When you travel to the almost movie fictional land of China, it’s a good idea to check out some of the popular massage parlors that are abundant throughout the cities, and even villages of the country. With a two hundred thousand or more year old history, you can be sure that some of the most skillful people are working in this vast industry of scrubbers and pushers. That is, for most commonly the souls of your feet of course.
The numerous amount of massage techniques available in China and many of those advertising “Chinese massage” abroad, are based on Traditional Chinese massage. Often shortened as TCM. A whole school of both medicine and thought on curing just about any illness that exists, even to this day. What’s great for massage in contrary to taking medicine, that it’s not just a healing experience but also a well-being one, giving you an enhanced feeling of bliss. In fact, some of the best massages I have ever had in Beijing are while being in very good physical and mental condition.
Do not be misunderstood however, it’s not a horizontal experience of western likes where you get half undressed and lay down on a table with oils splattered all over you. In China, the effects are meant to be strong and long lasting. Triggering your bodies acupuncture points that are left in the background to work. Sometimes these experiences can even leave you feeling awkward! Because your body is going through a lot of mental, and physical changes. But no worries, as they are all good for you of course.
But finding a good place is not always such an easy task, especially with the other “dark side” of the industry directed by thugs, being very strong in China as well. Especially in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, you really need to take make sure you don’t end up in the wrong parlor. While the use of the word “spa” is more referred to proper establishments, it’s no guarantee and that’s why it’s better to ask around. I know at least in Beijing, where I have frequently visited, we are lucky to have a place where to get some helpful advice on finding an authentic Beijing Massage which at best is a life changing experience.
The May Tours company also has a wonderful timeline of the history of traditional massage in China as well as a detailed explanation of different techniques used. All the way, starting from the Sui Dynasty in 581-618 A.D, and throughout Tang, Song, Yuan & Ming dynasties the TCM as well as massage was developed to the form that still is relevant in today’s culture. I believe that there is just something fundamental about how our bodies energy system works, which is why changes to the system have not been necessary.
The parlors in Beijing offer anything from full body massage (known as Tui Na), to foot spa and my latest discovery, the herbal foot spa. Even if you are not a faith believer in the healing power, it’s even worth it for the pure pleasure and fun that it brings to your trip. Talking with some of the local expats in the area, seems that going to these places is a common day occurrence and especially blind masseurs are not only good quality, but very inexpensive as well. Back home, I would never dare to go to one of these things as often as I would like. Something you really have to appreciate with any trip to China or it’s capital. As usual my advice would be, to just to forget preconceptions, get horizontal and you’ll love it.