Article ID: CBB001202429

Healing and Ritual Imagination in Chinese Medicine: The Multiple Interpretations of Zhuyou (2014)


In the Chinese medical corpus, ritual healing largely fell under the rubric of zhuyou 祝由 to uncover and expel the unknown, imperceptible, and occult causes of illness. Often dealing with uncertain or incurable cases, zhuyou remained at the cutting-edge of contemporary medicine. For a rising medical elite after the Northern Song, zhuyou was the branch of medicine to flexibly incorporate and critique the variety of ritual therapies into orthodox practice. Zhuyou employed prayer, incantations, talismans, gestures, and drugs in a nuanced clinical encounter to reveal the hidden root of disorder ranging from a blockage of qi, spirit possession, emotional imbalance, or loss of virtue. These rituals opened an imaginative space for therapeutic play where patients and healers could use spiritual proxies and props to address difficult emotions or issues that were often the hidden cause of affliction. The development of zhuyou also reflected the changing role of ritual in the history of Chinese medicine and the exchanges among physicians, Daoist priests, and other ritual healers. The significance of ritual in Chinese medical history has largely remained unclear as most editions of medical classics republished since the early twentieth century excise relevant chapters and zhuyou manuscripts, until recently, were uncatalogued.

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Authors & Contributors
Faure, Bernard
Strickmann, Michel
Huang, Longxiang
Liu, Shu-fen
Shail, Andrew
Howie, Gillian
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Journal of Asian Studies
Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity
Lishi yuyan yanjiuso jikan (Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)
Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology, and Medicine
Palgrave Macmillan
Stanford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Harvard University
Princeton University Press
Medicine, Chinese traditional
Medicine and culture
Medicine and religion
East Asia, civilization and culture
Said, Hakim Mohammad
Zhu, Zhenheng
Yi, Chunyu
Xu, Shuwei
Xu, Bin
United States
Song Dynasty (China, 960-1279)
Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644)
Han dynasty (China, 202 B.C.-220 A.D.)
20th century, early

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