Like anywhere else, menstruation in China is a deeply personal and yet evocative topic with multiple associations that vary widely by geographical region, age, gender, class, education, personal circumstances and many other factors. As an indicator of a woman’s reproductive capacity, it was the object of careful observation and manipulation in traditional China where the continuation of the family line by providing descendants was women’s primary social function. Consequently, the maturing and aging of the female body was conceptualized in stages of seven years, with the onset of menstruation occurring at the age of fourteen (or 2×7) and menopause at forty-nine (or 7×7). The Chinese term for menstruation, yuejing (‘monthly period’), expresses its direct associations with the moon—and thereby implicitly with the yin aspect of the yin-yang dualism, femininity, fluidity and ocean tides, as well as with cyclical regularity.
While menstruation is still not a popular topic for polite dinner-table conversations, modern sex education classes ensure that young girls now approach the onset of menstruation openly as a natural and positive event, marking their entry into adulthood. Traditionally, Chinese women have observed a wide range of precautions during their menstrual period, such as not washing their hair or ingesting cold drinks and cooling foods, avoiding wet feet and cold water in general, and refraining from strenuous physical exercise. These practices have become less prevalent in mainland China since the Cultural Revolution and the concurrent stress on gender equality, but are still widely observed in Taiwan and other more conservative places.
Particularly for middle-aged women, menstruation is regarded as a time of increased debility during which exposure to cold or exertion can cause severe health problems.
The treatment of menstrual conditions, ranging from headaches and cramps to abdominal lumps, amenorrhea and infertility, is one of the most popular reasons why women consult practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and ingest herbal decoctions. A careful diagnosis analyses the timing, duration, volume, colour and consistency of the menses, as well as secondary symptoms. This provides a traditional Chinese physician with a window into the patient’s general health, reflecting such pathologies as general blood depletion, imbalance between yin and yang, cold in the uterus, or a lack of circulation and impeded flow of bodily fluids. Menstrual blood is also of central significance for women’s reproductive functions: The cessation of the menses during pregnancy and lactation is explained in medical theory as due to the fact that menstrual blood provides nourishment for the foetus during pregnancy and, after delivery, ascends to transform into breast milk. Thus, Chinese physicians have for centuries defined the gendered female body by the maxim, ‘in women, blood is the ruler’.
In conclusion, the recurring loss of blood during menstruation is seen as predisposing women to chronic depletion and systemic vulnerability, often necessitating the ingestion of a jujube decoction and other tonics. But it is also interpreted positively as a necessary elimination of bodily waste products. Ultimately, the regular cycles of movement within the female body symbolize the generative power of the female body.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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  • Menstruation — Men stru*a tion, n. The discharge of the menses; also, the state or the period of menstruating. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • Menstrūation — (lat., Menses, monatliche Reinigung, Regel, Periode, griech. Katamenien), die beim geschlechtsreifen Weibe periodisch in Intervallen von etwa vier Wochen auftretende, mehrere Tage anhaltende Blutung aus der Gebärmutter. Sie tritt in unsern… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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