Getting guasha’d (刮痧) and octopussed (拔火罐) in a Tianjin bathhouse

On our second-to-last night in Tianjin before an extended stay in Canada, two friends and I went back to the Same Fortune Bathing Garden (同福浴園) to get dizzy in the hot tub and guāshā‘d (刮痧). We ended up getting fire cupped again, too.

Last time we tried the fire suction cups, so this time we thought we’d do guāshā, which is another common Chinese treatment for I’m not sure exactly what… something about your body’s inner fire being too hot or there being too much cold wind in your body. Anyway, for 10 kuai we figured hey why not.

For a description of the bathhouse see the octopus wrestling/fire cupping post. Here I’ll skip straight to the guāshā.

There are three plastic tables in between the hot tubs along one wall and the showers along the opposite wall. That’s where five minutes earlier some older middle-aged guys were getting massaged and soaped down. Me and a Chinese friend come straight out of the hot tub and lay down on two tables, which first get covered in a fresh piece of plastic. The attendant takes my dish towel-sized Chinese towel and wipes down my back before spreading oil on it. Then he starts repeatedly scraping lines into my skin; each line gets maybe ten or more strokes. He doesn’t need the towel while he’s scraping, so he just folds it up and drops it on my butt, which I guess is just convenient.

It doesn’t start to hurt until the last one or two scrapes on each spot. I never saw what he used to scrape with. After he’s made stripes down the length of my spine and rows of stripes across each side of my back, he without warning gives me a quick soap down with the now soapy towel (once down the left side head to toe, once down the right side, and then right up the middle… could have done without that!). Then he rinses me off with a bucket. It only takes ten or fifteen minutes.

While they were guāshā-ing the two of us, the guy suggested we both go get fire cupping (拔火罐儿) since our inner fires were too hot (or something like that). So after a shower to cool down, the three of us all went and got fire cupped. It was like last time, only he used twenty cups this time and stuck them everywhere from the bottom of my neck to the top of my butt. This video is really bad, but you can see his big matchstick and at 0:45 you can hear the suction cups squeaking:

All this happened after a dinner with friends at a superb and inexpensive Sichuan restaurant. Not bad for a second-to-last night in Tianjin (at least for a few months). The hot tub and the just-been-massaged feeling you get after the fire cupping makes you feel really nice and relaxed. The next day it feels like you have a slight sunburn.

PS – added some more photos to Jessica’s birthday karaoke post!

6 thoughts on “Getting guasha’d (刮痧) and octopussed (拔火罐) in a Tianjin bathhouse”

  1. When I see your post-bathhouse pictures, I wonder if Jessica feels like she’s missing out on an essential part of Chinese culture by not getting to participate? Or are there female bathhouses; and, if so, what do they entail?

  2. Hey Rebecca…

    Actually, most bathhouses have a male and female side…so if I really wanted to participate in this cultural experience, I could. But, for the record, I don’t really feel like I’m missing out…mostly because the response myself and other foreign ladies have gotten to body shape and size when I’m fully clothed tells me that I might not want to subject myself to an unclothed version of that experience.

    Yeah, I’m probably a cultural wuss in this area…but considering that if I could easily go get fire-cupped or guasha’ed without having to have the full bathhouse experience, I’d probably rather do that. :)

  3. Seriously.. I’m buying you a new belt for christmas…. I thought you donated that one to T and I when we moved.

  4. Fashion police! You’ve been on the Island too long!

    China my love says he toasts my courage and that he’s done guasha once but doesn’t want to do it a second time because it hurt too much.

    The guys who guasha’d us asked how hard they should do it, and my Chinese friend said not hard, so maybe that’s why it didn’t hurt very much. The lines are really faded now only a few days later.

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