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Folk Medicine among the Mongols in Inner Mongolia

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Twenty-first-century Inner Mongolia is characterised by medical pluralism: biomedicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and the Tibetan-derived tradition of Mongolian medicine have parallel roles in the health care system. There is, however, another form of medical practice that has existed in the Mongol society alongside these institutional medicines. In this article, I refer to it as folk medicine. The indigenous tradition of folk medicine has originated from both nomadism and shamanism, and some elements of these old traditions still survive that do not appear to have been influenced by other medical systems. I discuss how nomadic culture produced folk medical practices such as koumiss treatment, immersion therapy and herbal medicine and how shamanic healing practices such as bonesetting and andai therapy are key parts of Mongolian folk medicine, which is related to treating both bodily suffering and illness of the soul. Healing is an important function of Mongolian shamanism, an old religious complex that remains alive within modern society. Folk medicine as a cultural phenomenon has existed from ancient times to our present era. When we attempt to reconstruct the history of Mongolian medicine, we must accept that indigenous knowledge continues to play a role within the medical pluralism of twenty-first-century Inner Mongolia.


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