Monthly Archives: February 2014

Spring Festival’s Cleaning Day



The old saying in Chinese for the 24th day of the last lunar month (i.e., today) is “二十四扫房日(èr shí sì sǎo fāng rì)”, “the 24th is cleaning day.” On this day, the whole family, male and female, the old and the young, devote themselves to a thorough cleaning. They may clean the yard, wipe down cooking utensils, wash clothes and blinds and throw away worn things.

The origin of the cleaning day lies in a story. In the story, San Shi Shen (三尸神 sān shī shén) is an evil spirit, a whistle-blower who spoke ill of human beings. He reported to the Jade Emperor that the humans planned to rebel against the Court of Heaven (天庭 tiān tíng). The Jade Emperor got very angry and ordered San Shi Shen to draw a mark on the doors of the families who committed the crime of offending the powerful emperor. In order to frame human beings, San Shi Shen marked almost every door. The kitchen god found out this and suggested that the families do a thorough cleaning after the small Spring Festival day. Therefore, when the Jade Emperor sent other gods to check for the marks on the eve of the lunar New Year, there was nothing on the doors. Everyone could enjoy a peaceful Spring Festival.


In the Chinese, “尘” (chén, dust) has the same pronunciation as “陈” (chén, staleness). As a result, to sweep dust (扫尘 sǎochén) also means to sweep away staleness (扫陈 sǎochén) in the house. Doing the cleaning not only makes rooms tidy, it also has the purpose of sweeping away misfortune and welcoming the coming year with a totally new outlook.


Nowadays, while many other traditions are fading away, the house cleaning custom maintains its vitality. On this day, people also would like to buy some new year pictures or paper-cuts to stick on the windows as Spring Festival decorations.


Spring Festival’s Tofu Day



Your mouth will be watering if you hear this Chinese saying :

[In the final lunar month] the 23rd is the day for melon-shaped maltose eating, the 24th for house cleaning, the 25th for tofu making, the 26th for meat buying, the 27th for chicken preparation, the 28th for leavened dough and the 29th for man tou steaming.
èr shí sān, táng guā zhān, èr shí sì, sǎo fángzi, èr shí wǔ, zuò dòufu, èr shí lìu, qù mǎi ròu, èr shí qì, zǎi gòngjī, èr shí bā, bǎ miàn fā, èr shí jǐu, zhēng mántóu.



From the 25th day of the last month of the lunar year, people begin their preparation of food for Spring Festival. That is because according to the old tradition, family members are not allowed to use knives to cook on the eve and first day of lunar New Year. On the second day, they begin visiting friends and relatives. Consequently, Chinese people need to get 4 to 5 days’ food done before the holiday starts!


Why make tofu? the Chinese character “腐” has the same pronunciation with character “福 fú” (happiness). Making tofu also means welcoming happiness and a good harvest in the new year.


As for the food itself, tofu is a very good substitution for meat. In the old days, poor people always looked forward to a feast of meat on New Year’s Day. However, they were often too poor to afford one. So they turned to tofu, which was “in between” meat and vegetables, and made various dishes from it instead of meat.


Besides making tofu, inNortheast China, people also used to paste paper in the windows on this day. Since living conditions were fairly bad in the old days, people had to paste a layer of paper over their windows to prevent drafts and keep warmth in the room (today, this is still practiced in parts of Northern China, although many people have replaced paper with Saran wrap). Replacing the last year’s paper with new paper and pasting red Spring Festival couplets provides a jubilant atmosphere for the new year.




Enough eating, time to clear up, with Spring Fest’s Cleaning Day. 

How to Raise Silkworms

how-to-raise-silkworms mASTER


“If you’ve eaten garlic, don’t breathe on your silkworms,” says one girl who kept the critters as a child. Raising silkworms has always been a fun pastime for kids in China, and—as you might expect—is something of an art. (Even garlicky breath can make them deathly ill!) Recently, we came across these guidelines for good silkworm parenting:  Keep no more than 20 in a shirt box. Their kernel-like droppings must be cleaned daily.

The worms should be fed mulberry leaves. But be cautious: even just a little dirt or moisture in the leaves will give these bugs diarrhea and might even send them to a wormy heaven.


