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May 13, 2010

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A 'magic' healer seen as a civic ill

A TOWN government in suburban Songjiang District is investigating and trying to shut down a so-called clinic doctor who claims to magically cure diseases.

The man, apparently about 60, claims to be Ji Gong - a monk with magical powers in Chinese legend - with the power to heal incurable diseases, including cancer, by holding exorcisms on a boat docked for years on a community waterway.

Many seniors have believed in the superstition and patronized the "clinic," which has no medical equipment, instead of going to hospitals.

"We've tried to clamp down on the illegal practice a couple of times," said Ye Tangsheng, a town government official, "but the effort was obstructed by loyal patrons."

Community residents said they often find people, especially older women, queuing outside the boat, which is equipped with a kitchen and an air-conditioner.

According to a woman who went to the boat, patients are asked to burn incense before being treated.

They are told that the more they pay, the better the effect will be.

Many people offer at least 200 yuan (US$29). Some even pay 1,000 yuan.

After that, they will be led to the "master," who wears a robe and a hat and carries a broken fan - the typical image of Ji Gong.

Muttering incantations, the man wags his head, waves his fan and runs around, supposedly slaying a demon.

In one case, he shouted to the air, "Kneel down, snake demon."

After that he told an old woman in a wheelchair that he had killed the evil and she would later be able to walk.

Another woman patient suffering rheumatism said that she felt lighter symptoms after the "magic treatment."

He never prescribes any medication or offers any inoculations to the patients.

He says his prescriptions are invisible to mortals. That may help explain why no medical accidents have ever reported, neighborhood officials said.

In the past when medications and health care level were at low levels, many people believed in superstitions and magic power to cure their disease.

The habit has been preserved among many seniors, especially in rural areas.

The Dakun Community on Xingang Road, where the boat is docked, used to be rural land and many residents were farmers in the area.

But many people, especially the younger generations, don't believe any of it.

"It's too ridiculous," said a man surnamed Gao. He was introduced to the boat "clinic" by a friend but was stunned by the scene.

Although no medical accidents have been reported, officials are working out a plan to root out the operation.


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