Celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton et al have all been snapped sporting large circular bruises – the telltale giant spots from an ancient Chinese detox method called cupping – on their backs, in recent months. Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray is another A-lister who swears by this alternative to acupuncture, so CD-Traveller thought it was high time to find out what all the fuss is about.

Victoria Beckham Cupping

I nervously tried this traditional Chinese remedy – reported to boost blood circulation and suck out toxins – late one night in Beijing (Beijingers do love their late night treatments) at Oriental Taipan. This serene spa has long been a favorite with locals and laowai (foreigners) alike in search of some rejuvenation and, with several locations all over town, chances are there’s always one nearby.

The session started with a wonderful oil-free (personally I’ve always been rather alarmed by the pungent oils used in Ayurveda) message: a therapist kneaded my body from head to toe using a magic muscle melting combination of Swedish and deep tissue techniques. So far, so “spa-vellous" – but then the cupping commenced…

It wasn’t pleasant (make no mistake; this treatment is definitely more productive than pampering). My therapist showed no mercy as she moved the suction cups across my back hovering up swathes of skin in quick succession, so as to encourage the flow of qi (energy) around my body. Fast forward 15 minutes and I was left with a mass of sore, swollen and angry looking red welts – the more toxic you are, the deeper the bruising – proof that I had definitely overdone it during the festive season.

Afterwards, however, while enjoying some health-conscious cuisine against a backdrop of the soothing sound of pan pipes, I did feel strangely invigorated and my shoulders certainty felt looser – though that might merely have been relief that my torture was over.

CD Traveller’s verdict? If you’re planning a trip to China, give the cupping craze a go: it’s authentic, affordable, good enough for Gwyneth and, if nothing else, makes a great dinner party story.

Oriental Taipan has branches throughout Beijing. See www.taipan.com.cn. Typically the spa is open from 12 noon-12 midnight daily. Oriental Taipan recommends the full body massage (RMB168 for 60 minutes) to help get you relaxed and ready for the cupping services which costs 68RMB for a further 20 minutes.

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