If they are still babies (the size of ants), don’t use your fingers to move them or they’ll get smushed. You may use the tip of a paintbrush.


Naming silkworms is difficult because there are too many to remember. The best advice is to call them all “Little Baby” (蚕宝宝 cán bǎobǎo).


If you do manage to keep your silkworms alive, they will make beautiful cocoons and one day you’ll wake to find 20 of them magically hovering over your bed. So what is the joy in raising them? When we asked the girl she said, “They feel nice and cool if you let them crawl on your arm.” Beats cuddling the cat I guess. – N.R

Use TCM to Welcome the Vernal Season Safely



Spring is the season of growth, and a new beginning to the year. The movement in the air seems like a rebirth of our mother earth. To accustom our way to the spring is to sleep later and wake earlier, to take walks with our hair flying in the wind, to wear loose clothes, to allow an open and joyful outlook to life. Instead of killing, let growth happen. Instead of stealing, give abundantly. Instead of punishing, reward by teaching. This is the way of the Dao.”

《黄帝内经》, “Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine”


Time to venture out in the cold.


Forget about sleeping late in the morning! As spring arrives, the sun peeks its head out earlier and sets later in the evening. And yes, unfortunately, as an extension of mother earth, we humans should do the same. Get up and inhale China’s fresh air. You might even taste the morning dew in the wind.


Wear Clothes


Yes, definitely wear clothes. Sometimes, when we see the sun peeking out from the horizon and sprouts of greens stirring in the soil, we get so excited that we automatically wear less. But spring weather is never predictable. A ripple of wind or a sudden drop in temperature will bring on the goose bumps, which may feel tingly, but isn’t such a good thing. In winter, our pores are closed up, to guard from the cold and to keep our yang in storage. In the spring, the pores open up, freeing the yang. Freeze the pores, and they’ll quickly close up again, leading to excess internal heat, or shanghuo, which can lead to common spring ailments such as mouth ulcers, acne, migraine headaches, and insomnia. So do keep warm, and never question wearing a scarf around your neck.


Eat Plants and Herbs


During springtime, daylight starts to lengthen, eruptions start to break through earth, and before you know it, vegetation has announced its arrival. Buy Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, tender herb-like vegetables, or any in-season greens. One seasonal vegetable in the north of China that I love is a fragrant herby vegetable, xiangchun (香椿), used to make xiangchun tofu. In TCM, this vegetable is considered a gift, known to treat stomachache, lethargy, and constitutions with high body temperatures. It’s also high in protein, fiber, iron, vitamin E, and calcium. Only around for the two to three months of spring, the best time to try xiangchun is March, so keep it in mind the next time you venture into a local restaurant!


I know I am getting sleepy trying to finish writing this article. Naps are AWESOME during the springtime. There is an old expression in China, chunkun (春困), which translates to “spring drowsiness.” Our vernal season excitement overrides the body, which is just waking up from hibernation. This internal clock of ours wakes up earlier than it did in wintertime, full of excitement, planning, thinking, OH MY! Listen to your body and take naps if necessary. Enjoy outdoor activities without overwhelming the physical body. Or just eat more xiangchun.


The Art of Patience


This is a hard art to learn. A plant does not grow to maturity overnight, nor does a flower blossom in a day. Spring is a time to de-clutter, refine, redefine, and renew your positive outlook. Refrain from frustration and anger when things don’t run as anticipated. Give time and space for situations, and even for your own body and mind, to grow and heal.


If you fail to follow these guidelines, the Yellow Emperor makes his warning perfectly clear. “Your liver will be imbalanced. The coldness will seep in when summer comes. And there will be limitations in both abundance and growth.”


Frances Ren Huang is a Beijing-based TCM consultant and yoga teacher, with a master’s in clinical acupuncture. For more information, you can reach her at

Beat the Summer Heat with Turtle Shell Jelly (龟苓膏)


Traditional guilinggao recipes require boiling turtle shell for many hours, first by itself, then with a variety of herbal ingredients, so that the liquid is gradually evaporated and a jelly-like residue forms. Rice flour and corn starch is added to “thicken” the product.[5][3]

The ingredients of traditional guilinggao consists of 300g tortoise plastron,
80g rehmannia root,
80g honeysuckle flower,
80g smilax rhizome,
80g Chinese mesona,
40g abrus fruit,
32g atractylodes rhizome,
32g forsythia fruit,
20g dandelion,
20g dictamnus root bark,
20g siler root,
20g schizonepeta spike,
20g chrysanthemum flower,
20g lysimachia,
30 bowls of water, boiled to half its volume. 375g of rice flour and 80g of corn flour are used to thicken the decoction.

