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Blind massage has a long history in China.
The tradition is traced back to the Buddhist monk Jianzhen who became blind in old age due to an infection. In the 1990s the practice began to spread across the country and in 1996 the China Massage Association of Blind Practitioners was founded. At least 120,000 blind people are working in the industry in the country, according to the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF).
The massages practiced by blind masseurs belong to a form of tuina (推拿), a traditional Chinese massage therapy. According to the World Blind Union Asia Pacific in 2018 there were over 17.5 million people with severe visual impairment or blind people in China, thus representing one of the largest groups of disabled people in the country.
Although policies have been introduced over the years to encourage the inclusion of blind people, this group often fails to access the labor market.
Photos by Matteo Damiani