Home Institution

University of Richmond

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Mongolia: Geopolitics and the Environment


Baria zasal is a distinct branch of traditional Mongolian medicine that heals tarkhi khodlokh (shaken head), tarkhinii daralt (brain pressure), broken bones, huuhdiin bailal uurchlugduh (the angular or horizontal position of a fetus), and savnii bairlaliin uurchlult (the position changing of the uterus). Traditionally, practitioners of baria zasal, termed bariachi, have healed these ailments using a combination of massage and bioenergy. Recently, however, there has been an outcropping of formally-trained lay bariachi who do not purport to possess this hereditable gift. This, combined with the new profitability of being an urban bariachi, has led to a flood of bariachi in Ulaanbaatar in the past ten years.

Due to the lack of academic research on baria zasal, the evolution of baria zasal in the past hundred years has been undocumented. The following paper is perhaps the first that showcases the alterations in training of urban bariachi, the new emphasis on scientific knowledge, the development of baria zasal as a full-time occupation, the aliments treated, and the evolution of baria zasal’s role in the medical system.

Twenty-seven informants were interviewed about the shifts in baria zasal in the past hundred years as well as the perceived causes. Eighteen of these interviews were conducted with urban bariachi; nine were conducted with community members. The three main perceived causes behind these changes were the suppression of baria zasal during the socialist era, biomedicine’s emergence into the Mongolian medical landscape, and the Mongolian population’s rapid urbanization.


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Family, Life Course, and Society | Medicine and Health | Medicine and Health Sciences | Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy | Rural Sociology



Article Location