A bath house atlas
The bath house is an interesting part of contemporary Chinese culture and it also has links with the past. I am talking about your conventional neighbourhood public facility for taking a shower, sometimes referred to in English as an 'economic' bath house. A shower here may cost just a couple of RMB. A bath house I used in Zhejiang had a stored value card system and you paid by the minute. （I am not talking here about the up-market facility that caters for the well-off business person - these can cost 100 RMB - 200 RMB for a rather different experience!)
I am hoping that poddies can contribute photos and stories from various parts of China that may illustrate regional differences.
NB: Discussion on another thread gave me the idea for this 'atlas' (thanks xiao_liang).
I wondered the same thing - surely not?? It looks like film fiction. But it's 深圳市 I think, China's 'anything's possible' city. So I hope someone from there can let us know.
This film is one of my all time Chinese film favourites, not just because I'm fascinated by bath houses; it's near perfect.
Oh, I see what you mean, it gets out of sync, that's a pity. But for me after 18 - 20 minutes it was just a fraction of a second, say half a second. Still annoying; there is a problem with the film on that link.
It's years since I've seen it - sentimental but in so many ways authentic. I love the detail - the guys with the wet towels around them when showering - this is exactly what I've observed in the bath house. The form of massage where the guy's arm is given a strong jerk - you normally get this with a foot massage, arms and legs both given a bit of whiplash.
I noticed this kind of massage was done during my visit to Chengdu last year, where there was a lot more stretching and flexing done along with the strong jerks afterwards. Whereas in the other areas of China it was done only on the fingers and toes. I found the regional differences to be more different when it came to massage than I've found with many things other than language dialect.
It seems that each region has a specialisation in massage techniques or at least in the style that they either massage or treat you. In Beijing it was more focused on the use of "appliances" such as the "Fire Cupping" and "Fire Dragon/Snake".. whereas, like I said, in Chengdu it was more to do with stretching.. and in Shanghai it was more along the lines of deep tissue stuff. I guess the problem is that each city would have a variety of styles within it. Like you could find deep tissue massage in all the cities for example. The Nanjing place I went to was quite a formal affair and had "Bali Oil Massage" on the menu, which is a much more subdued massage technique where they use the open-palm to "rub" more than to "gouge" like with a deep tissue massage.. so I guess you could say it was a "shallow" tissue massage. Very calming and relaxing but of course they had many different techniques listed on their "menu"... so it would be hard for me to know what the regional speciality was in Nanjing.
Yeah, I agree to the position you get to toward the end of your post. I don't think (from my own experience in a number of regions) that it is regional differences - my understanding is that it is who you learnt from. The intra-city differences are probably greater than the inter-city differences (if that makes sense). You can have big differences in the one street - actually you can have significant differences in the one massage shop - it depends on who does your massage and who they learnt from. It is not a very systematic education as we think of it in the West. So - to be specific - the jerking style toward the end of a foot massage was a normal part of the massage I got regularly in Hangzhou - I have also had it in Shanghai, Anhui, Chengdu and Kunming. It is one aspect of massage that I think is fairly common.
I have never heard of 'regional specialty' as such - did you hear someone explain it that way or are you reaching your own conclusions based on your experience? Not that there is anything wrong with that. :)
thanks mate. I was thinking I should look for it elsewhere, but knowing that it is somewhere else has encouraged me, so I've got it on youtube now. I've had trouble with syncing before with stuff from China, so hopefully this'll work better.
'I've had trouble with syncing before with stuff from China,'
Ha ha - I think that this is a Chinese home-grown style of entertainment. Those unfortunate enough to have been subjected to something called CCTV 9 (a station for English learners?) will be quite familiar with the technique. Even when reading the news it seems that a 1 second lag is de rigueur. :)
I'm pretty sure that Chinese language programs on TV are produced with a much higher standard imposed - because CCTV9 is in English maybe no one notices, or perhaps no one cares greatly.
Yes, my own conclusions on my own "limited" experience :) hehe.. It just seemed that way.. but I completely agree with you about the "who you learned it from" thing. I just figured that there would have been a style for that region because of the "anmo shifu" of that area having a particular style.. a bit like the gongfu stuff.. :)
light487December 20, 2010, 01:03 AM
I found a bath house in Hangzhou, though I don't have any pictures nor an exact location. I'd be able to find it again when I am next in Hangzhou (May 2011) so maybe I will take some pictures and grab the address at that stage. The experience was a little strange because I thought it was just a massage establishment, so I was a little unprepared to be stripping down naked and made to wear the loose fitting shorts handed to me by a young attendant.
