Chinese massage as a beauty treatment: here’s what you need to know

Long before before hyper-curated Instagram posts and cost-prohibitive Goop treatments, people around the world have taken a holistic approach to self-care. Massage therapy, for example, has been used for thousands of years, to treat not just muscles but also circulation and skin. The history of massage back especially far in China, where archaeologists have found evidence of the technique being used during the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th centuries BC).

The evolution of Chinese massage is more extensively referenced in the Huangdi Neijing, an ancient Chinese medical text. The text reveals that massage was first approached as a way to treat stomach issues, but by the time of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), people were exploring its effects on “warming, disinhibiting and releasing blockages and stagnation in the channels.” Chinese massage largely focuses on mobilizing and releasing a person’s qi, which is defined as “a vital life force energy.”

In order to learn more about Chinese massage, how the method works on the body, and how it differs from other schools of massage, we spoke with Daniel Huangpu, a massage therapist at Liangste Wellness in NYC.

He opened up the conversation by sharing a key difference between Chinese and Swedish massage (the most common kind of Western massage):

"The big difference is that Swedish massage targets the muscle tissue, everything that is related to the tenseness of muscle tissues, but Chinese massage targets the meridian point to regulate your body condition."

Huangpu went on to define what a meridian point is, and how exactly it affects your body condition:

“In Chinese massage, every single body is a channel, and that channel is called a meridian. On the channel there are a lot of points that regulate your body, full of qi.”

While the concept of organ massage has recently gained momentum as a trend, Chinese massage has long seen how massaging organs can have visible results. Huangpu emphasized that the holistic idea of “body condition” fully includes skin improvement and beauty results:

"If you have a good body condition and blood circulation, that will automatically nourish your skin, if your skin is getting nourished, you will have a beautiful body. In traditional Chinese massage it’s about regulating your body condition before seeing the results in your skin."

Even now, in the midst of a renaissance of New Age spirituality and beauty practice as religious rite, many people still see science and the metaphysical as incompatible. However, in the case of Chinese massage, the two have been happily married for centuries.

As Huangpu shared, there have been many scientific studies gauging the physical benefits of Chinese massage—and at the same time, there’s also a dose of Shen (also known as a God spirit) in the philosophy.

“I don’t think it’s just spiritual, it is a very scientific technique to treat body conditions. But yes, in Chinese theory, in our mind there is a spirit. The spirit is called Shen, it controls your body to do a lot of different stuff, so the purpose of massages is to calm your Shen, that way it will regulate your body conditions.”

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