Tui Na: China’s Blind Massage Experts

My Chilean room mate and I were heading out. She’d just offered to treat me to a typical Chinese massage conjuring up visions of my tired body soon feeling as though it was floating on a cloud. I was so excited!

Suddenly the words ‘you will feel pain!’ coming from the mouth of our third roomate, a Chinese woman, jolted me back to reality, sending an ominous chill down my spine for reasons as yet still undefined.

Turns out, she was right.

Blind massagers
Chinese blind massage therapist learning his craft.

Blind Chinese masseurs have been prevalent in China for a very long time. Their loss of sight is considered to be the main reason for their extra sensitivity in touch.

Being disabled in a developing country is not an easy road. There are many stigmas attached to people with various handicaps or mental illness and, at the time of writing, few public places are accessible to people who are less than almost fully able.

Accordingly the Chinese government has long established deliberate initiatives to enble blind men and women to find work in this area and thus establish a measure of independence. However, be warned. A traditional Chinese massage whether from a blind person or not is far from the luxury kind you will enjoy at an international hotel or, indeed, anywhere in the West.


For about five English pounds, while fully clothed (but minus your shoes) and lying on a soft-ish bed/table, you will be pummellled, pulled, squashed, pounded, twisted and stretched so deeply you’ll feel as if your inner organs are being massaged. This is thought to be the healthiest form of body and muscle manipulation.

I’m not sure I agree.

I went in with relaxed limbs which worked fine but came out foggy headed and dragging my legs, didn’t even bother to try to lift my arms. For the next two days my body succumbed to the powerful, expert manouvering it had received which even had an impact on my mind. Initially I felt as though I was walking through mud, finding it hard to think clearly. But after those two days passed, strangely I was rejuvenated, feeling as though I’d received a boost which radiated throughout my body and lasted for several weeks.


Throughout the 60 minute treatment I learnt to expertly pronounce the phrase, ‘tongku!’ meaning, ‘painful!’ To which my blind therapist, laughingly replied; ‘bu ya tong!’ ‘No pain.’ Oh really?

I suggested he lie down and let me stick my elbow in his buttock cheek and prod it around using all my strength and then let him tell me about ‘no pain!’, but as I spoke in English, I don’t think he understood.

I couldn’t believe that I’d willlingly put myself in a position to reduce my muscles, sinews, cells and molecular atoms to tears via such energetic and vigourous body work, totally different to anything I’d undergone before.

The proper name for this common type of Chinese massage is Tui Na, literally meaning ‘push and grasp,’ which, believe me is exactly what it feels like except that it would be nore accurate to say ‘push and grasp extremely firmly and with a certain (large) amount of duress!’

Time and again my Chinese room-mate’s words came back to me. ‘You will feel pain.’ God, I hate it when she’s right.

Further Information on Tui Na from

Tui na or tuina (/ˌtw ˈnɑː/,[2] Chinese: ; pinyin: tuī ná), is a form of Chinese manipulative therapy often used in conjunction withacupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, t’ai chi, and qigong.[3] Tui na is a hands-on body treatment that uses Chinese taoist principles in an effort to bring the eight principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into balance. The practitioner may brush, knead, roll, press, and rub the areas between each of the joints, known as the eight gates, to attempt to open the body’s defensive chi (Wei Qi) and get the energy moving in the meridians and the muscles. These techniques are claimed to aid in the treatment of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, as well as many non-musculoskeletal conditions. tui na is taught as a part of the curriculum at some acupuncture schools.[4]




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