Let me start by saying that this post isn’t meant to be condescending or written with an ironic tone.
Having said that, what’s up with the coin rubbing for healing purposes here in Indonesia?
After the gym last night, I dropped by the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I was going down the aisle, a maid (I believe) was blocking my way – before I politely asked if I may pass, I noticed massive red streaks down her neck and going down her back. For a moment I wondered if she has been beaten or something, as it was obviously something that had recently damaged her skin. Then I remembered that it’s a very common healing practice to (correct me if I’m wrong) rub coins down the body (only the back?) of an ailing person. They rub with such intensity that it causes temporary streaks to show all down the body.
I’m very accepting of new ideas and especially Eastern approaches to medicine. I believe many Western countries dope themselves up with too many medications and survive on horrendous diets – but this one I don’t get. Part of my theory is that perhaps the pain and damaging effect of the coin rubbings may release natural endorphins – in effect releasing pain killers into the body? Is the pain a distraction from what other ailments may be affecting the person? Is is psycho-somatic in nature? Is it something class driven (used by wealthy as well as average person)? Is it Indonesian in roots or Chinese as well?
If anyone can provide a clear answer to this, it’d be one less mystery that I deal with on a daily basis here. Last time I posed a question relating to “masuk angin” I was even more confused by the answers given and never had an explanation that settled my curiosity.
Note: I found an article on Wikipedia shortly after posting this – it offers some insight, but I’d still like to hear Indonesian perspectives on this topic.
Gua sha (??) is a technique used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Gua sha (pronounced “gwa shar,”) involves firmly rubbing a person’s skin with a ceramic soup spoon or large coin. The goal is to relieve stagnation, or in other words, to clear some illness from the body by getting it to move. Gua sha is used commonly on respiratory illnesses, for example, where the skin of the upper back, neck, and chest may be rubbed. Gua sha is known for leaving red and purple marks on the skin that look painful but are not. Well-meaning practitioners of western medicine are sometimes shocked at the sight of these marks and fear that a child with the marks has been abused. For professionals in this position, it is helpful to be familiar with the appearance of gua sha marks and to understand its traditional therapeutic value. It is helpful to be able to make the distinction between gua sha marks and signs of abuse. Gua sha is not known to be harmful. The technique called cupping also leaves distinctive, bruise-like marks on the skin, but is also harmless.
Another article provided some humor as well:
A Vietnamese girl in her first year at an American elementary school, was not feeling well one morning, so her mother rubbed the back of her neck with a coin. When the school staff discovered the welts on the girls neck, they immediately assumed they were seeing a case of child abuse and reported the family to the authorities.
In each case the patient was practicing a traditional form of healing known as coin rubbing. There are several variations, including heating the coin, but they all involve vigorously rubbing the body with a coin. This produces red welts, which can distract medical staff from the real problem or be mistaken for child abuse. It is important to recognize and become familiar with this practice, and not to be distracted from the real problem or mistakenly make accusations of child abuse.
Asians rubbing their children with coins is not any more abuse than Americans having thin pieces of metal wrapped around their children’s teeth and tightened until their teeth move out of place. Braces are usually applied for merely aesthetic reasons. Coin rubbing, at least, is an attempt to heal. Apparently, it often works, only the failures show up in the medical system.
Many interesting stories about cultural clashing can be found here – culturediversity.org.