2) Fire Cupping – baguanfa – 拔罐法
During the sweltering Chinese summer when people wear lighter clothing, you will often see the unmistakeable red and purple circular marks on the backs of more sparsely-clad followers of traditional medicine. These discolorations, which often have the same colour as love bites, are the after effects of fire cupping, a treatment which involves creating vacuums against the skin using a series of glass jars, or cups, of various sizes. Fire cupping has a long history in Asia and beyond; it has even been recorded in ancient Greek writing and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The process begins with a gentle oil massage moving up and down the length of the spine. Next, one cup is attached to the skin at the top of the vertebrae and this is moved up and down the length of the back dragging its vacuum as it goes, sucking the skin and separating your fatty tissue from the muscle beneath. This is the most painful point of the therapy and if you can bear the pain at this stage then the rest of the process should be much easier. Once the spine has received its attention all 18 cups are attached onto the back. As each is suckered into place the flesh becomes more and more numb, the skin increasingly taught, until with the added weight of the glass and the numbness and immobility of the vacuums you begin to feel like you are wearing a turtle shell on your back. The cups are left in place for 10 minutes, then each is removed with a hissing noise and the treatment is completed with a short massage.
Cupping can be used to treat many conditions, I know veteran expats who swear by the treatment to stop an approaching cold or flu, but the therapy is also said to treat arthritis, swollen limbs, migraines, and even anxiety and depression. Bearing in mind the breadth of ailments cupping can improve, a 20 minute treatment is a bargain at around 50 RMB.