Guilinggao jelly can be prepared at home from commercially sold powdered concentrate (the “guilinggao powder”),[3] similarly to how Jello is made. When it is prepared, other herbal substances, such as ginseng, are added to the jelly to give it certain tastes and medicinal values.

Pear Soup: The Secret Remedy for Your Fall Cold


Feeling a little under the weather since the start of fall? Well you’re not alone; especially in Beijing, where steamy summers evaporate into dry fall weather, lots of people develop colds and dry coughs.

But never fear! Just in time for cold-weather colds, our September 2011 Youth Issue gives you the lowdown on the tastiest cough remedy you’ll quaff this season: pear soup. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, pears are perfect for dry autumn coughs because they moisten the body and increase the yin, or cool, liquidy side, in your yin-yang balance.

But you don’t need a Chinese mother to have fresh pear soup on hand. Making your own is a snap! Try our recipe, listed below, as soon as you’re starting to feel that dry hack coming on. And for those of you with a sweet tooth, try out our pear dessert for an equally beneficial (and 100 times more gnashable) treat.

Basic Chinese Pear Soup (梨汤)


2-3 Chinese pears

Rock sugar (to taste)

2 tbsp Goji berries

2 tbsp white Chinese almonds

4 pieces white fungus

5-6 c. water


1. Soak white fungus in water for 15-20 minutes. When soft, remove and chop.

2. Cut pears into 1-2 cm3 squares.

3. Bring water to a boil, and add all ingredients.

4. Simmer for 40-60 minutes.

Like pears, white fungus is great to help clear and moisten lungs, while Goji berries are alleged to be packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. However, if you can’t get your hands on these ingredients, you can simply boil chopped pears with sugar and water. (For a low-sugar version, substitute honey for the rock sugar.)

Steamed Candied Pears (冰糖蒸梨)


1 large Chinese pear

1 tsp fresh ginger

1 tbsp rock sugar or honey to taste


  1. After washing your pear, chop off the top and scoop out the core.
  2. Place three slices (or about 1 tsp) of fresh ginger inside the pear, along with sugar or honey.
  3. Replace the top of the pear, and steam for 30 minutes, or until tender.

New Four Great Beauties


New Four Great Beauties

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | By:

The Four Great Beauties, namely Xishi [西施], Wang Zhaojun [王昭君], Diaochan [貂婵], and Yang Guifei [杨贵妃], are reportedly the four most beautiful ancient Chinese women. Their beauty and  stories have become legends, weaved into the Chinese heritage. Recently, an oil painting by Wang Junying titled “New Four Great Beauties”《新四大美女图》featured four contemporary female celebrities, and it stirred up much heated debate on the internet.

The four females in her painting are singer Song Zuying [宋祖英], actress Chen Shu [陈数], actress Fan Bingbing [范冰冰], and the sexy anchor Liu Yan [柳岩]. The painter insisted that an artist needs to pick the candidates according to her own perspectives and standards. Compared to the traditional Four Great Beauties, she wished to emphasize the characteristics of modern Chinese women: subtle, classy, independent, and sexy.

Unfortunately, many netizens questioned the painter’s judgment, that the choices seem superficial as these four women are all from the entertainment industry. The traditional Four Great Beauties were virtuous and talented, but these new ones have all had their share with tabloids.

Do you think these four deserve the title of “Four Great Beauties”? What should be the criteria for beauty in contemporary China?

Song Zuying    Liu Yan

Chen_Shu     Fan Bingbing [范冰冰


Qipao in the ‘Now’ on Taobao


On China’s largest online marketplace Taobao, there is a top-rated store which buyers find feasts the eyes but starves the stomach. It is not a store that sells appealing and delicious snacks, but a qipao store, featuring original design known as Momo Qipao (茉茉旗袍).

