It’s the 61st Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (National Day or 国庆节). Partayyy! That’s what it was in Tiananmen Square. Cotton candy, corn on the cob, massive floral displays, and… multi-colored plastic devil horn headbands. I have yet to discover their significance. But in essence, the mood on the square tonight resembled that of our Fourth of July. It was unfortunately (or fortunately) not the security-ridden atmosphere that I’d previously conjured up in my mind. Perhaps last year when China rounded its sixth decade the mood was a bit more conflicted, but I doubt it. All the controversial censorship, arrests, and injustices that plague the foreign press coverage on China feel like bitter annoyances when you stare into the crisp, glistening characters on two giant flat screens that illuminate messages of technological success, economic progress and a harmonious society. There is no looming sense of dissatisfaction here but one of overwhelming pride. After all, tonight’s square wasn’t empty but bustling with a smiling crowd snapping photos of their kids posing with Chinese flags and peace signs. And in the end, what’s not to be proud of? All the bad aside, because every country has its dark side, China’s unprecedented growth in the last twenty years is not to be taken lightly. Recognizing the pressures experienced in the past from both within its borders and abroad we might make rational sense not only of China’s rapid economic development but also of its political system. Of course there are many problems left to tackle here, but every citizen deserves a day to honor and rejoice in the successes of the country they live in.
China is known worldwide for its traditional health practices, but you may not know exactly how those 110-year olds have come so far. Aside from seeking out a clean environment and water, the following are common lifestyle habits that are key to achieving longevity in China:
Root of the Kudzu Vine
Kudzu, also known as “Japanese arrowroot”, is a group of climbing, coiling perennial vines native to much of eastern Asia, southeast Asia, and some Pacific Islands. The root can be ground into powder and is sold in small packs in specialty health stores in China. Combine the powder with fine white sugar and a pinch of cold water before stirring quickly with ½ cup boiling water. The powder will (somewhat magically) turn into a thick mixture within a matter of seconds. Many Chinese who have hit the 100-year mark attribute it to daily bowls of Kudzu, which contain a number of useful isoflavones and help flush toxins out of one’s system (排毒).
Lotus Root Starch
Similar to Kudzu vine, lotus root powder is packed with crucial nutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. Chinese often consume lotus root in the form of a sweetened powder for a concentrated shot of vitamins. In addition, lotus root and seeds are used in a variety of Chinese dishes and soups, with the bitter seeds used to “去火” or cool the body and reduce inflammation.
Nightly Foot Soak
According to Chinese medicine, the foot has around 66 acupuncture points that correspond to different parts of the body. When feet are soaked in hot water, blood circulation improves, which in turn helps to rid the body of toxins (believed to exit through the feet) and strengthen one’s immune system. At the same time, less blood flows to the brain, causing one to feel fatigued— thus, most Chinese are accustomed to soaking their feet right before bedtime. This thousand-year old habit is probably one of the easiest and most relaxing ways to achieve good health.
Light Dinner ~ Light Flavors
Remember that old saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”? Well, the concept holds true in the East as well— many healthy Chinese in their 90’s will tell you that they eat a bowl of congee for dinner with some vegetables and lean meats. Love your food rich and salty? That might not be the best for your long-term health, as the body cannot easily process heavy sauces, oils, spices, and too much salt. Give your digestive system a break once in a while and it will gladly perform for years to come.
Sleep Early, Rise Early
Yes, this kind of lifestyle is difficult to maintain in today’s world, but proper sleep is crucial to ensuring one’s longevity. It’s worth noting that 10 hours of sleep from 2am to noon is not as preferable as 8 hours from 11pm to 7am. The body thrives on routine and is programmed to rise and shine with the sun. Sleeping for a sufficient amount of time is important, but the earlier you can hit the sack, the better. Important detox and repair processes occur throughout each 3-hour block that you’re asleep, so do your best to ensure an uninterrupted 7-8-hours of sleep each night.
~Article as seen in The Pearl Jam, April 2014.