China's ruling Communist Party sanctions only five religions. And although the constitution allows for freedom of religion, practicing anything other than Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism is technically breaking the law.
But in Shanghai, the second most populous city in China, a myriad of religious communities are quietly thriving.
Shanghai Daoist Institute”上海道教学院, Dongyue Temple | Shanghai Daoist Institute is one of three Daoist official learning centers in China. The 50 students (between the ages of 20 and 28) study for six hours a day and take classes in history, philosophy, English, and music. | (Liz Hingley)
British photographer Liz Hingley spent three years exploring Shanghai's spiritual landscape, unearthing vibrant communities of people practicing Islam, Hinduism, Russian Orthodoxy, and Judaism. Such displays of belief would never have been possible 50 years ago.
During Mao Zedong's brutal Cultural Revolution, religious practice was violently suppressed; temples and churches were burned to the ground, and centuries of religious writings, artworks, and architecture disappeared into the ashes. But since the communist leader's death 40 years ago, China's atheist government has made some room for religious diversity.
In fact, China has welcomed a relative boom in religious believers. And although such an influx of faith has inspired a violent backlash in some provinces, where acts of religious expression are banned, urban centers tend to be more accepting of the devout. Chinese cities like Shanghai are now global destinations, attracting millions of visitors and ex-pats from all over the world. Today, religions both old and new can find a home in this modern metropolis.
"Shanghai has continued to welcome a rich flow of cultural influences from around the world," Hingley said in an interview. "In this dynamic state of flux, city dwellers have developed creative ways to attach meaning and value to space, and daily life." Explore the growing sacred spaces around Shanghai:
Rabbi Avraham Greenberg and his children, Pudong Jewish Center | The vitality of the expatriate Jewish community in Shanghai today is illustrated by their strong organizational structure. Rabbi Avraham Greenberg, brother of the rabbi who set up the Shanghai Jewish center in 1999, established the Pudong center in his family's villa complex. | (Liz Hingley)
Fang Sheng gathering, Shanghai Ferry Port | Many Buddhist networks gather donations for the practice of releasing animals from captivity. The traditional ritual of "freeing the fish" is performed on the various waterways that cross Shanghai. | (Liz Hingley)
Catholic couple | A couple practice singing before a Taizé prayer evening. Taizé is an ecumenical monastic order that started in Burgundy, France. A young Shanghai man introduced the practice to Catholic churches around Shanghai after visiting the Taizé community in France. | (Liz Hingley)
Fire ceremony gathering, Chongming Island | Every month one of the two Indian yogis in Shanghai hosts a fire ceremony for Chinese devotees on Chongming Island. Most attendees discover the ritual event through their yoga studios. | (Liz Hingley)
Diwali Festival | Around 50 Hindu expatriate families live in the apartments of the Shimao Riviera garden compound in Pudong, Shanghai. Although Hinduism is not officially recognized by the state, the Indian Hindu community celebrates every major festival together. | (Liz Hingley)
Eid al-Adha, Fuyou Road Mosque | Fuyou Road Mosque is the smallest of Shanghai's mosques, constructed during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). While there is no separate prayer hall for women, on major festival days, the prayer hall is divided in two halves by a curtain patterned with hearts. Men sit on one side and women on the other. | (Liz Higley)
Orthodox Easter service, Russian consulate | The status of the Orthodox in Shanghai has remained ambiguous. This Easter 2016 service was held within the Russian consulate and attended by both foreigners and Chinese. | (Liz Hingley)
**To see more from this series and others, check out Liz Hingley's website.**