I step out of Civiello Polier’s studio into the Swords Don’t Kill Dm’s Do Shirt Also,I will get this bright Southern California sun, conflicted by the commodification of Chinese folk medicine and home remedies. But the craving for a more holistic conception of beauty feels real. I remember something Huntzinger told me when describing her work. “These days, society is so yang, so active. With the advent of social media, the yang has been overstimulated to such a degree, and the yin has not been nourished,” she explains. Maybe, in a paradoxical twist, #guasha has risen precisely from our innate desire to restore focus on the yin—the darker, interior, reflective parts of ourselves.
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“People are not just getting a skin-deep treatment,” Zhang confirms of what she sees as the Swords Don’t Kill Dm’s Do Shirt Also,I will get this technique’s actual rejuvenating benefits. She slips into Chinese for a moment for emphasis, and I notice that in place of “antiaging” she uses the words yang sheng—a phrase I’ve heard often from my aunts and grandmothers when telling me to take care. Remembering how the Chinese women in my life have always emphasized that to be healthy is to be beautiful, Zhang’s message suddenly makes sense. After all, I’d never thought of yang sheng as simply utilitarian: It translates more directly to “nourishing life.”WHEN I WAS A CHILD I spent many sweltering summers in my aunt’s Shanghai apartment, which had one air-conditioning unit that was only turned on for the hottest hour of the afternoon. Unused to the heat, I was often weak and nauseated. To assess my health, my aunt would palm my forehead and check my tongue for changes in color and shape. Then she’d clear the hair from the back of my neck and, with a spoon—or more often, her knuckles—press and pull at my skin until a reddish-purple mark appeared. I was suffering from heatstroke, she said, and this friction would draw out the toxins that were making me feel sick. The darker the resulting welts, according to her, the more bad energy had been released. Did it work? All I really remember is being mortified that the bruise resembled a misplaced hickey. My biggest takeaway: that it hurt like hell—so much so that to this day, when I hear the term gua sha—often translated to “scraping” in English—my first instinct is to flinch.