Book Reviews / Qigong

Qigong Fever: body, science and utopia…

qigongfevercover_520x300This is a heavy weight book written by an anthropologist so not always an easy read. It also suffers a little from having started life as a Phd thesis. None the less the depth of information and the detail in the book is extraordinary. There are plenty of more in depth reviews of the book already on the internet so I will just link to them as I couldn’t really do better.Review Android Smartphone

The book is an eye open though especially if you have arrived in China full of bright eyed wonder and enthusiasm for Qigong only to find it is not a popular topic of conversation. When I tell people why I am in China they often exclaim “do you really believe in that”?

It seems that ‘Qigong’ as we understand it in the west was a recently constructed idea that emerged out of the post revolutionary period in China initially as a way of standardising existing mind, body and health cultivation practices (David Palmer refers to these as ‘traditional body technologies’) as well as cleansing them of what the CCP refer to as superstitious practices.

After the Cultural Revolution fizzled out the practice started to move out of the hospitals and became a mass movement typified by demonstrations of supernatural powers and mass healings. It seems there was also a propensity towards accepting Qigong as a new scientific discipline along side quantum physics based on an acceptance of the existence of supernatural powers in human beings.

Anyway the long and short of it is that Qigong in China is not respected and largely discredited. It is also treated with a great deal of suspicion by the government. Consequently young people are more likely to be off doing yoga classes while the elders focus on their public disco dancing classes. It certainly open \ed my eyes and put things into perspective. It also raised an issue for me about the problems of “magical thinking” but that’s another story…

Electronic reference for a reveiw at China Perspectives

Georges Favraud, « David A. Palmer, Qigong Fever: Body, Science, and Utopia in China / La Fièvre du Quigong: guérison, religion, et politique en Chine, 1949-1999 », China perpectives [Online], 2009/4 | 2009, Online since 13 January 2010, connection on 09 October 2012. URL :

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