Qigong Fever: Body, Science, and Utopia in China

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Overview

Qigong—a regimen of body, breath, and mental training exercises—was one of the most widespread cultural and religious movements of late-twentieth-century urban China. The practice was promoted by senior Communist Party leaders as a uniquely Chinese healing tradition and as a harbinger of a new scientific revolution, yet the movement's mass popularity and the almost religious devotion of its followers led to its ruthless suppression.

In this absorbing and revealing book, David A. Palmer relies on a combination of historical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives to describe the spread of the qigong craze and its reflection of key trends that have shaped China since 1949, including the search for a national identity and an emphasis on the absolute authority of science. Qigong offered the promise of an all-powerful technology of the body rooted in the mysteries of Chinese culture. However, after 1995 the scientific underpinnings of qigong came under attack, its leaders were denounced as charlatans, and its networks of followers, notably Falungong, were suppressed as "evil cults."

According to Palmer, the success of the movement proves that a hugely important religious dimension not only survived under the CCP but was actively fostered, if not created, by high-ranking party members. Tracing the complex relationships among the masters, officials, scientists, practitioners, and ideologues involved in qigong, Palmer opens a fascinating window on the transformation of Chinese tradition as it evolved along with the Chinese state. As he brilliantly demonstrates, the rise and collapse of the qigong movement is key to understanding the politics and culture of post-Mao society.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

International Journal for the Study of New Religions - Scott Lowe

Qigong Fever is well written, engaging, and extensively researched. It is a landmark in the study of qigong and an indispensible resource for anyone attempting to understand Chinese society in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.

Choice

"A powerful historical, political, cultural, and sociological analysis of the Qigong movement and its relationship to the state... Essential." -Choice

Choice

"A powerful historical, political, cultural, and sociological analysis of the Qigong movement and its relationship to the state... Essential." -Choice

Pacific Affairs
A brilliant piece of scholarship... it is to be hoped that this excellent book reaches a wide readership.

— David Ownby

Journal of Chinese Religions
The most comprehensive volume published on the Qigong movement in contemporary China.

— Gareth Fisher

Journal of Social History

[A] remarkable study... the best work in its field.

China Perspectives
Qigong Fever provides original and profound insights into Chinese social and political history over the last 60 years.

— Georges Favroud

History of Religions
David Palmer's fascinating and solidly researched Qigong Fever represents the first serious English-language history of the qigong explosion that rocked China over the course of the 1980s and 1990s

— Patricia M. Thornton

Pacific Affairs - David Ownby

A brilliant piece of scholarship... it is to be hoped that this excellent book reaches a wide readership.

Journal of Chinese Religions - Gareth Fisher

The most comprehensive volume published on the Qigong movement in contemporary China.

China Perspectives - Georges Favroud

Qigong Fever provides original and profound insights into Chinese social and political history over the last 60 years.

History of Religions - Patricia M. Thornton

David Palmer's fascinating and solidly researched Qigong Fever represents the first serious English-language history of the qigong explosion that rocked China over the course of the 1980s and 1990s

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231140669
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 3/20/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David A. Palmer is adjunct professor of anthropology and religious studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and research fellow at the Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient. He obtained his Ph.D. at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne, Paris) and was the Eileen Barker Fellow in Religion and Contemporary Society at the London School of Economics.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsAbbreviationIntroduction

1. The Birth of Modern Qigong, 1949-64

2. Political Networks and the Formation of the Qigong Sector

3. The Grandmasters

4. Qigong Scientism

5. Qigong Fever

6. Controversy and Crisis

7. Control and Rationalisation

8. Militant Qigong: The Emergence of Falungong

9. Falungong Challenges the CCP

Epilogue: The Collapse of the Qigong MovementConclusion

Appendix: On the Sources Used for this StudyBibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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