Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in ChinaBook - 2003
The charismatic form of healing called qigong, which at its core involves meditative breathing exercises, achieved enormous popularity in China during the last two decades. Anthropologist Nancy N. Chen examines the cultural context of medicine and healing practices in the PRC, Taiwan, and the United States, and the pages of her book come alive with the narratives of the numerous practitioners, healers, psychiatric patients, doctors, and bureaucrats she interviewed.
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.
In an ethnographic study, Chen (anthropology, U. of California-Santa Cruz) explores why the Chinese healing exercise qigong flourished as a highly charismatic form of healing in the post-Mao period. She says it helped people cope with chronic health concerns while promoting a sense of belonging, problems associated with it became medicalized by the new psychiatric profession, and its transnational attraction dispelled the notion that it was a local Chinese practice unchanged by time. Annotation (c) Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)