Could the Traditional Chinese Treatment of Lighting Your Crotch on Fire Be the Next Big Spa Service?

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Hold onto your genitals people, because the wacky world of traditional Chinese medicine would like to light them on fire. Sena News, a media outlet based in Shanghai, recently posted a series of images under the headline “Naked men experience ‘roasted alive.'” Sena’s reporter wanted to look into a new kind of thermal heat treatment to see if this was actually something practiced in Chinese spa treatments, or if the entire process was a hoax. The answer – we’re not sure.

The fire massage is said to be part of ancient Chinese medicine, like cupping and acupuncture, which we’ve known to carry over into the mainstream’s obsession to do whatever it takes (whatever is trendy, expensive, and available at a high end retreat center near you) to relieve stress. The Guangming Network reported a detailed description of the practice, which includes a “fire rope”, which is made out of some 20 different types of Chinese herbal grasses. The rope is placed on the participant’s nude body, then covered with plastic wrap to prevent burning during the process. Next to the pile of protection goes two wet towels followed by flammable alcohol. Then, the therapist lights your junk (or back or chest) on fire. The entire process is repeated three times per session and voila, stress free!

The World Wide Web is speckled with first hand accounts of the mythical fire massage. Ben and Phillip, two participants in the Intern China program, claim they found a spot offering a fire massage and decided, “when in China…”. “It actually turned out to be really relaxing, with just a gentle heat relaxing and soothing my 200-pounds-of-sheer-muscle frame,” one writes on the Intern China blog. “Afterwards they put some unknown liquid on your back with a bit of cling-film, and a few minutes later this is far hotter than the fire massage itself!” Although it seems the first hand accounts and photos close the case of the flaming crotch, it seems a large number of Chinese citizens aren’t convinced the fire massage is actually commonly practiced in spas throughout their country. The Nanfang Insider notes the skepticism of Wenzhou Sina News, one of the first publications to surface the more recent images of a person being lit on fire on a massage table. After tons of comments, and a somewhat viral response from the photos, many viewers continued to voice their criticisms of the “ancient” process on Weibo.

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The images are fascinating. Could the fire massage, or the “roasted alive” experience be the next hot treatment on the spa menu? Take a look at the first hand photos below.