Momo2Qipao, the widely known Chinese traditional clothing, was originally introduced by the Manchurians in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), before the Qing the Han Chinese wore what was known as Hanfu (汉服). The modernized qipao was once the everyday wear of Chinese women in the early 1900s, and had even been a symbol of Shanghai lady.


The storekeeper Momo, who chose the store title after her own nick-name, has been feeling her way to find her niche.


“Someday, after doing the same job for several years, I suddenly felt lost and realize this was not my desired lifestyle. Such a feeling of loss has been perplexing me since last year. I recalled that my schooldays dream was to open up a store and make friends with customers who share a similar taste with me. This year, I finally resumed my courage and returned to the starting point of my dream,” writes Momo on the front page of her store.


In early 2011, the idea of making qipao first occurred to her, after noting that the style was only for special occasions or specific individuals, including the formal dress celebrities wear at international events, the wedding dress of ordinary people, and the work suits of waitresses.


“In the eyes of the public, qipao is no longer what one would wear in daily life, but why can’t it be?” That April, she sought advice from her old clients in an online group and unexpectedly received about 400 enthusiastic responses. After preparing for one month, her team launched its first group of originally designed qipao.


Momo3Unlike most of the Taobao stores that prioritize profit above all else, Momo is more concerned about finding consumers who appreciate her work.


Rather than making silken qipao, which requires special care, Momo chooses to use linen cloth, which is easy to treat and approachable in price. She embraces the principle that “fashion is made to wear, rather than hanging high in the window for admirers to marvel but being intimated by its prohibitive price.”


Moreover,  dyeing  linen produces a “vivid” but not “loud” color effect, which distinguishes Momo’s qipao from a costume too gaudy to wear on casual occasions. “Most people are afraid of wearing too eye-catching clothes in daily life”, said Momo, “Though linen is more easily to get crumpled, the material has a comfortable feel, as if an intimate old friend whom you feel easy to get along with.”


The feeling is echoed by Mo Fen (茉粉, abbreviated from Momo’s fans), who address themselves this way and spare no compliments to share their excitement, “Momo’s qipao carries my memory of the old days”, “it seems like an old piece of clothes that I have worn for years and have grown deep affection for”.


Indeed, Momo’s qipao has become so hot that buyers virtually “scramble for the item” (抢货) by racing to bid. Several of the most popular styles are sold out of stock in minutes, leaving a lot more buyers who are just a moment late to sigh regretfully for a missed piece.


Each style of qipao has a unique name carefully chosen by Momo, out of the intention to “help buyers better understand and appropriately choose the color that suits them best.”


'Morning Warbler' style qipao

‘Morning Warbler’ style qipao


Most of the names precisely catch the features of design, for example, “Aegean Sea” (爱琴海) refers to a color that gradually turns from sky blue to sapphire blue, and “Monet” (莫奈) is a pattern associated with the oil painting of Monet’s water lily. A few names even imply a literary connotation, such as “Morning Warbler” (晓莺), which indicates a line of the Tang poem “A Spring Morning”—“This spring morning in bed I’m lying, Not to awake till birds are crying” (春眠不觉晓,处处闻啼鸟).


Apart from a great variety of colors, Momo’s qipao also ranges from knee length to ankle length. In terms of properly wearing qipao, Momo gave a tip which can be phrased as “more upper body exposed, then less lower body exposed, and vice versa” (上露下少露,下露上少露).


For those who are not confident with their figure, Momo adds a key point, that is, whether qipao fits or not has more to do with a person’s manner than with her looks or shape. “I believe that most people will naturally behave like a lady when they put on qipao,” she said.


So far, Momo has over 730,000 fans of her store and more than 13,000 fans on her Weibo. Every day, fans keep popping up to post their qipao photo show and @ Momo to ask for judgment. She agrees that she particularly feels satisfied with the sense of being needed by increasing qipao lovers.


For Momo, the career has inspired her life philosophy, “What I have learned is, never just make do with life, for it’s so wonderful to have a dream to pursue.”


