Society for East Asian Anthropology
Society for Psychological Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Over the last 30 years, China has undergone a dramatic shift from a largely agrarian society to an industrial powerhouse. Under great social change, China has faced serious mental health problems. Addressing the challenge, the Chinese government has utilized a variety of treatment modalities, including Western psychotherapy and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). With the government’s support, TCM practitioners adopted psychoanalysis in their practices to treat mental illnesses. Through a comparative historical and ethnographic analysis, this paper analyzes TCM’s use of psychoanalysis and seeks to understand the Chinese government’s strategies in promoting TCM and guiding the incorporation of Western ideas into TCM. Looking specifically at how TCM professionals have indigenized psychoanalytic concepts and applied them in their clinical works, this paper draws comparisons between the practices of TCM and psychoanalysis. The integration of TCM with Western psychotherapy has given rise to an interdisciplinary study—“suboptimal mental health”. As an alternative discourse, “suboptimal mental health” represents Chinese professionals’ efforts to become independent from Western intellectual and professional orientations in mental health. I argue that TCM’s ability to incorporate psychoanalysis relies largely on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) consistent support. The CCP’s determination to promote TCM is part of the nation’s agenda to strengthen Chinese nationalism.