History PhD Student, Luis Bernardi Junqueira, Publishes 'The Power Within'

24 March 2023

'The power within: Mass media, scientific entertainment, and the introduction of psychical research into China, 1900–1920' published in the Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences, awarded the the John C. Burnham Early Career Award in 2021.

Chinese painting of people on stage with an audience looking up

How did a new science initially promoted by only a few individuals eventually become a widespread cultural phenomenon practiced and known by thousands of people? Following a transnational approach, this article traces the introduction of psychical research into China during the first two decades of the 20th century. Known in the Republican period (1912–1949) as Spiritual Science (xinling kexue 心靈科學 or xinling yanjiu 心靈研究), psychical research flourished between the 1920s and 1930s, playing a key role in the popularization of applied psychology and mind-cure across China. This article takes a step back from the heyday of Spiritual Science by looking at the period that immediately preceded and helped define it. Focused on wide-circulation newspapers, popular manuals, and stage performances, it teases out the ways in which Chinese popular culture translated European, American, and Japanese psychical research to local Chinese audiences in the midst of China's search for modernity. By naturalizing the reality of psychic powers, spiritual scientists blurred the boundaries between science and superstition in a period when these were posited as diametrically opposed.
The Wellcome Trust has generously supported the Open Access publication of this article.
An earlier version of this article received the John C. Burnham Early Career Award in 2021, granted by the Forum for History of Human Science and the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences.

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Author's Biography 

Born and raised in Brazil, Luis Fernando Bernardi Junqueira (林友樂) earned a bachelor’s degree in History at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and a master’s degree in Chinese History at Fudan University, China. He is currently a PhD student in History at the University College London (UCL) and a visiting researcher at Tohoku University, Japan. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, his PhD project investigates the transnational history of psychology, psychical research and the occult in early twentieth-century China, their impact on healthcare and religious experience. For more information, including a full list of publications, please visit https://luisfbj.com/