The Momo Qipao store
The Momo Qipao Weibo page
The YoyBuy store



Time to get patched up


Aches and pains abound, don’t they? Whether it’s a niggling sprain, a torn muscle, or a stinging bruise, they sure ain’t fun. Well, dear reader, I might just have the perfect solution for your irksome little twinges. I call it a Traditional Chinese Medicine thingy,  or the  Gou Pi Gao (狗皮膏), more commonly called Gao Yao (膏药). It’s a sort of  plaster or patch. If you literally translate Gou Pi Gao it means dog skin patch because, back in the olden days,  a medicinal paste was smeared on an aged piece of dog skin and applied to the affected area. Nice, huh? Thankfully as time passed, the use of dog skin was phased out and has been replaced with adhesive cloth patches.

The idea behind the use of medicinal plasters came from the Tang Dynasty; they believed that medicinal plasters were more effective than ingesting the medicine for “diseases” that were positioned between the skin and the bone or tendon (bruises, broken capillaries, tiny fractures, torn muscles, etc.). Applying the plaster directly allows the medicine to be directly absorbed into the damaged soft tissue thus speeding up the healing process.

“”Gou Pi Gao is not really made out of the skin of a dog, but it is a very effective plaster to heal fractures or pain. The herbal plasters come on a plastic base, and these are put into a steamer and attached to the afflicted site while warm. Be sure to take the plaster off at night, as the plaster can cause skin irritation due to cutting off oxygen. The plaster will also stain clothing and smells, so don’t be surprised if everyone wants to avoid you while you are using it. Of course, products like Salon Pas or Tiger Bone Musk Plaster or Yunnan Bai Yao plaster are also good alternatives, but my not be as strong. An alternative is to use Die Da Zhi Tong Gao (Fall/Strike Stop Pain Plaster) which is commonly available.””

Around the 11th century, paper and cloth replaced the dog skin and instead of having medicine come in paste, the medicine itself was dried into a resin and was sandwiched between paper and cloth. To activate the patch, the resin was melted in a warm pan or in a steamer to soften it so it could be directly applied to the wound. Later on, if need be, it could be reheated and reused elsewhere. Thankfully in the 80s there was a breakthrough; the medicine was mixed with a rubber base and coated on to a thin piece of cloth that adhered to your skin making transportation of the plasters and their use easier than ever before.

Growing up, medicinal plasters were an essential part of my personal first-aid kit. When I jammed my thumbs during volleyball practice, I used a small patch on the joint to lower the swelling. If I worked out too hard the day before and my shoulders were tight and tense, a larger patch was used to cover that area to relieve some of the pain. Not to mention when I tore my ankle, a whole package of medicinal plasters were used in trying to speed up the healing process. Though the medicinal plasters have done a lot to help me through my bumps and bruises over the years, I never really thought about what kind of ingredients were inside these sticky squares of medicine or if there were different types for different aches and pains.

For those holding their breath, relax; there are no bad chemicals or anything horribly dangerous contained in the patches but there are some warnings to take heed of. The adhesive for various patches has been known to cause some skin irritation for those with sensitive skin. Make sure you only use the patch only for as long as directed, to prevent any irritation. Plasters containing TCM sometimes have a slightly funky medicinal smell; I’ve had friends comment on the aroma quite a few times. Thankfully, the aroma fades away after a couple hours of use.

The main ingredients of patches are Methyl Salicylate, which is a chemical that can cause a mild cold or warm/burning sensation when used. Menthol is also used, which adds to that cooling sensation. The more basic patches, for simple pain relief of tense muscles, contain the two chemicals above as the main source along with the ingredients for the adhesive. More TCM orientated patches will have various medicinal ingredients, including Rhubarb Rhizome, Mylabris Beetle (yes, a type of beetle), Taraxacum Plant (dandelion), Acacia Plant-resin, Myrrh Resin, and Carthamus Flower (safflower), to name just a few.

Now, if the idea of using these plasters for your aches and pains appeals to you, here’s a quick guide to the various types that exist for different problems:

Wu Yang Pain-Relieving Plaster

Provides cooling pain relief and does not penetrate deep into the skin. It can be used if there is swelling, heat and inflammation from sprains, strains, tears or pulled muscles.

