Sit the Month

master-sit-in-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.

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