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Bath time
The Chinese bathhouse

What can international spa operators venturing into China learn from the country’s traditional spa bathhouse offering?

By Lee David Stephens | Published in Spa Business 2012 issue 1


In recent years, hundreds of millions of Chinese people have come out of poverty and hit the middle classes with money to burn. In turn, the growth of luxury five-star resorts is booming. These resorts, however, only cater to a very small percentage of the population (which still equates to millions of people), with the majority of the ‘emerging wealthy’ opting to spend hours in a traditional Chinese spa bathhouse instead.

Most Chinese cities are peppered with brightly lit five-storey buildings with the Chinese characters for spa – ?? (water therapy) – above the door. These authentic bathhouses are a far cry from five-star resort spas and the differences are intrinsic to cultural behaviours. In the west, we like order, peace and quiet, health juices and alone-time in our spas. In the east, we like social interaction, noise, food and stimulation. The west deprives the senses for relaxation; the east bombards them for enjoyment.

Westerners visiting a Chinese spa of this type will be in for a surprise. Enter to be greeted by a gaggle of well-groomed, uniformed hostesses who will charge a nominal entrance fee to spend eight hours at the ??, which will be deducted from any massage treatments you choose.

The first floor will typically be full of groups of entire families clad in bathrobes eating fried noodles at the buffet, drinking tea and smoking in their armchairs while chatting loudly and generally socialising. The second floor might have a variety of wet features – hydrotherapy baths, steamrooms and saunas – as well as steaming teapots, armchairs and the steady hum of chit chat. 

The third floor will be crammed with the most comfortable lounge chairs designed for Chinese foot reflexology. And each chair will boast its own individual TV and in some cases its own ashtray. 

Floor four could be a mix of massage rooms with one, two or up to five massage tables in each. Some with TV, some without, mostly you will be clothed in the bathrobes or kimonos and the pressure point massage begins. Staff will chat lightly among each other while they take you though the phases of a gruelling tui na pressure point massage only to leave you on cloud nine, not quite sure if your euphoria is because the treatment is over of if you are genuinely feeling the benefits. The fifth floor is a quieter place, somewhere to lie down and sleep, rest and switch off. Strewn throughout the floor are beds, loungers or tatamis in alcoves divided by curtains. The only noise that you are likely to hear is the hypnotic snoring of a distant patron. Spend as much time here as you like (or until your eight-hour pass runs out). 

Westerners might expect to see a variety of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments on the menu such as acupuncture, gua sha and ba guan. However, the Chinese typically leave these to medical doctors and don’t associate them with their spa buildings. In fact, many local TCM medicines use animal parts such as ground deer antlers, which in the west would be considered a far cry from healthy, organic and Zen-like treatments.

As a western operator, you may read the above and think that it’s completely wrong – noise and smoking in the spa? But this is perfectly fine for 1.3 billion Chinese citizens.They go to spa to feel better about themselves inside and out, the end result is much the same as that in the west, just the way that they get there is very different.

l Chatting loudly and socialising is typical in bathhouses Credit: www.sinodefenceforum.com
FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Discover the perfect blend of style, innovation and flexibility with Living Earth Crafts’ Insignia 2.0 Ellipse
Living Earth Crafts has launched the new Insignia 2.0 Ellipse™ Multi-purpose Treatment Table, combining award-winning comfort and striking design aesthetics with operational excellence. [more...]

Metawell: unlocking the possibilities in a new era of wellness
A decade ago, the Gharieni Group began pioneering the integration of advanced wellness technologies into its spa and treatment beds. This innovative approach has since become one of the industry's most significant disruptions and groundbreaking trends. [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
Oakworks Inc

Oakworks is a US-based FSC-certified manufacturer of spa, massage, and medical equipment. [more...]
AMRA Skincare

In 2014, AMRA Skincare was launched into the world’s most prestigious five-star luxury hotels, wit [more...]
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22-22 Jun 2024

World Bathing Day

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22-24 Jun 2024

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News   Products   Magazine   Subscribe
Bath time
The Chinese bathhouse

What can international spa operators venturing into China learn from the country’s traditional spa bathhouse offering?

