Definition: 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, acupuncture, 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