Therapy postponed: psychoanalysis and its transformations in contemporary China

 Huang Hsuan-Ying

Psychological ideas, practices, and institutions have flourished in urban China since the early 2000s. Psychotherapy occupies a central position in this so-called 'psycho-boom' (xinli re). Dominating this psychotherapeutic landscape is psychoanalysis, a school that as the archetype of modern psychotherapies was singled out in the attacks against Western psychology during the Maoist period. In the Chinese context psychoanalysis needs to be understood in the broadest terms due to the near absence of formal training. However, its current popularity intrigues many in the international psychoanalytic community as it occurs at a time when in the West its influence in mental health services has diminished — this is particularly evident in the United States where this most elitist school once dominated psychiatry before the pharmacological revolution in the 1960s. It also contradicts the long-held opinion that Chinese people are not suitable for insight-oriented treatments that feature the exploration of inner worlds. This presentation traces the development of psychoanalysis in post-Mao China, starting from a cautious adaptation by the eminent psychiatrist Zhong Youbin in the 1980s and the passionate encounter between the present leaders of Chinese psychoanalysis and their German teachers in the Sino-German Course (Zhong De ban) in the late 1990s. It examines the nexus of ideas, practices, and institutional forms in this development, with an emphasis on the transformations of psychoanalysis that contribute to as well as derive from its present flourishing.

About the Speaker

Huang Hsuan-Ying is a post-doctoral fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University. He was initially trained as a physician. He received medical education and psychiatric residency training at National Taiwan University. Afterwards he obtained a PhD in medical anthropology from Harvard University and pursued further training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. His work deals with the rise of Western-style psychotherapy in urban China as both a popular movement and a mental health profession.

After the Seminar

To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by a dinner with the guest speaker at 6:15pm. The location of the restaurant will be announced at the seminar.
All are welcome, though those who attend will need to pay for their own food and drinks. As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon of the day before the seminar to

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute, the Research School of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University.


Huang Hsuan-Ying

Dates & times

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

4.00pm - 5.30pm


Seminar Rooms, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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