With health and wellness trending in popular culture, rituals, and sacred practices of non-western cultures, are coming to the forefront. While I believe that cultural globalization can be a beautiful thing, if you are not mindful it can quickly become cultural appropriation of traditional practices.
On Instagram and TikTok, Gua Sha is starting to get a lot of attention. Unfortunately, I have personally witnessed a lot of misinformation on the topic. A lot of self-proclaimed “beauty experts” have suggested that Gua Sha is simply a form of lymphatic massage. Gua Sha is more than a “beauty treatment” for puffiness, it’s an East Asian healing technique. The origins of the term date back to around 220 CE in the Shang Han Lun (Chinese medical text). Water buffalo horns are thought to be among the first instruments used. In modern practices, ceramic Chinese soup spoons, jade, animal bones, coins, and metal caps are commonly used.
Like most medical practices, there are appropriate applications of Gua Sha, as well as contraindications. As students of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we must acknowledge that it is a privilege and honor to learn these traditional practices in the U.S. and in English. Becoming a TCM practitioner also means that you are taking on the responsibility of being a steward and protector of this living tradition. Cultural appropriation dilutes ancestral practices, marginalizes representatives of the original culture, and is a form of erasure. The onus falls on the consumer as well, for it is their duty and responsibility to take the time and seek out qualified teachers.
It’s Week 15 here on campus, which means I have to get back to studying for my end of trimester exams. Good luck to all the students this week!