"Mother of Yoga": Zhang Huilan, Chris Butler, and the Popularization of Yoga in the People's Republic of China

  • Marc Lodge Andrew Lagace McMaster University

Abstract





The past and present development of modern yoga within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) remains sorely understudied. To date, the vast majority of research written in English has dealt only with the practice’s manifestations in the United States, Western Europe, and India. This paper responds by investigating the initial popularization of modern yoga in the PRC during the 1980s by Zhang Huilan 张蕙兰, contemporary China’s so-called “mother of yoga,” and her guru, Chris Butler. It examines Zhang and Butler’s books from the period alongside their audio and visual material in light of the political, economic, and cultural context in which they emerged. It offers an explanation for why Zhang and Butler’s yoga was successful despite the stiff competition it faced from local psychophysical- and biospiritual-cultivation practices, namely qigong ⽓功. It explores why their brand was tolerated (possibly even supported) by authorities at a time when the Chinese state was actively promoting science in conjunction with indigenous forms of medicine and healing. Finally, it provides a reason for why Zhang and Butler were able to overcome the tumults of the 1990s and the crackdown on self-cultivation practices spurred by the Falun Gong 法轮功 incidents of 1999.





Published
2024-05-02
How to Cite
LAGACE, Marc Lodge Andrew. "Mother of Yoga": Zhang Huilan, Chris Butler, and the Popularization of Yoga in the People's Republic of China. Journal of Yoga Studies, [S.l.], v. 5, p. 39–67, may 2024. ISSN 2664-1739. Available at: <https://journalofyogastudies.org/index.php/JoYS/article/view/JoYS.V5.002>. Date accessed: 15 june 2024.
Section
Articles