Chinese Mothers and Zuo Yuezi

Chinese Postpartum Traditions

Dating back to 960, Chinese mothers have been practicing the postpartum tradition of zuo yuezi (or “sitting the month”), which requires that, depending on the interpretation, the abstain from anything that could drain their bodies more. This could mean not taking showers, not leaving the house, adhering to strict diets, and avoiding any physical activity. The idea behind this is that childbirth drains a mother of her chi, which is said to be carried in ones blood by traditional Chinese medicine. Like many ancient traditions, it is being met with ever-loosening interpretations as the generations continue, but is still widely practiced in modern Chinese culture today. In this article we will discuss the ideology behind zuo yuezi, and the impact of modern postpartum practices on this ancient tradition.

The History of Zuo Yuezi

Ancient Chinese medicine has been focused around the idea of balance, both in the body and in life itself. According to tradition, a persons good health is brought on by a balance of Yin (dark/cold) and Yang (light/hot). These two opposites combined with chi (life force) are what keeps everyone healthy and in a good state of health. When a woman gives birth to a child, she loses chi through the loss of blood and fluids, which inevitably throws the balance of yin and yang off center. This, in turn, can lead to poor physical health and other complications. By practicing zuo yuezi, a woman will reduce her loss of chi, and begin naturally restoring the balance within herself.

How This Translates to Modern Postpartum Practices

While many mothers across China still practice zuo yuezi, the rise of social media and the inevitable modernization of the country and its traditions has loosened the restrictions they place upon themselves. Instead of abstaining from air conditioning and basic hygiene, new mothers are spending up to $27,000 per month to stay in care centers specifically designed for them to recuperate from childbirth.  In these centers, round the clock nannies apply damp washcloths to foreheads, utilize breast pumps (like the one here:, and turn up air thermostats to aid the recovery process. Many mothers simply do not adhere to the practice at all anymore, and even otherwise traditional parents scoff at the notion of “sitting the month”.

What is the Trend Moving Forward?

While it is clear that modernization has slowly been pushing more extreme traditions to the wayside, the fact remains that many mother still do, and will, continue to practice zuo yuezi. How the practice continues to evolve with time is something that remains to be seen however, and if the trends continue the way they have been, it seems that it will inevitably transform into something different all together in the near future.

Zuo Yuezi Video Discussion

You may also like

Leave a Reply

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