Yunnan Piaoyao Plaster

This is the best all around plaster for traumatic injury, because it’s effective in stopping internal bleeding and healing wounds. This plaster can be used for acute injuries even if there is swelling or inflammation.

701 Plaster

It contains herbs that reduce pain, heals damaged muscles, tendons and ligaments. This should not be used while there is still inflammation, heat, and redness.

Hua Tuo Anticontusion Rheumatism Plaster

If there is still residual stiffness, pain and the injury feels cold or sensitive after 3-4 weeks of the initial injury its best to use this plaster.  It is also good for chronic injuries that ache in cold, damp weather.

Gou Pi Plaster

This is the strongest plaster that can be bought in a Chinese pharmacy. It has  medicine mixed with pine resin allowing the herbs to penetrate deeply, which stimulates the healing process more quickly than other types of plaster.

If you’re interested in other TCM methods and beliefs on how to cure aches, sprains and tears click here.



TCM for Sprains and Strains

Monday, March 18, 2013 | By:

So you’ve just sprained your ankle fighting for that offensive rebound (you should have stuck to defense) or maybe you just stepped on an uneven patch of pavement. In either case you’ve been taught to religiously recite the sacred mantra RICE – Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. Well, that’s not a bad idea and it will work over time; however some would argue that if you try the TCM approach, you’re ankle will heal even faster and you’ll be off playing basketball again in no time. Unlike RICE, the tenets of TCM say if you sprain or strain a joint, the first thing you should do is to immediately and aggressively massage the injured area using tuina (推拿 tuīná) to prevent the blood from over clotting and qi from stagnating. With this approach, the most painful part of the healing process is the very beginning because it is believed that the more aggressively you massage the injured area, the faster it will heal. This means a lot more pain in the beginning, but it is believed that the resulting improved circulation will promote faster healing and less pain, including chronic pain in the long run. Rather than worsening the bruise, many Chinese believe that rapidly massaging the injured area will prevent bruising or at least lessen the amount of time it is present. Before going any further, if you are in doubt about whether or not you have broken a bone, you should get x-rays first.

An example of my homemade Dit Da Jow brew based on a secret kung fu recipe

An example of my homemade Dit Da Jow brew based on a secret kung fu recipe

Ideally, one should massage the injured area with a liniment such as what is known in Cantonese as dit da jow or in Mandarin diedajiu (跌打酒 diē dǎ jiǔ, falling and hitting wine). Dit da jow is well known in kung fu circles as an analgesic and for its ability to reduce inflammation, increase circulation and prevent infection in martial arts-related injuries. Two key ingredients that are old friends of yours from biblical lore are Frankincense (乳香 rǔxiāng) and Myrrh (没药 mòyào), which both turn out to be extracted from tree resins in the Arabian Peninsula and northeastern Africa. These ingredients combined with others such as Safflower (红花 hónghuā) remove stasis in the blood and invigorate (活血huóxuè) it so that blockages are cleared and circulation is increased to and through the injured area. Each kung fu school has its own secret recipe of numerous Chinese herbs that are fermented in wine for at least six months to achieve the optimal healing results. Different recipes of dit da jow are designed for different purposes such as conditioning for iron palm training or, in this case, healing. Some Chinese medicine stores sell various brands of dit da jow over the counter while some Mom and Pop shops may even have their own homemade brew, the latter are preferable as the product sold over the counter is usually not as potent. Apply dit da jow liberally up to six times a day until healing is complete.

If dit da jow isn’t available, Red Flower Oil (正红花油 Zhènghóng huāyóul) is another alternative. If the injury is to the bone such as a bone bruise on the shin or forearm, you can apply Zhenggushui (正骨水, Bone Rectifying Liquid), which is specifically designed for healing bone bruises and hairline fractures but can be used to some extent to soft tissue injuries as well. Another option is Deer musk (麝香 shèxiāng), which can also be quite effective, but your friends as well as deer may be able to smell the musk on you from far away. All of the aforementioned liniments are for external use only and none should be applied if there are any open sores. To stop bleeding, Yunanbaiyao (云南白药, Yunan White Medicine) powder should be applied until the bleeding stops and keep any of liniments mentioned away from the cut.

