Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Dan Ben-Amos

Second Advisor

Nathan Sivin


This study is about popular healing and its relation to culture. It is based on my field research in Taiwan from 2014 to 2016. In addition to modern medicine and scientific Chinese medicine, my field research focused on the connections between different systems of popular healing and the role of lay people in their own healthcare. The correlations between them are ambiguous, inexplicit, superimposed upon or intermeshed with one another. In Taiwan, health care and the healing process is part of popular culture. I make evident the vital role of lay people, which often has been overlooked. Lay people includes all non-professionals──popular ritual practitioners ignorant of orthodox teaching, local medicinal healers without a national license, and followers who disregard religious doctrines but believe in divine power. There are many laymen devoted to religion. All the lines are blurred. Each healer performs rites of various origins, intertwining popular concepts of religion and medicine to compete for survival and prestige. Healers are easily accessible and play a central role in the daily life of the community. Three subjects──medicine in temples, possessed healers who prescribe herbal formulas, and rituals that use drugs──are examples where popular religion and medicine overlap. By setting them in a framework, it is possible to better understand how people receive, perceive and disseminate health care.

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