China Elevator Stories

The Torture That Is Called Massage

I chat with a blind massage therapist in Shenzhen.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


One evening in Shenzhen, after having suffered bad neck pain for the whole day and not being able to turn my head to the left, I decide to get a massage.

I find a blind-person massage place nearby and think that I should give it a try. In China the common job for a blind person seems to be masseur; but never so far have I come across a real blind person in these places. Until this evening.

After explaining where it hurts and a simple conversation, the masseur asks me: “Where are you from?”
I tell him: “I’m from Austria.”
“Austria in Europe.”
He replies, surprised about this: “Oh, I see. I thought that your accent was a bit unfamiliar.”

After a while, I ask him: “Since coming back to Shenzhen three weeks ago, I often have itchy eyes in the evenings. What is this connected to?”
He tells me: “That’s too much internal heat!”

Stupid, I think. Not the masseur, but me. Everyone here drinks liangcha, “cooling tea”, all year round to counteract the effects of internal heat, a TCM term. Everyone talks about internal heat. For example, you shouldn’t eat too many lychees, pineapples or mangos, is what they tell you in summer, because this will increase internal heat. Or that you shouldn’t eat food that is both spicy and greasy – exactly for the same reason. I should have thought of it sooner. But while for many Chinese it is obvious that something like itchy eyes is clearly a consequence of too much internal heat, a person not growing up with TCM concepts has a harder time figuring out what certain things are connected to. I make up my mind to drink bitter liangcha more often in the future.

A little while into the massage, the masseur asks me: “Does it hurt?”
“Yes, it hurts a lot.”

I think that now that I told him, he will use less pressure, but that’s not how it works. It only hurts when something is out of balance and to try to bring it into balance again it needs to hurt, is what they tell you. When he is done with the massage, the masseur asks me if he should also apply guasha, or “scraping”, which he says could help with my back pain. I have never tried guasha before, and want to give it a try.

90 minutes later the torture that is called massage and guasha is finally over and I can go back home. When I arrive at my place, I look into the mirror. My back looks like somebody beat me up really badly and this night my neck and shoulders seem to hurt even more than before. But after a few more days, the pain and the rash are both gone and I’m wondering if I should go get a massage again soon.

Have you ever tried massage treatments?

Follow me on: