Being Fish Food: Chinese Medicine in Xianning

Xianning Nature Trail

“Do you come? Next week, to the hot springs? You can heal.” Tracy asked me a few weeks ago. I, being ignorant of all hot springs, asked her what they were.

“It’s a place where you can heal anything. They have many springs to fix you. I want to go in the spring because then my feet will smell good for summer. You come with?” She smiled, and nodded with enthusiasm as if to solidify the truthiness of her claim. Considering my recent outbreak of acne and fever blisters on my face, the conjunctivitis I had last week, and the current spattering of bug bites on my legs— I was down. On Wednesday, I hopped on a train with five of my CT’s (Chinese Teachers) and we arrived in Xianning an hour later. Xianning is gorgeous. I felt closer to the good ole’ midwest under the blue skies, hot sun, small population of less than three million, and the freshest air I’ve breathed since my arrival in Asia. We spent most of the morning walking through the flower spattered nature trails along the river, looking at different shops, eating fresh watermelon from the fruit carts, and taking pictures.

In the afternoon, we walked along the river and up to the resort where we paid 88 rmb (~15 usd).  The attendant led us to swanky guest house to change, and prep ourselves for the springs.  Being the well-trained and over-prepared Midwesterner that I am, I had brought a mom-ish tote with a towel, drinks, snacks, and the whole bit, but turns out, the resort was all inclusive, no tote bag required. It might be time to let go of my dorky and instinctual need to control the environment by bringing my entire life with me wherever I go.

Hot Springs
Hot Springs


The hot springs were outside, and they were breath taking. Each spring was surrounded by terraces and bonsai trees draped in Chinese lanterns, and some of the pools were under pavilions or bamboo domes. First we picked the doctor fish pool where tiny fish swarmed us and ate our dead skin. I am extraordinarily ticklish and HATE it when people touch my feet, so lying still in a pool long enough for the doctor fish to eat off my dead skin, was possibly one of the biggest accomplishments. Of my life. The key was carrying on normal conversation. Once I got that down, being fish food was easy.

Cherry Blossom Season!


We probably soaked in six to eight different springs, and each one had a different purpose. One had a brew of Chinese medicine to improve kidney function, another one to brighten and whiten the skin, and another one for all over good health. Chinese Medicine is very cool. It’s been around for thousands of years, and it doesn’t coincide with the modern scientific community. The springs were basically big vats of tea brewed with TCM sacks filled with plant and mineral elements. It smelled great. Sadly, my skin problems weren’t healed by the magical powers of the Chinese Medicine, but the whole experience was incredibly peaceful and healing from the stresses of daily life.


Also, take a look at the swimsuits in China. I was a little out of place with my exposed midriff. Getting a tan here is not ideal, so it’s common to go out into the sun wearing a hat, covering as much skin as possible, and maybe even avoiding the sun all together by using an umbrella. My bikini was a little awkward next to my friends who were wearing tank tops and skirts and the more mature female guests wearing t-shirts and shorts. I was the only Westerner at the Hot Springs, and the only person wearing a two piece. The combination of those two aspects earned me an awkward moment with a rogue photographer, an IPhone, and a quick “Hello!”

Avoid the sun!

In other news, I’m exhausted. Happy, but exhausted. Missing home this week.




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