Holy local system: religious treatment of mental sickness in rural China
Honge Zheng, Yingying Pei
Corresponding author: Honge Zheng, email: email@example.com
Anthropology & Medicine, Vol.25, No.2, 2018
Abstract: Kleinman pioneered the use of intensive case studies in China and elsewhere. Drawing on this approach, this paper shows how two rural Chinese converts to Christianity recovered from prolonged mental sickness incurred during the Cultural Revolution many years earlier. The apparent ‘c?ure’ is part of local narrative in which rural Chinese Christians’ first contact with Christianity has the pragmatic aim of seeking treatment to relieve physical pain, but leads to conversion and believed divine deliverance from psychological as well as physical suffering. In acquiring what they regard as new moral life and becoming dignified ‘divine selves’, they adopt new language and behavior and subtly change their relationships with family and the local power structure, thereby establishing a holy local system’ that is regarded as able to withstand external crises and temporary setbacks. Setting up the holy local system highlights the inadequacy of rural bio-medical assistance, provides treatment for sickness and pain often blamed on Chinese society’s relentless pursuit of economic development, and so introduces some compensatory if illusory rural stability.
Keywords:Mental illness; moral life; divine self; local power system; holy local system
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470.2017.1326796