Soaked Goji Berries, Medicinal Broths – Young People’s Enthusiasm for Modern Chinese Health Culture

During the Christmas season in Chinese companies, young people collectively take out thermos flasks filled with soaked goji berries. During lunch breaks, they may go to health centers for foot massages or cupping therapy. After work, they prepare medicinal porridge. Nowadays, an increasing number of young people are joining the trend of modern Chinese health culture, making wellness a lifestyle of choice. Why are young people so enthusiastic about this new Chinese health culture? Which health practices are more popular among them? While focusing on health, what cognitive misconceptions should be avoided? Journalists conducted interviews to explore these questions.

Popularity of Health Concepts Among Young People

“At our place, it’s mostly young people from nearby offices who come for foot massages or cupping therapy on workdays,” says Xiao Cong, a foot therapist at a health center near Beijing’s Zhongguancun. During the journalist’s visit, five therapists, four of whom were serving clients, were busy during the lunch break.

Contrary to traditional expectations that foot massages, cupping, and massages are popular among the middle-aged and elderly, this particular establishment’s main clientele consists of young professionals working in Zhongguancun’s internet companies. The manager, Mr. Gao, mentioned, “The local older residents usually come in the evening after finishing their household chores. Most of the time, it’s the young people who visit during weekdays.”

Activities such as sunbathing during the dog days of summer, using thermos flasks to brew health tea at work, and indulging in moxibustion and foot baths after work indicate that young people today are increasingly willing to explore new Chinese health practices. According to a survey by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily, 74.3% of surveyed young people feel they have an awareness of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) health practices. Additionally, 94.0% are familiar with TCM health concepts, and 93.3% have tried various TCM diagnostic and therapeutic methods.

Specifically, gua sha (scraping therapy) is the most popular TCM health practice, with 45.7% of young respondents having tried it. Cupping follows closely, with 45.1% having experienced it, and 40.9% have undergone pulse diagnosis. Other practices like moxibustion, massage, and traditional Chinese herbal medicine are also relatively common, with percentages ranging from 32.7% to 38.7%. Some young people also explore health practices such as dietary therapy and Tai Chi for body conditioning.

Understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Health Concepts

The survey revealed that 48.6% of respondents were familiar with the concept of “eating in moderation and not to the point of being overly full or hungry.” Traditional TCM health concepts such as “nourishing yang in spring and summer, nourishing yin in autumn and winter” and “going to bed early and waking up early in summer, and going to bed late and waking up late in winter” were recognized by 45.8% and 44.4% of respondents, respectively. Apart from these, around 30% of the surveyed young people were familiar with other TCM health concepts like “when there is pain, there is no smooth flow; when there is smooth flow, there is no pain,” “treat not only the existing illness but also prevent future illnesses,” and “all diseases arise from emotions, and when emotions are light, diseases are also light.”

Treating the Body as a Long-Term Investment

When health examination reports indicate warning signs, and overall well-being seems compromised, young professionals like Xiao Li, an internet “coder” in Beijing’s West Sanqi, realize that lifestyle changes are necessary.

“Our work schedules are irregular. Although we know our lifestyles are unhealthy, the stress from work and the fast-paced lifestyle make it challenging to maintain a balanced routine. As small health issues accumulate, I increasingly recognize that our bodies deserve long-term investment. Hence, I’ve started to explore wellness concepts and methods in daily life,” says Xiao Li.

A pharmacist at a Tong Ren Tang pharmacy near Beijing’s Aerospace Bridge mentioned that more young people are coming to purchase traditional Chinese herbs and ingredients for preparing medicinal diets. Ingredients like poria cocos, dahurian angelica root, goji berries, and astragalus root are gaining popularity. The pharmacist said, “This summer, the traditional Chinese medicine version of sour plum soup became popular. Many young people around here stopped drinking milk tea. They come to our pharmacy for prescriptions containing ingredients like dark plum, tangerine peel, hawthorn, and licorice. We also offer decoction services for their convenience.”

Miss Liu, working in the consulting industry, shared that wellness is a common topic among colleagues. They frequently exchange experiences, and many have shifted from organizing dinner gatherings to “wellness sessions.”

Wu Daiqi, CEO of Shenzhen’s Siqi Sheng Company and a brand management expert, believes that the increasing emphasis on new Chinese health culture among young people is closely related to China’s cultural confidence. Traditional Chinese medicine and herbs are integral to China’s rich cultural heritage, and the younger generation, growing up in an era of material abundance, is discovering the charm of Chinese traditions. Businesses are recognizing this appeal and are actively incorporating traditional Chinese culture into their branding. This instills a sense of cultural pride in young people, making them more willing to embrace traditional Chinese culture. Additionally, the irregular lifestyles of young people, including staying up late and irregular dietary habits, contribute to their belief that adopting wellness practices can counteract the negative effects of these habits.

“At present, many young people have relatively good living conditions, providing them the means to consume wellness products. In addition, the internet era allows easy access to various health and wellness information and the purchase of related products and services. These factors contribute to the formation of a wellness-seeking habit among young people,” said Zhang Yi, Chief Analyst at iMedia Research.

Scientific Approach to Health Maintenance

Dr. Fan Su, Deputy Chief Physician at the Wangjing Hospital of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, notes that the awareness of TCM health practices among young people is growing. When faced with suboptimal health conditions that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for diseases, many young people actively seek TCM assistance. Whether it’s through massage, cup

ping, or scraping therapy, these practices effectively alleviate subhealth issues and contribute to disease prevention.

“However, it’s crucial not to overemphasize health maintenance. We need to be wary of unscrupulous businesses creating health anxieties. Health maintenance should also be approached scientifically,” advises Zhang Yi. He emphasizes that the primary focus should be on lifestyle factors such as adequate rest, a balanced diet, and moderate exercise, while also cautioning against excessive consumption of health supplements.

Wu Daiqi recommends that young people should view TCM holistically and systematically. Understanding the essence of health maintenance is essential, and one should not be blindly attracted to conceptualized products from some businesses, avoiding impulsive consumption.

Guo Yi, Vice President of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, emphasizes that effective health maintenance involves cultivating good lifestyle habits. While traditional Chinese tea is beneficial, it may not be suitable for everyone, and more is not necessarily better. Rational use based on individual constitution and circumstances is essential. “In pursuing health, we must also approach TCM’s characteristics and potential herbal effects with rationality. We should respect and pass on traditional culture, allowing it to continuously rejuvenate in modern society. Balanced diet, regular sleep, moderate exercise, and emotional harmony are the most effective means of maintaining physical and mental health,” says Guo Yi.

According to Dr. Fan Su, in addition to diet, not everyone is suitable for intense exercises like running or playing basketball. In contrast, TCM practices such as Tai Chi and the Eight Section Brocade emphasize long-term effects. TCM seeks balance, and these gentle exercises, while appearing low in intensity, demand coordination and physical fitness. Therefore, they may be more suitable for some individuals.

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