By Lee David Stephens | Published in Spa Business 2012 issue 1


In recent years, hundreds of millions of Chinese people have come out of poverty and hit the middle classes with money to burn. In turn, the growth of luxury five-star resorts is booming. These resorts, however, only cater to a very small percentage of the population (which still equates to millions of people), with the majority of the ‘emerging wealthy’ opting to spend hours in a traditional Chinese spa bathhouse instead.

Most Chinese cities are peppered with brightly lit five-storey buildings with the Chinese characters for spa – ?? (water therapy) – above the door. These authentic bathhouses are a far cry from five-star resort spas and the differences are intrinsic to cultural behaviours. In the west, we like order, peace and quiet, health juices and alone-time in our spas. In the east, we like social interaction, noise, food and stimulation. The west deprives the senses for relaxation; the east bombards them for enjoyment.

Westerners visiting a Chinese spa of this type will be in for a surprise. Enter to be greeted by a gaggle of well-groomed, uniformed hostesses who will charge a nominal entrance fee to spend eight hours at the ??, which will be deducted from any massage treatments you choose.

The first floor will typically be full of groups of entire families clad in bathrobes eating fried noodles at the buffet, drinking tea and smoking in their armchairs while chatting loudly and generally socialising. The second floor might have a variety of wet features – hydrotherapy baths, steamrooms and saunas – as well as steaming teapots, armchairs and the steady hum of chit chat. 

The third floor will be crammed with the most comfortable lounge chairs designed for Chinese foot reflexology. And each chair will boast its own individual TV and in some cases its own ashtray. 

Floor four could be a mix of massage rooms with one, two or up to five massage tables in each. Some with TV, some without, mostly you will be clothed in the bathrobes or kimonos and the pressure point massage begins. Staff will chat lightly among each other while they take you though the phases of a gruelling tui na pressure point massage only to leave you on cloud nine, not quite sure if your euphoria is because the treatment is over of if you are genuinely feeling the benefits. The fifth floor is a quieter place, somewhere to lie down and sleep, rest and switch off. Strewn throughout the floor are beds, loungers or tatamis in alcoves divided by curtains. The only noise that you are likely to hear is the hypnotic snoring of a distant patron. Spend as much time here as you like (or until your eight-hour pass runs out). 

Westerners might expect to see a variety of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments on the menu such as acupuncture, gua sha and ba guan. However, the Chinese typically leave these to medical doctors and don’t associate them with their spa buildings. In fact, many local TCM medicines use animal parts such as ground deer antlers, which in the west would be considered a far cry from healthy, organic and Zen-like treatments.

As a western operator, you may read the above and think that it’s completely wrong – noise and smoking in the spa? But this is perfectly fine for 1.3 billion Chinese citizens.They go to spa to feel better about themselves inside and out, the end result is much the same as that in the west, just the way that they get there is very different.

l Chatting loudly and socialising is typical in bathhouses Credit: www.sinodefenceforum.com
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FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Discover the perfect blend of style, innovation and flexibility with Living Earth Crafts’ Insignia 2.0 Ellipse
Living Earth Crafts has launched the new Insignia 2.0 Ellipse™ Multi-purpose Treatment Table, combining award-winning comfort and striking design aesthetics with operational excellence. [more...]

Metawell: unlocking the possibilities in a new era of wellness
A decade ago, the Gharieni Group began pioneering the integration of advanced wellness technologies into its spa and treatment beds. This innovative approach has since become one of the industry's most significant disruptions and groundbreaking trends. [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
Oakworks Inc

Oakworks is a US-based FSC-certified manufacturer of spa, massage, and medical equipment. [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

22-22 Jun 2024

World Bathing Day

Worldwide,
22-24 Jun 2024

IECSC Las Vegas

Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, United States
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
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