Why Chinese “拔火罐 (báhuǒguàn)” has gained attention at the 2016 Rio Olympics


Another Olympic season has passed, and the same as the past few Olympics since 2008 in Beijing, swimming dominated the headlines. Particularly, the swimmers themselves made headlines from Rio to around the world. The most famous swimmer, 25-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps drew attention this summer with not only his speed in the pool, but also by the purple, leopard-like spots on his back. Were they tattoos? Was he turning into a giraffe? No, these spots are called “cupping marks.”
Michael Phelps has been going through a physical treatment called “拔火罐 (báhuǒguàn).” “Cupping” is a 3,000-year-old Chinese traditional therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to parts of the body which creates suction and is said to help reduce knots, swelling, pain, and inflammation all while increasing blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.
Let’s break down “拔火罐 (báhuǒguàn)”:
拔 (bá): pluck or pull out
火 (huǒ): fire
罐 (guàn): glass or jar
We can combine “火 (huǒ)” and “罐 (guàn)” to make the noun “火罐 (huǒguàn) cupping glass.”


Tā zuótiān qù báhuǒguàn le.
他   昨天  去   拔火罐       了。
He went to try the cupping yesterday.

The word “拔 (bá) pluck or pull out” is a very common verb in daily life for the Chinese. Let’s look at “拔 (bá)” in use:


Tā qù yīyuàn bá yá le.
他 去  医院    拔  牙 了。
He went to the hospital for tooth extraction.

Nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ bá yí xià ěrjī ma?
你 可以  帮  我  拔 一  下  耳机 吗?
Can you help me pick out a pair of headphones?

HSK 3 quiz

1. When you go in for cupping therapy, the tool that is placed on the skin of your back is called the:
A. 火罐 (huǒguàn)
B. 火 (huǒ)
C. 拔 (bá)
D. 拔火罐 (báhuǒguàn)

1 thought on “Why Chinese “拔火罐 (báhuǒguàn)” has gained attention at the 2016 Rio Olympics”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top