Guasha: History

Southeast Asia

This scraping therapy is over two thousand years old. It is uncertain if this technique actually originated in China, but in Chinese scriptures of approximately 200 BC, there was already talk of a scraping method to scrape complaints and/or diseases from the body.

This method can not only be found in China, but in entire Southeast Asia. In countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In Vietnam this scraping technique is known as Cao Gio, in Laos as Khoud Lam, in Cambodia as Kos Khyol, in Thailand as Hak and in Indonesia as Kerik.

In most of the above mentioned countries a copper coin is used as scraping instrument. But other material is also used for scraping. It is a folk therapy, which means that everybody scrapes with what is present. In China people used and still use Chinese porcelain spoons. The rounded shape of these spoons make it to be a good scraping instrument. But also horn is a material which can easily be worked to make it into a scraping instrument. And horn was plentiful, because even in rural China a lot of buffalos were present. Also wood and bamboo and even lids of jars were used.

Most villages in rural China and other Southeast Asian countries have their own guasha-therapist. But for many of the minor discomforts they or a family member used the scraping instrument themselves. Scraping not only takes places when complaints or diseases occur, but also to prevent. Every day, head, arms and legs and sometimes the chest are treated to prevent complaints.

After a period of time special Guasha instruments are developed, from the horn that the farmers take from the horns of their water buffalos, into jade (for those who could afford to do this), the stone to which the Chinese ascribe “healing” powers. In any case jade is a stone that conducts the energy (Chi) well.

The scraping technique from Indonesia, (the one with the copper coin) is best known. The skin is rubbed with warm oil and the copper coin is used to scrape (Kerik or Kerok). Often used as a means against colds and fevers, muscle ache and several other complaints.

In many countries like Indonesia this technique was and is used as home remedy. Passed on from generation to generation. There would always be someone in the family that took the coin in case of disorders and disease.

The scraping of the coin is best known as scraping method not only in Indonesia, but also in other countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand the copper coin is most often used for scraping.

In countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia oils with menthol or camphor containing oils are used, which can sometimes cause complications such as burn marks.
In the seventies, when many Asians from these countries settled in the United States, large misunderstandings arose between the two cultures. Many children were taken from their homes by government bodies, because the parents where charged with and convicted for child abuse, while the real reason was a Guasha-treatment.


In 2000 a movie was made in China with the title “The Guasha Treatment”, telling the story based on these misunderstandings. An impressive movie, wanting to bring clarity in the phenomenon Guasha, with which many Americans had a problem when many thousands of immigrants came to the United States and brought this technique with them.

Already in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644) Chang Ching Yueh described in his book some examples of these methods and explained in simple terms the working of it. “The inside of the body is connected to the surface. That is why diseasing factors will move downward, if one strikes downward. That poisonous material moves upward, is disreputable, and the unnatural. That they move downward is the natural. To convert disreputable (unnatural) to a natural process, is that what heals the disease.”


Professor Lu Chi Ru from Taiwan has examined this method, passed on from generation to generation, and deepened this through medical study and practical utilization and placed it on a medical scientific level, after which it became possible to follow an education in the Guasha techniques.
Currently Guasha is very popular again in China and is utilised in many treatment centres and clinics.

Arya Nielsen

In 1976 Arya Nielsen, a famous American acupuncturist, came in contact with Gua Sha. She learned the three techniques from the Chinese doctor James Tin Yao So to bring the Sha to the surface: gua sha (scrape, scratch), Pak Sha (slap, splash) and Tsien Sha (pinch, push). The most popular method is Gua Sha.

Arya Nielsen was so impressed with Gua Sha that she started teaching this technique to everybody who wanted to learn it. In 1995 she published her first book about Guasha outside of China. Surely because of this book but also by her school, Arya Nielsen brings Guasha to the attention of many people, both in the US and in Europe.

These days, you can find the Guasha-therapy in many countries of Europa.

Zhang Xiuqin

In 1991, Prof Lu Chi Ru moved from Taiwan to China. After many years of studying, she discovered a way to combine the centuries-old scraping therapy (Gua Sha) with meridian teachings. With this combination, more and more people were treated successfully. In China, her findings were checked and people were enthusiastic about the results.


From the moment she began her career as a physician, Prof Dr Zhang Xiuqin had always been very interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Specifically, she felt drawn to scraping therapy. Prof Lu Chi Ru’s study results further ignited her enthusiasm for this particular field and she decided to research scraping therapy.


Through literature search in ancient Chinese books and writings, she concluded that the first recordings of this scraping technique dated back to the 17th century. She met with many experts, physicians and professors in the field of Chinese medicine employed at excellent hospitals.

To understand the effects of the scraping technique better, she studied various theories on micro-circulation. Also, she explored age-old methods of the scraping therapy and combined them with modern (health) sciences and techniques to develop a new method for the scraping technique.


She expounded further on the combination of Prof Lu Chi Ru’s scraping technique and meridian teachings, and in 1955, by the grace of much research and testing by practical experience, she introduced a new avenue of scraping therapy based on reflexology and meridian teachings, named: ‘Holographic Meridian Scraping Therapy’. This new form of scraping therapy is a combination of three-in-one: treating complaints/disease, making a diagnosis at the same time, and a preventative treatment.


In 1995, together with Prof Hao Wanshan of the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, she publishes the book ‘Holograpic Meridian Scraping Therapy’. The book marks a tremendous improvement in the world of Gua Sha because, until that time, very few books had been published with regard to the new developments in scraping techniques.

She did this in order to learn more about Chinese techniques, such as acupuncture, moxa, and Chinese massage, as well as new technological developments concerning studies and therapies in the hospitals. The methods described by Dr Zhang Xiuqin offer new possibilities for drug-free therapies. Nowadays, many people use her methods, and the simplicity and ease by which this therapy can be done increases its popularity. Partly because of this popularity, Holographic Meridian Scraping Therapy is valued greatly by medical authorities in China.


By the efforts of Dr Zhang Xiuqin, her research, development and applications, scraping therapy has been sophisticated and brought to a higher level. A technique capable of allowing Qi and Blood to flow through the body again, which will lead to better health.