If a trained TCM practitioner is available, the next step is to start to manipulate the joint in the opposite direction that it was injured in. Unlike Western medicine where the emphasis is immobilizing the injured joint as soon as possible, Chinese medicine advocates working on reestablishing range of motion immediately. If you’ve rolled your ankle inwards, the Chinese approach is to press it outwards in the opposite direction of the injury to start establishing the proper motion of the joint. They will also soon moving the joint in all structurally correct directions. The idea is to introduce more range of motion much earlier in the healing process to ensure that there is less atrophy and loss of mobility once the joint has healed. Manipulating your joints in this way is not advisable without the aid of qualified TCM physician, nor is the amount of pressure required easy to achieve on one’s own as the pain prevents many from treating themselves effectively. Chinese doctors also often augment this treatment with acupuncture and moxibustion (艾灸术 àijiǔshù), the latter being a kind of heat treatment with mugwort sticks.

Instead of packing the wound in ice, which the Chinese believe is detrimental as it stagnates blood and qi circulation, an herbal poultice can be applied to the wound such as Sanhuansan (三黄散 Sān huáng sàn, Three Yellows Powder). The three yellow herbs in Sanhuangshan – 黄芩 (Huángqín, Baikal Skullcap Root),黄柏 (Huángbò, Chinese Corktree Bark),大黄 (Dàhuáng, Rhubarb) – all have a cooling effect on swelling while enabling flow of blood and bodily fluids to flow at normal body temperature, unlike ice. You can request these three herbs from a Chinese medicine shop and make the concoction yourself, or there are some herbal websites online that sell the ready made product. The main thing is that it has at least the three herbs mentioned (often there are a couple more added for extra effect). If you’re trying to figure out where to start, Tongrentang (同仁堂 Tóngréntáng) is the best known Chinese herbal drug store chain in the world, and though sometimes more expensive than other shops, it has a relatively good reputation.

After the poultice has been applied for three days, the concern switches from reducing swelling and inflammation and now becomes primarily increasing circulation and mobility. It is important to resume massaging and manipulating the joint, and there are a number of different variations of liniments that you can use to expedite this process. If you have a good dit da jow recipe, you can simply continue to apply that liberally and rigorously. Alternatively, you can use a combination of White Flower Analgesic Balm and Tiger’s Balm, the two have similar ingredients and can be used individually to good effect, but combined they are like a tiger with wings (如虎添翼 rúhǔtiānyì). Apply the White Flower Analgesic Balm first to open up the pores and then apply the Tiger Balm (虎标万金油 hǔbiāo wànjīnyóu) so it can penetrate more deeply and have more of an effect. Both balms will aid in relieving residual pain and stiffness in the injury as it nears full recovery. Tiger Balm also now is sold as a plaster, essentially a patch that you can stick to the injured area for several hours at a time.

Herbal Remedy for Joint Injury

The following is a more sophisticated TCM recipe to treat joint injuries such as sprained ankles and knees that is can be used if you have access to a well-stocked Chinese herbal medicine shop:

桂枝 (Guìzhī, Cassia Twig) 20ɡ,红花 (Hónghuā, Safflower) 20ɡ,细辛 (Xìxīn, Manchurian Wildginger Herb) 10ɡ,威灵仙 (Wēilíngxiān, Chinese Clematis Root) 60ɡ,伸筋草 (Shēnjīncǎo, Buck Grass) 40ɡ,昆布 (Kūnbù, Kelp) 40ɡ,海藻 (Hǎizǎo, Seaweed) 40ɡ,路路通 (Lùlùtōng, Chinese Sweet Gum) 40ɡ,续断(Xùduàn, Himalayan Teasel Root) 40ɡ,海桐皮 (Hǎitóngpí, Oriental Variegated Coralbean Bark) 40ɡ,透骨草 (Tòugǔcǎo, American Lopseed) 40ɡ,防风 (Fángfēng, Divaricate Saposhnikovia Root) 20ɡ,艾叶 (Àiyè, Argy Wormwood Leaf) 60ɡ,五加皮 (Wǔjiāpí, Slenderstyle Acanthopanax Root-bark)30ɡ,芒硝 (Mángxiāo, Mirabilite) 50ɡ   (external use only: bathe)

Put the herbs in 1500-2000 ml of water, add 200 ml vinegar and then boil the mixture.

