The first time I go to a blind massage place in China in 2013 reminds me of all the reasons why I hadn’t been to one of these places for a few months: It hurts like hell and is not remotely connected to what comes to most people’s minds upon hearing the word massage. (If you want to read more about blind massage in China, you’re welcome to read this post that I wrote in late 2012: The torture that is called massage.)
After talking to the masseur for a short while, he says: “When you entered the room just now, I thought you’re still a student in high school. You’re not very old, are you?”
I: “I’m 25.”
He: “Your voice sounds like you’re only 15 or 16.”
Every 10 minutes, a computer voice on the masseur’s phone tells him the time. Half an hour into the massage, I say:
“The voice speaks really fast. I can’t understand what it says.”
He: “There are voices 10 times as fast as this one. This one only counts as medium-fast.”
I: “Oh, wow. When have you started learning this profession?
He: “When I was in my teens.”
I: “That’s quite early.”
He: “It’s normal for us to learn this profession at an early age. This is the only thing we can do for a living.”
An hour and a half into the massage, the masseur asks:
“You’re not Chinese, are you?
I: “I’m not, I’m from Austria.”
He: “Did you grow up in China?”
I: “No, but I’ve been studying Chinese for four years. Where in China are you from?”
He: “I’m from the north, from Henan. My home town is located in quite a poor area.”
When he is finished with the massage, he starts doing guasha (scraping).
He: “You can also do guasha at home. You can use a simple 1-Kuai coin for it. But it has to hurt and get red like this.”
I point at the thing he uses for scraping and ask him:
“What material is this thing made of?”
He: “This is an ox horn.”
I: “How much does this cost?”
He: “This one is just a normal ox horn, it’s not expensive. If you have a lot of money, you can buy one of the ox horns that have been originally used for guasha.”
I: “How much would one of those cost?”
He: “The expensive ones start from 50,000 Kuai (more than 6000 EUR or 8000 USD). You’ll also find ones for much more than that, a few 100,000 Kuai.”
I: “Wow. That really is a lot.”
He: “The expensive ones are only available on the black market. They come from a special kind of ox that is under national protection because they are endangered animals. Since there are not many left, it’s against the law to kill these oxes and therefore their horns are really expensive.”
I: “In which areas of China do these oxes live?”
He: “They live in mountainous regions where no humans live.”
I: “Like in Tibet?”
When he is finished with guasha, he says:
“If you don’t dare to use as much pressure when doing guasha yourself, you can still come here and we’ll do it for you. If you do it at home, make sure it hurts and gets red. It doesn’t help if it doesn’t get red.
I, being glad that the pain is over: “Thanks.”
Have you ever been to a blind massage place or tried guasha (scraping)?