There are many different kinds of Shanghai massage. This article introduces you to a traditional Chinese medicine massage in Shanghai.
You can find a list of Shanghai spas and massage parlors for expats at the end of this article.
After seeing an online ad for a Shanghai massage, I clicked on the link.
But after arriving at the Chongjingtang website I was told by their Online assistant that it was actually for a free Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health check-up (value RMB 210), after which I could decide whether or not to purchase a massage tailored to my health condition and according to the doctor’s prescription.
I decided to give it a try, and booked an appointment at their Changshou Rd. location; one of five in Shanghai.
Unfortunately for Shanghai expats who do not read Chinese, you will need to find a translator, as this must all be done in Chinese.
Chong Jing Tang 中经堂 was founded in 2008 as a project under the state-run China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (CACMS), previously known as the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (CATCM).
The qualified TCM doctors at Chong Jing Tang that do the initial health check-ups and prescribe various TCM treatments come from the Shanghai Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and other TCM hospitals in Shanghai.
When entering the lavishly decorated premises, you will see statues, posters and paintings everywhere depicting key pressure points on the body and other TCM themes. On the third floor is a small museum displaying various traditional TCM instruments and medicines, as well as a graph of the history of TCM development; well worth the visit alone.
After a few minutes sitting in their comfortable waiting room, a TCM doctor came over with a folder to open a file for me at their clinic. She asked questions about my health history and filled in the forms. I was then taken into a doctor's office.
Lying on the bed, the doctor applied suction cups on my back, much like the cupping therapy mentioned in our Shanghai Chinese medicine article, but without the fire, and for only five minutes.
After removing the cups the doctor took pictures of the marks left on my back for analysis. Another doctor then massaged my back, neck, head and legs to test various pressure points and feel for problems.
The first doctor showed me the pictures of my back on a computer, explaining the significance of the different coloring of each mark.
Some very red and purple marks near my lower back indicated my digestion system needed treatment. The doctor who did the short massage then explained the reasons for my stiff neck and poor quality sleep. The two doctors then described their recommended treatment.
The treatment they suggested would require me to come in twice a week, 1.5 hours each session, for about four months. It would include a one-hour massage tailored to my ailments, plus 30 minutes of either aromatherapy with traditional Chinese medical herbs, cupping, or scraping.
The standard price for such a treatment would be RMB 15,000, so RMB 500/visit. By paying at least 10,000 up front, however, I could receive a 20 percent discount, so RMB 12,000.
If I wished to start with a shorter treatment they also offered a 10 percent discount for a RMB 5,000 up front payment, and if I paid 20,000 up front I would get 30 percent off. So it is evident that this establishment prefers to find clients for long-term therapeutic treatment and not for just the occasional relaxing Shanghai massage.
I was not prepared to commit to such an expensive plan, but I did want to try out the treatment, so decided to pay RMB 500 for one time.
I was assigned a TCM trained masseuse who took me to one of many rooms in their five story building. He explained that he had a massage license from a TCM school in another province, and after joining Chongjingtang had further training.
The massage was slightly painful at times, but not as painful as some blind-man's massages that I also enjoy occasionally in China. After the one-hour massage I felt quite relaxed.
I was then guided into another room to lie on a bed with many openings. The new person in charge explained that under the bed was Chinese medicine prescribed according to my condition, which would be heated to allow the vapor to be drawn into my skin and body. I was wrapped in a blanket and the treatment began.
After a couple minutes I felt very warm, and after about five minutes I began to slightly sweat like in a sauna. This was a pleasant experience, especially as the medicine smelt quite nice. This aromatherapy lasted 30 minutes.
Overall the experience was quite enjoyable, and I did feel relaxed afterwards. If I truly could be cured of several ailments for RMB 12,000, then I'm sure it would be well worth the price.
However, for those who don't have so much time and money to invest, or do not believe in TCM, the price is quite high.
There is also the language barrier to deal with. The doctors explained to me that many Shanghai expats go to their clinics, especially the one in Gubei, and I did see a couple other foreigners during my visit. Most are brought by Chinese friends acting as translators.
For expats who prefer a more relaxing and better English service Shanghai massage there are several Shanghai Spa chains catering to expats such as Dragon Fly.
You can find a list of some of the most popular ones among Shanghai expats below.