Traditional Thai Massage recognized by UNESCO


At the 14th session of the Committee for the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Bogota, Colombia (Dec-2019), Traditional Thai Massage joined a growing list of practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, or skills considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage.

Intangible cultural heritage is those intangible elements that help demonstrate the diversity of cultural heritage and raise awareness about its importance.  It is not just the cultural manifestation itself but also the plethora of skills and knowledge which is passed from one generation to another. The social and economic value of this transmission is as relevant for minority groups as it is for mainstream social groups, and is equally important for developing and developed States.

Traditional Thai Massage - UNESCO

Art, Science, Culture

Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage is regarded as part of the art, science, and culture of traditional Thai healthcare. As a non-medicinal remedy and manual therapy, it involves bodily manipulation in which the practitioner helps rebalance the patient’s body, energy, and structure to treat illnesses believed to be caused by the obstruction of energy flow along ‘sen’, lines understood to crisscross the human body.

This manipulation is intended to normalize the four body elements: earth, water, wind and fire. To open up blocked routes,

Nuad Thai therapists perform a combination of manipulations using their hands, elbows, knees and feet, together with herbal hot compresses to reduce inflammation. Presently, Nuad Thai is classified into two main types: Nuad Thai therapy and Nuad Thai for health promotion.

Nuad Thai has its roots in self-care in Thai peasant society of the past; every village had massage healers whom villagers would turn to when they had muscle aches from working in the field. Over time, these experiences have evolved into a formal system of knowledge, and Nuad Thai is now an income-generating occupation.

In 1985, the Project for the Revitalization of Thai Massage was launched to revitalize and maximize knowledge of Nuad Thai, and an initiative has also been taken to form an alliance of Nuad Thai practitioners who come together annually.

Wellness Related Heritage Listings

Other wellness related heritage listings from across Asia Pacific on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list include:

Then, Vietnam

Silat, Malaysia

Khon Masked Dance, Thailand

Dongdang Sayana, Malaysia

Lum medicinal bathing of Sowa Rigpa, Tibet, China

Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet, Cambodia

Chapei Dang, Cambodia

Saman Dance, Indonesia

Click HERE for a complete ICH registry listing

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