Taiwan's 2,000-year-old knife massage

By: Gogo
2020/07/05 17:49

Today's Vocabulary

1. heal (v.)  
to make or become well again, especially after a cut or other injury

2. cleaver (n.)  
a heavy knife with a large square blade

3. tension(n.)  
a feeling of nervousness before an important or difficult event

4. pummel (v.)  
to hit someone or something repeatedly, especially with your fists (= closed hands)

5. pound (v.)  
to hit or beat repeatedly with a lot of force, or to crush something by hitting it repeatedly

6. fearfully(adv.)
with fear

7. monk (n.)  
a member of a group of religious men who do not marry and usually live together in a monastery

8. undergo (v.)  
to experience something that is unpleasant or something that involves a change

9. resurgence (n.)  
a new increase of activity or interest in a particular subject or idea that had been forgotten for some time

10. ailment (n.)  
an illness

Taiwan's 2,000-year-old knife massage


Lying face down on the massage table, I waited fearfully for the chopping to start. My knife massage therapist, Elsa, was cheerfully wielding two meat cleavers. That’s because, while chopping motions are expected in lots of body massage, in this one, knives do the chopping.

Elsa began by using her hands to press my body and loosen the extra tension I was surely now carrying. Then the cold, steel knives started their gentle pummelling, over my back, arms, and my head. I wouldn’t have known they were knives at work if it wasn’t for the occasional clinking sound, like cutlery against a plate, as they touched. 

When the chopping ended, I must have been asleep. Surprisingly, many people do doze off when pounded by these – admittedly blunt – knives for 70 minutes.

While it looks dangerous, Dao Liao, which translates as“knife massage” or “knife therapy”, is believed to have physical and emotional healing powers and is a form of Chinese medicine that is thought to be more than 2,000 years old. Practitioners say it was first carried out by monks in ancient China. It spread to Japan in the Tang Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago and to Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War in the 1940s.

While knife massage is hard to find today in China and Japan, it has undergone a resurgence in Taiwan in recent years as people have sought it out to deal with the stresses of modern life.

Today, people seek out the therapists’ knives to help relieve physical ailments, improve sleep quality, and deal with the pain of being dumped.


1. Do you know any other traditional therapies?

2. Why does it feel good to get a massage?

3. Have you ever tried massage?

4. Do you know any other ways of releasing?

5. Have you ever helped someone who was feeling stressed?

“Massage has had a possitive effect on every medical condition we've looked at.”

Tiffany Field, Ph. D.

“A massage is just like a movie, really relaxing and a total escape, except in a         massage you're the star. And you don't miss anything by falling asleep!”

Elizabeth Jane Howard