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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Medicated bath of the Yao minority

By Teng Mu

September 30

Medicated bath every day, healthy and long life.

Medicated bath every day, healthy and long life.

As one of the world’s most famous styles of baths, the medicated bath of the Yao minority is a traditional Chinese healthcare method. It was listed as one of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.

The medicated bath of the Yao minority is a method of bathing that originated in Congjiang County of Guizhou Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture. It has quite a long history. It is said that in the past, Yao people were very poor. They didn’t have enough food or clothes, and did not have fixed residences. They lived in the ancient forests of high altitudes alongside poisonous snakes and insects. Due to the lack of medicine, the Yao ancestors invented the medicated bath.

A Yao girl makes medicinal soup. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
A Yao girl makes medicinal soup. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
The formulas of the Yao minority’s medicated bath are different according to people’s needs, their respective health conditions, and even different seasons. According to the survey, there are about 188 formulas for the treatment of 47 diseases. It is said that almost everyone in the village can recognize the plants required for the bath.

A Yao girl sorts herbs. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
A Yao girl sorts herbs. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
A medicated bath requires several steps of preparation. First, the Yao people pick herbs from the remote mountains and forests and sort them by hand. Then the herbs are stewed into a medicinal soup following the order of “roots first, then branches, then leaves.” Afterwards, the soup is poured into a vat made of China fir, with moderate density and temperature. The bath-taker sits in the vat, lets the medical elements permeate throughout the body, and enjoys an increase in blood circulation and an expulsion of toxins. The bath is especially effective for gynecopathy, skin diseases and colds.

The medicinal soup. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
The medicinal soup. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
Taking medicated baths usually follow the order of “the old before the young” and “men before women.” If there’s a guest coming to visit, an invitation for a medicated bath and a bowl of oil tea is the highest hospitality. The Yao bath is now not only popular within the Yao minority group, but more widely as well.

A Yao minority girl takes a medicated bath. [Image Credit: photos-tock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
A Yao girl takes a medicated bath. [Image Credit: photos-tock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
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