Step 1:  Keep the temperature of the herbal formula at 120-160 F to fumigate the injured area of the body.  In other words, place the piping hot water near the injured area to let the water vapors reach the joint.

Step 2: When the temperature lowers down to 110, soak and cover the joint in the fluid until it is normal body temperature. Usually, it takes 15-20 minutes.

Step 3: Wrap the herbs in a cloth and then place that over the injured area. Remember the residual herbs which have been boiled should still be warm.  Do this for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Massage it for 10- 20 minutes.

Step 5: Activate the local joints. The last step is to start gently moving the joint around to start to reestablish natural range of motion.

You can break this formula into several smaller batches of herbs, each of which can be used twice, thus giving you up to 2 weeks of treatment if necessary.

The purpose of this blog is to provide information on several different herbal options to treat injured joints. It is advisable to choose only one of the treatment options listed above for your injury based on what is available in your area. Over time, you can try different methods. Like any medication, there is always the possibility of an allergic reaction, so exercise caution.


Sit the Month


Some of the absolute no-nos for new mothers (and the emphasis is very much on no here) include: no direct contact with the wind, no going out, no fruits, no vegetables, no salt, no wearing sandals, no exposing of the heels, no leaving empty space between the waist and back of a chair (cushion required), no hair washing, no baths, no brushing teeth, no brushing hair, no TV watching, no crying, no boiled water, and more. The list is exhausting. Everything from the food that goes into the mouth, to the air flow in the room—right through to the precise posture and exact amount of standing, sitting and walking—is closely monitored with military precision by various members of the family.

An old Chinese saying addresses the significance of postnatal care: “Eat well, sleep well, nothing is better than sitting the month well.” (吃的好,睡的好,不如月子坐的好。Chī de hǎo, shuì de hǎo, bùrú yuèzi zuò de hǎo.) The health aspects of zuoyuezi find support in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, there are three crucial periods that have life-long effects on a woman’s health: arrival of first period first, post-childbirth and menopause. It’s believed taking the 月子 lightheartedly may result in 月子病 (yuèzibìng), a loose TCM term referring to all illnesses contracted during the month after childbirth that never completely heal. While Western medicine explains the need for postnatal care in scientific terms, TCM attributes it to imbalanced yin and yang. From the perspective of the prestigious Yao (瑶) Medicine, yuezibing results from the invasion of the Six Evils (六邪 liùxié): wind (风 fēng), cold (寒 hán), dampness (湿  shī ), dryness (燥 zào), fire (火 huǒ), and heat (暑 shǔ).  Hence, a new mother must receive 24-hour care lest any natural element leaves her in ill-health.

mothers cannot drink water or milk for two weeks after giving birth, substituting it for rice wine. Not bathing or washing their hair for a month is forbidden, as is salt—all while consuming as much sugar and protein as possible. And then there’s my favorite saying related to zuoyuezi: “When sitting the month, one must eat 40 chickens.” That’s a lot of chicken.

Book of Rites (《礼记》 Lǐjì). In the twelfth chapter, the custom is described as a postnatal ceremonial family ritual that the new mother goes through, symbolizing the transformation of her role from wife to mother, from outsider to family member.

sitting the month is precisely why Chinese age better than foreigners, or even that foreigners simply don’t know any better.

An extremely protein-heavy diet remains one of the most significant parts of the zuoyuezi care, and postnatal caregivers are hotly sought after, especially ones that are qualified, have experience, and possess both the knowledge and the cooking skills to produce a month-long yuezi food menu.  Guo Jingjing, the retired Olympic diving champion, is offering 80,000 HKD for a top-notch postnatal caregiver. Chinese actress Jia Jingwen’s care giving center cost upwards of 4,500 RMB per day, with the minimum stay being no less than 15 days.


Guangdong New South Group has been dealing with malaria since 2006, when it teamed up with Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine and together they marketed Artemisinin, an anti malaria drug extracted from sweet wormwood plants (青蒿素, qīnghāosù). The plant has a long history of usage in treating many ailments in China, including malaria, going back to the fourth century CE.