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按摩 Getting a massage in China

That's Mandarin 2024-02-28 16:44

Wang Yongcheng (right) gives a massage with a visually impaired trainee in his studio in Fujian province. CHINA DAILY

Massage, or 按摩 (àn mó), is a very popular type of therapy in China among locals and foreigners alike.


Learning about the different types of massage and their Chinese names can help you choose the perfect one at a Chinese massage salon. Let's check them out!


按摩 Massage


In Chinese, massage is known as "按摩" (àn mó), where "按" (àn) means "to press", and "摩" (mó) means "to rub".


àn mó


How to Find a Massage Place


The best way to find a good massage place, 按摩店 (àn mó diàn) is to simply ask — your teacher, colleagues, local or expat friends — to recommend you one. You can also try searching for "SPA" or "按摩 (àn mó)" on Dianping (大众点评, dà zhòng diǎn píng) or Baidu (百度, bǎi dù), and then refine your search by rating, price, or location nearby.


Choose Your Type of Massage

In China, you can experience a variety of massages, each offering unique benefits for relaxation and wellness. Choose one based on what you like:


01. Tuina, or Pressure Point Massage

A woman receives a TCM acupuncture treatment at a clinic in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. WANG QIBING/XINHUA


推拿 (tuī ná), is an ancient Chinese massage that's been practiced for thousands of years. It's believed to be the oldest system of bodywork - along with acupuncture (针灸, zhēn jiǔ), qigong (气功, qì gōng), and Chinese herbal medicine (中草药, zhōng cǎo yào).


tuī ná
pressure point massage
Literally: "push-pull"


It is based on the theory that imbalances of 气 (qì), body's vital source of energy, can create blockages and imbalances, which in turn can cause pain and illness. Thus, tuina massage stimulates the flow of 气 (qì) to promote balance and harmony within the body.



Tuina is a safe and common type of massage in China, but remember that it's not a gentle or relaxing massage. You may feel some discomfort during or after a session. At the same time, if you wake up with a stiff neck (落枕 lào zhěn), tuina would be a good remedy (治疗/疗法, zhì liáo / liáo fǎ).


02. Blind Massage


It's thought that blind people have an enhanced sense of touch which compensates for their blindness, which makes them better masseurs, good at finding muscle knots (肌肉结节, jī ròu jié jié).


máng rén àn mó
blind massage
Literally: "blind-person-massage"


There is nothing shady about it; such massage places are run legally. For hundreds of years, blind people all over China have found employment as massage therapists.



The phrase 盲人按摩 (máng rén àn mó) often appears in the name of the massage parlor, so you can search for it on Dianping or Baidu Maps.


03. Foot Massage


Foot massage, known as 足部按摩 (zú bù àn mó) in Chinese, is a popular form of massage therapy. It is based on the belief that specific points on the feet correspond to different parts of the body, and by stimulating these points, it can promote health and well-being.


zú bù àn mó
foot massage
Literally: "foot-part-massage"


04. Oil Massage


Oil massage, or 精油按摩 (jīng yóu àn mó), is known for its ability to relieve stress (缓解压力, huǎn jiě yā lì) , reduce muscle tension (减少肌肉紧张, jiǎn shǎo jī ròu jǐn zhāng), and improve flexibility (提高柔韧性, tí gāo róu rèn xìng). It is also believed to have a range of other health benefits, such as boosting the immune system (提高免疫力, tí gāo miǎn yì lì), improving sleep quality (改善睡眠质量, gǎi shàn shuì mián zhì liàng), and promoting detoxification (促进排毒, cù jìn pái dú).


jīng yóu àn mó
oil massage
Literally: "essential-oil-massage"



Please note that oil massage can vary in intensity. If you go to a place that specializes in TCM-style massage, your experience will be much more intense. This kind of massage is called "meridian" therapy, which helps relieve muscle tension using essential oils.


jīng yóu jīng luò liáo fǎ
hot meridian oil physical therapy
Literally: "oil-meridian therapy"


05. Head Massage & Shoulder Massage


If you don't like a full-body massage (全身按摩 quán shēn àn mó), consider a head or shoulder massage. These treatments focus on relieving tension in specific areas like the neck, shoulders, and head, offering a more localized yet deeply relaxing experience.


tóu bù àn mó
head massage
Literally: "head-part-massage"


jiān jǐng àn mó
shoulder and neck massage
Literally: "shoulder-neck-massage"



Keep in mind that head and shoulder massages are typically shorter in duration compared to full-body massages.


06. Hot Stone Massage


One more technique of massage that offers relaxing experience is 热石按摩 (rè shí àn mó), also known as hot stone massage.


The stones are placed on specific points on the body to warm and loosen tight muscles and balance energy centers in the body.


rè shí àn mó
hot stone massage
Literally: "hot-stone-massage"



If you're concerned about high temperatures, don't worry - during a hot stone massage, the therapist will heat the stones to a comfortable temperature that won't cause discomfort. If at any point during the massage you feel that the stones are too hot, you can always let your therapist know by saying:


Yǒu diǎnr rè, kě yǐ tiáo dī yī diǎnr wēn dù ma?
It's a bit hot. Can you lower the temperature?


Worth Trying: 采耳

If you've ever walked by a massage salon, you might have noticed a treatment with the character 耳 (ěr) in its name, which refers to the traditional practice of 采耳 (cǎi ěr), or ear scooping. 采耳 is believed to have originated thousands of years ago and is still practiced in some parts of China.


cǎi ěr
ear scooping
Literally: "to pick-ear"


During a 采耳 (cǎi ěr) session, a small, scoop-shaped tool called an 耳勺 (ěr sháo) is used to gently scrape and scoop out earwax from the ear canal.


Some people find the sensation of having their ears cleaned to be soothing and calming. Have you ever tried this treatment in China?


Useful Phrases for Your Massage Session


If you feel uncomfortable during a massage session, you can politely ask the massage therapist to lighten the pressure by saying:


Yǒu diǎnr téng, nǐ kě yǐ qīng yī diǎnr ma?
It hurts a little. Can you be gentler?


If you want the therapist to press harder on specific areas, you can say:


Nǐ kě yǐ bāng wǒ duō àn jǐ xià ma?
Can you press it a few more times?


Zhòng yī diǎnr.
A bit heavier.


来源:That's Mandarin

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