The fangshi -- "masters of formulae" or "masters of methods" -- were a class of traveling Taoist healers/magicians who emerged within China's Han Dynasty
. Many of the fanshi, in the previous Warring States period, had been political advisors to the various feuding statesmen. Once China was unified, they took their various skills - in herbal medicine
, Taoist qigong
, divination and shamanistic
rituals - on the road, traveling from place to place, to earn a living. In this sense, we might think of the fangshi as being something akin to a country doctor - taking his/her bag of medicines and wide range of skills from house to house - the difference being that the fengshi often were in possession also of esoteric skills: they were "magicians" as well as healers.
Alternate Spellings: Fang Shih