Beijing, About Red Flags, Kangs and Fire Cupping



In the north of Beijing we visit the ShangXinPu village where we meet Mr. Jin Liushi.


Mr. Jin has been a driver all his life. He started as a driver of tractors in the village. Later he drove around building materials during the construction of express highways. After that he became a taxi driver. Now he occasionally drives passengers in his private car.


Both Mr. Jin and his brother are the proud owners of a “Red Flag” (Hongqi) limousine.  “Red Flag” was a Chinese car brand established in 1958. In the 1960s’, the “Red Flag” was designated as the “National Car”. It was the car used by the leaders of the country and VIP visitors from other countries. The “Red Flag” was also always present in the military parades on the National Day.


A few years ago the brand name has been changed into Hongqi Shengshi, and it owns a sub-brand called Pentium. The old style “Red Flag” cars are rare to be seen nowadays.


According to Mr. Jin, the “Red Flag” is especially popular among foreigners. He bought the car six years ago to use it for driving around his foreign customers. He invites us for a ride in the car to show how comfortable the car is driving. The top speed he achieved with his car is 180km/h.


Mr. Jin’s elder brother also owns a “Red Fleg” limousine, which parked not far from his.  His car is an extra long one and older.


After showing his beloved car, Mr. Jin invited us to take a rest at his home in XiaXinPu Village. Mr. Jin was born in the area of Dongsi Shitiao. His house in the village (also) used to belong to his parents’. ShangXinPu and XiaXinPu are villages with over 600 years’ history. They were already populated with over a thousand villagers since long time ago. These days there are many migrant workers living in the area.


Like the families around, the Jin’s live in a bungalow. It is big with a living area well over 200m2 and has many rooms. According to Mr. Jin, there are six rooms in his house at the back and four in the front. He said it is because the house was in the countryside when it was built, allowing for more spacious houses.


Last summer, Mr. Jin built a “kang” in his house. A kang is a traditional platform (bed-stove) in North China that can be heated.  It is covered with marble. In the summer, Mr. Jin heats it to make the house less humid. In the winter it provides heating. The kang measures around 2 by 3 meters and two third of it is used as a basis for their bed. A wooden plank is put between the mattress and the kang. Otherwise the mattress would become too warm.


Mr. Jin is a certified “Senior Health Masseur”, a certification issued by the Chinese government. He shows us the latest issue of the certificate, dated in July 2011.


According to Mr. Jin, minor diseases, like a cold, can be cured by his massage. His son is also learning massage skills at the moment. Mr. Jin said it is important to master skills like massage, especially now that massage has been recognised as a part of the traditional Chinese culture.


Mr. Jin always gives massage to his wife. She is 52 years old and suffers from problems with her spine. With the regular massages by Mr. Jin her physical complaints have disappeared.


(A video of the below described Fire Cupping technique was posted two weeks ago: click here to watch)


Mr. Jin shows us his toolset for fire cupping and wants to explain what “moving cupping” is. He will use his wife’s leg to demonstrate. First he lights cotton wool clamped between a forceps, then stirs a cup with it. When the cup is heated, he places it on the part of the skin where his wife’s leg feels uncomfortable. Due to the low air pressure within the cup, the skin is sucked inside the cup and turns purple. Now Mr. Jin moves the skin by pushing and pulling the cup back and forth on his wife’s leg. This is the “moving cupping” technique.


Mr. Jin’s wife had just climbed a mountain a few days before and feels sour in her legs. During the cupping the skin of the part of the leg that feels sour, turns purple. Mr. Jin explains that fire cupping can take good energy as well as bad energy out of the body. When it is cloudy, he would not give cupping therapy to people, because that’s when Yin Qi can easily enter the body. Yin Qi is a concept in traditional Chinese medicine (and martial arts). In massage it refers to a kind of energy that coagulates, moistens and inhibits and is considered not good for the body.


Mr. Jin’s wife says that she can also perform fire cupping, but unlike her husband, she is not familiar with the acupuncture points on the body. Mr. Jin can give cupping and massage therapies following the acupuncture points. That’s why he can cure diseases.




Fire cupping

If your Internet is censored you will not be able to see the YouTube video that is supposed to be visible below. You can click here to see the Chinese version of this post and watch a low-res version of the video on TuDou

In this video Mr. Jin demonstrates fire cupping and the technique called “moving cupping”. Photos and an interview with Mr. Jin Liushi and his wife (both are in the video) will be published with another post later this month.




Beijing, Mrs. Yu Lixian


Mrs. Yu Lixian, 86 years old, was born in Hangzhou, grew up in Shanghai, studied in Suzhou and moved to Beijing in 1956. Before Mrs. Yu retired she worked in a hospital. In her own words, she has been “serving the people all her life”.

Mrs. Yu helps people with a massage when they have a headache or pain in their arms or when something is wrong with the nerves on their back. She never waits for people in need to look for her; instead, she always looks for them. “She is really kindhearted!” says Wang Yingxia who is having at treatment by Mrs. Yu.


Mrs. Yu studied in a nursing school when she was 16. After three years of study and two years of internship in an out-patient department, she became a nurse. She says she started working before the New China was founded. But not for long at that time; “When I was young, my husband didn’t allow me to go to work, so I don’t have any retirement pension, really. Now my husband is gone and I am living on my children.”


While she is slowly telling her own story, she at the same time takes care of Mrs. Wang. “Stretch your fingers. Are they sour? Do they hurt or just feel sour? Don’t let your hands catch more cold.”


Mrs. Wang Yingxia is from Hebei Province. She used to be a salesperson. At the moment she has no job, because she is spending time taking care of her six-month-old child. She says she will go back to work when her child grows older. Her fingers are probably sour due to her work in the house and always working with her hands in cold water.

Beijing, “Hairdresser”


In an area that is being demolished, remaining houses and makeshift buildings ensure business is continuing for as long as there are customers around. In this case the customers are construction workers looking for massage and other services. Small shops and restaurants, a pool game club and “hairdressers” are the business. The streets are dirty and the smell of garbage and public toilets is overwhelming.


We talked with one woman who, as a “hairdresser”, provides relaxation services to her clients, mainly in the evening. She starts work at eight o’clock in the morning and continues until ten o’clock at night. After work she returns to her flat nearby. She is from Anhui province and came to Beijing a few years ago. Her husband makes a living with decorating houses. She used to have a much bigger workplace, but that building has already been demolished. Now she has a temporary place, just a few square meters, made from corrugated roof panels and material found on the demolition site. Before the demolition began, her business was much better.


She smiles when she starts talking about her son. Her son has a wide range of interests. He likes painting and dancing. He currently lives in the south of China and studies Information Engineering at a college in Kunming.

Then her smile disappears and she looks sad. “He never calls me mother anymore”.