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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Mystical China: Iron Fingered Angels    

By Garreth Humphris
2421 Views | 0 Comments | 4/12/2011 1:08:16 AM

There is nothing quite like having your medians deftly manipulated by a Iron-fingered maiden from Anhui!!

Now that might sound like the opening line to a Pulp Fiction soft-porn novella but I can assure you it isn't! There is a fine line between pleasure and pain - and Traditional Chinese Massage defines that line rather well.

Entering a 'correct' massage establishment you can usually find 2 types of 'treatments' - those being the Foot Massage and the Body Massage.

note: If you enter the incorrect one you might find on offer 'maiden opening the gates of heaven' and 'dragon entering by rear gate' so I'll let you picture exactly what these might entail...

But, if you find the correct one, usually with a large TCM sign out the front (or try a 'chain store' version like DaoMaDan, or ShouJia) you will be confronted with the dilemma of which part of your anatomy you want pressured, prodded and slapped into submission!!!

For the purposes of this blog, we'll assume it's your first time I'd recommend you try just a one-hour back massage session since discovering muscles you never knew you had can be pretty daunting!! I find the foot massage to be quite far-ranging, usually with effects lasting a few days... But it isn't for the faint-hearted or the ticklish!!! So your first experience should be 'back massage' or 'body massage'.

I'm not an expert on anything and I can honestly tell you I know nothing about TCM except that
- most of the concoctions required boiling for 5 hours to improve the taste, and they still taste like dirt;
- short-term pain is good for long-term health;
- all food that is long and thin in shape is 'good for men';
- the common cure-all is 'drink more water'
- needles are nothing to be scared of, you just stick them all over your body and electrify them;
- 'bad stuff' in you body can be removed by suction cups, scaling with knives or applying alcohol and setting it on fire, and
- demure shy girls from Anhui have fingers of steel and love poking them into your soft body bits!!!

Traditional massage is about applying pressure to points in the body known as 'medians' that stimulate nerves in other parts of the body. It is said that manipulating your toes can cure diseases of the eyes and I know from personal experience that a firm whack on the heel can leave a tingling sensation in the gonads and a tear in the eye!!!

The massage also stimulates muscles and other body parts to assist in stretching and cleansing, relocating and realigning. For example, it is possible to relocate a few pounds of 'body weight' from your stomach to your rectum by a good stomach massage...but you don't want the specifics on this either!!!

So if you are entering one of these places, what is expected of you??? If you are dialectally challenged, just pointing at the appropriate body part usually gets the required treatment. You are usually led down a maze of rabbit-warren-like rooms and corridors to a small room with dubious lighting and a faint smell of linament!!!

You've opted for a back massage so you may find other people lying face down making groaning noises (newbie massage participant) or snoring noises (seasoned professional participant) in this room.

You don't need to remove your clothes, but shoes and belt should be removed, as well as bulky outer layers. Remove everything in your pockets - wallet, coins and mobile phone. You can usually find a small basket (often in the 'face hole' of the massage table) so you can keep these items safe.

Next is to negotiate the table. The masseusse will normally place a towel or disposable cloth cover around the 'face hole' and then you lie facedown on the table aligning your face to be comfortable- you need to 'stretch a little' so make sure your feet are 'free' to move and aren't pressed up against a wall. Most Chinese are under 5ft6, so long legged foreigners sometimes need to move the apparatus to be truly comfortable.

The first maneuver is usually a long strong palm rub straight down the spine to 'flatten you out' after which you will have your neck, shoulders ,arms, lower back, buttock region, legs and feet all alternatively rubbed, pummeled and slapped, or pushed flat with the end of the elbow.

Somewhere during the process you might be asked to turn over to have your face and scalp manipulated as well, but sometimes this depends on the treatment and how well you respond to other parts being massaged...anywhere that is tight gets extra special treatment so relax and don't clench!!! If it hurts, say ' yo tong koo'(有痛苦 ), but a little discomfort is to be expected for maximum relief.

After the hour, remember to collect your valuables from the basket and if you really liked to massage, ask the person for their 'number' so you can identify them next time.

Happy Endings - not!!!!!

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