cases of successful Americanization. Buddhism, another popular religious affiliation among the Chinese ethnics, is understood as a benign and respectable source of wisdom. Few Chinese ethnics identify themselves strictly as Daoist or Confucian, but there is a wide range of religious and spiritual practices that are diffused into their daily lives. Without specific religious affiliations or congregational headcount, eclectic practices such as ancestral worship, temple visits, home rituals, and healing methods are interpreted (both by observers and insiders) to be merely preserving ethnic heritage and revisiting cultural tradition. In this paper, I will explore how the American mainstream and Chinese religious communities construct the image of Chinese Americans as socially participating and culturally inclusive, and therefore modernized, citizens. The two examples will demonstrate two models—one internally defined model by the Chinese American community, and another externally defined model by the mainstream American community.


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