I of course went with the flow as there were other people there doing the same thing. I got a lot of strange looks too of course.. haha.. big, 6'2" white guy in the bath house.. must have looked odd to them. Anyway, it was really really good service. I got to shower or bathe in the enormous pool-like bath that had steaming hot water.. completely naked of course.. haha.. Then I went for my massage, which was done in a more Japanese style (at least that was my impression) and came back to basically use the bath and showers at my own leisure.
I ended up spending half the day there for about 150RMB, massage included in the price! There was no actual time limit though.. definitely was a great experience for me and I keen to do it again when I return next year. Very, very relaxing and like you're in another world completely separate from the busy streets outside.
I guess it was more in line with the Fujian style natural spring baths and those also found in Taiwan.. and I guess this may have been why the massage was done in a Japanese style, as they were probably trying to mimic the Taiwanese style bath houses.
Looking at Google Maps, I believe this bath house would be on Baochu Road.. Again on Google Maps there is a reference to "Yidai Jiaren Club".. not sure what that translates too but it's essentially in that same location.. and perhaps even the name of the place... though I could be wrong as I am looking at a map rather than riding there on a bike, which is how I got there.. so sometimes real directions can be different to what it looks like on the map.. Maybe Bodawei can go have a look and see :)
EDIT: Actually now that I am looking at the map and seeing where my hostel was, I'm not so sure that is the place.. lol.. I dunno!! I could ride there.. no idea of directions though.. lol!
Every neighbourhood (every street or two) will have a bath house, you won't have to go far. But the most common bath houses are 'economic' bath houses - they are provided basically as a means of washing yourself, and there may be some special services (in Hangzhou I believe that they will only have showers, not baths). The bath house in the photo at the head of this thread is a neighbourhood 'economic' bath house, not a fancy one with lots of extra services. Cheap.
The basic bath house will cost you only a few kuai at most for a shower. The new one on my campus here I think it is 一分钟一毛。 The type you describe above is more an entertainment although it has a practical function as well. These are the ones with baths as well as showers. These are fewer in number but there will still be plenty to choose from.
Some do advertise a 'Japanese' style but how authentic this is I can't be sure. The price may be higher, although in the city I live in now this is not necessarily the case. (Incidentally I have seen his 'Japanese' feature in Chengdu as well as Kunming; it is not exclusively an east-coast thing.) A Chinese friend remarked to me not long ago that the only thing Japanese is the fuwuyuan dress in Japanese-style clothes. The massage is likely to be a Chinese style I think, but I am not clear on the difference myself.
Oh.. BTW I don't live in Hangzhou these days - haven't been there since 2007. But I'm sure you'll track something down before you get there.
Ahh right.. well I've always had the ability to use the Youth Hostel showers.. so never needed to make use of the "economy" bath houses. Even so, the bath/shower room etiquette is a little different than in the west even in the hostels, especially the further you get away from the major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
In Nanjing, the hostel had unisex showers, so while I am taking my shower in one cubicle there are two female university students in the next stall having a great chat about something I couldn't understand and generally having a very "social" experience, as I was leaving another group of ladies arrived and went into a stall together, while another guy emerged from yet another stall..
So rather than showering/bathing being a completely practical-only experience, where you get in, wash and get out.. it seems that, at least in all the places I have stayed, showering/bath is a much more social experience than it is in the west where people spend just as much time chatting as they do washing and to hell with the fact that they are standing around with hardly any clothes on. :)
As I write this, it all sounds a bit odd and maybe even a little perverse but really it's all very normal and standard..
Yes, it's standard. But in my experience, well not mine exactly, the women are more 'social' than the men. My wife was a regular at a bath house in Hangzhou and the women generally socialise when showering, and often rub each others' bodies while chatting. (Hope this isn't getting too explicit?) In my experience on the men's side, there were friends who took their showers together (and a Chinese shower is generally a fairly long affair) but there wasn't a lot of chat, and no touching. :) And they would generally and totally ignore me, but I was trying to blend in. One place I didn't take my camera.
Yes... it does sound explicit to our uncultured minds.. haha.. but it's just so good natured and caring really. If you think about chimps and apes, they all preen and clean each other.. there's nothing odd at all about it. There's no difference in this situation either.. just that our western upbringing has made it a taboo, as I have asked female friends whether they have any issues with showering naked in public showers at, for example, the public pool. They wouldn't even dream of showering naked in a public shower!!!
Yet, here we have a perfect example of harmony and social behaviour that in the east is considered "everyday" yet in the west is considered to be taboo.. usually it is the opposite.. haha.. It's this closeness, on a platonic level, that the Chinese have with each other that I always find so fascinating and heart-warming. So yes, even while the males are a little less "hands on" they are still quite comfortable to sit in a bath together (at one of the big bath houses/hot-spring baths) or walk around the showering area naked etc etc