Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China

Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China

by Nancy Chen


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The charismatic form of healing called qigong, based on meditative breathing exercises, has achieved enormous popularity in China during the last two decades. Qigong served a critical social organizational function, as practitioners formed new informal networks, sometimes on an international scale, at a time when China was shifting from state-subsidized medical care to for-profit market medicine. The emergence of new psychological states deemed to be deviant led the Chinese state to "medicalize" certain forms while championing scientific versions of qigong. By contrast, qigong continues to be promoted outside China as a traditional healing practice. Breathing Spaces brings to life the narratives of numerous practitioners, healers, psychiatric patients, doctors, and bureaucrats, revealing the varied and often dramatic ways they cope with market reform and social changes in China.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231128049
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 06/04/2003
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.04(w) x 9.38(h) x 0.73(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nancy N. Chen is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A medical anthropologist, she also teaches courses on food, ethnographic film, urban anthropology, China, and Asian Americans.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Fever
3. Riding the Tiger
4. Qigong Deviation or Psychosis
5. Chinese Psychiatry and the Search for Order
6. Mandate of Science
7. Transnational Qigong
8. Suffering and Healing

What People are Saying About This

Arthur Kleinman

Before there was Falun Gong, there was qigong psychosis; and before that qigong was a traditional healing methodology and health enhancing practice. Nancy Chen tells the whole story, along the way connecting masters and practitioners of breathing techniques and meditation to the major cultural, political, economic, and moral transformations that China has undergone in the last several decades of economic change. But Chen's interesting and useful account is also a story of psychiatry and globalization, making for a rich and bubbling hot pot of ideas, practices, and embodied experience.

Lesley Sharp

Chen's riveting study focuses on a remarkable period in China's recent history, marked by this nation's recent reengagement with global capitalism. Chen bears witness to the shifting political significance--and vulnerability--of spiritual practitioners and healers in China, exposing how such shifts affect human experiences with enlightenment, pain, and suffering. Vivid portraits of the author's encounters render this a truly moving, poetic ethnography written in the best tradition of critical medical anthropology.

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