The Yi Health Care System
in Liangshan and Chuxiong
There are, as yet, very few scholarly studies of the health care system of any Yi people, despite the presence of both a flourishing traditional sector and a biomedical sector advocated by the Chinese state. This chapter explores what causes changes and what remains the core of continuity in the health care system of two Yi peoples: the Nuosu in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan (see chapters 2–9, 14, and 15), and the Lolopo in Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan (see Erik Mueggler, chapter 10).
The field of health care was a major frontier where the Chinese state promoted scientific knowledge and techniques along with communist ideology, expecting ethnic minorities to give up their “backwardness” and identify themselves with the progressive nation-state. Under pressure by the state and the dominant Han ethnic group, the Yi neither gave up their ethnic identity and medical culture nor resisted loudly. Instead, people took their ritual performance underground during the years when it was officially forbidden. They pragmatically made use of the official health care, adopted some scientific knowledge, and eclectically modified their own medical practices, so as to survive and develop in the circumstances in which they were situated.
Study of Yi health care is complicated by the fact that the different local groups classified in the 1950s as belonging to the Yi minzu (nationality, ethnic group) have different histories of interaction with the surrounding Chinese national culture and with Han people. According to recent research