Mental Health in China

Thursday, October 18, 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Fromm Hall - FR 125 - Maraschi Room

Join the USF Center for Asia Pacific Studies for a panel presentation designed to help us understand mental health in China, both historically and today. We’ve invited two leading scholars in the field to share their findings and to engage in a discussion with us. Prof. Emily Baum (UC Irvine) will help us understand the history of mental illness in early 20th century China. Prof. Zhang Li (UC Davis) will then share how the mass psychological counseling movement is unfolding in contemporary China today. They will be joined by USF’s own staff psychologist, Dr. Robin (Ziqiu) Li for a moderated discussion. For more information on their individual presentations, please see below.


  • Emily Baum, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese History, University of California, Irvine
  • Li Zhang, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Davis

Moderator: Robin (Ziqiu) Li, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist, Counseling and Psychological Services

Co-sponsors: The USF MA in Asia Pacific Studies program

USF Community Partners: Department of Psychology and Counseling and Psychological Services


  • Madness in Early Twentieth-Century China: Voices from Beijing Police Records
    Emily Baum
    , Associate Professor, History, UC Irvine
    Throughout the first three decades of the twentieth century, the Beijing Municipal Police were held responsible for the management of the city's mentally ill population. This talk will examine police records from the early Republican period (1911-1949) to show how madness was conceptualized, articulated, and handled by local families and municipal functionaries in an era when public institutionalization was slowly becoming a common practice.
    Emily Baum is associate professor of modern Chinese history at UC Irvine. She is the author of The Invention of Madness: State, Society, and the Insane in Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 2018).
  • China’s Inner Revolution: Beyond Psychotherapy and Mental Health
    As middle-class Chinese are accumulating material wealth and building up their private “paradises” in gated communities, they realize that such gains do not necessarily endow them with a deeper sense of fulfillment and happiness. Faced with increasing market competition, rapid social changes, and pressure to become “successful” (chenggong), many of them are experiencing varying degrees of mental distress. It is in this broad context that a mass psychological counseling movement is unfolding in contemporary China. In this talk, Prof. Zhang will briefly discuss the general mental health condition and service in China and then focus on shedding new light on how how the new “psy fever” or “inner revolution” is transforming selfhood, well-being, and techniques of governing in Chinese cities beyond mental health concerns.
    Li Zhang is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She was a 2008 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and the President of the Society of East Asian Anthropology (2013-15). Her research concerns the cultural, spatial, political, and psychological repercussions of market reforms and postsocialist transformations in China.