My First Time Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai

In the same vein as trying a Turkish bath in Istanbul, during my trip to Shanghai, I wanted to try Chinese massage aka tui na (推拿) for the first time.

Just as I’d heard that the Turkish bath experience could be somewhat painful, I knew that Chinese massage had a reputation for being… harsh. It’s not like relaxing and therapeutic Swedish massage, but rather like a man/woman trying to beat you up. I’d also read of some embarrassing experiences of guys looking for massage experiences and instead finding fronts for prostitution.

Armed with this cursory knowledge, I set off to find a massage place. I had attempted to look up places on Google, but that was somewhat useless as most resources seemed unreliable. But as I walked around the area of my hotel, I saw numerous signs advertising massages, and I settled on one place that was located in a small strip with some other signs advertising massages and that seemed to have little risk of being full of prostitutes. As an additional benefit, their menu of services had English translations, so I knew what I was getting myself into, and the price (88 yuan or ~$15 for 1 hour of tui na) seemed extremely reasonable.

Sign leading me up to the second floor
Sign leading me up to the second floor
Menu of services
Menu of services

Heading up to the second floor, I was apprehensive as I didn’t really know what to expect. The spa had a decent ambiance and a slightly gruff man who quickly asked me what I wanted, and after I had barely spoken the words for “Chinese” he immediately barked “tui na” and lead me into a small room.

He said some other things to me in Chinese, which I didn’t completely understand, but I just kind of nodded along and he left. A woman came in to bring me tea and quickly scurried off. I removed my jacket and shoes and just sat on one of the adjustable loungers that they had in the room. Eventually, a man came into the room, told me to lie down, and went to town on my back.

In full disclosure, I don’t have much experience with massages. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve received a professional massage, and pretty much every time that I’ve received a massage, the masseuse comments on how tight my muscles are. This could have contributed to the shellacking that I was about to experience.

Chinese massage is a clothed experience, and there’s not as much gentle rubbing as there is aggressive, rhythmic pushing and hitting. He started off with my shoulders, using a fair amount of force, but it felt good as I had just gotten off a 14+ hour flight from Chicago. At that point, he asked me how his pressure was, and I told him that he could be harder if he wanted. This was my mistake.

He seemed to take my suggestion as a challenge. He definitely became more forceful, which was good in most parts, but slightly painful to moderately painful in others. In particular, at one point, he literally tried to push all of his body weight through his elbow into my back, climbing on top of me to get more leverage; in another instance, he spent a lot of time massaging/bruising my neck back and forth, which left me with a sore neck for the next couple of days.

Overall, I’m glad that I tried it, although it was not a relaxing experience. It left me more sore than I started, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I’m sure that the most painful parts could have been avoided if I had just spoken up. Next time, I think I want to try a blind massage. Anyone have any suggestions on where to go?


  1. Going to try restaurant Gartine this weekend on your recommendation.    Blog on – enjoy reading.  


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