UNESCO places Thai massage on List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The soothing, healing power of “nuad Thai” has won global recognition. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated traditional Thai massage as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, voting last week to include it on the organization’s World Heritage list.

Few travelers to the Kingdom regard their visit as complete with experiencing the sensuous centuries-old practice, which involves the kneading of muscles combined with acupressure and other techniques. The popularity of Thai massage has grown with globalization, and Thai massage practitioners are plying their skills on nearly every continent.

“Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage, is regarded as part of the art, science, and culture of traditional Thai healthcare. Nuad Thai therapists perform a combination of manipulations using their hands, elbows, knees, and feet, together with herbal hot compresses to reduce inflammation,” UNESCO wrote on its official website.

“Nuad Thai has its roots in self-care in Thai village society of the past; every community 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,” UNESCO wrote.

UNESCO made the decision at the 14th session of its Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, held in Bogota, Colombia from December 9 to 14. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul welcomed the announcement as n achievement for the Thai people and the Kingdom.

Dr. Pramote Stienrut, deputy director of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, broke the news to the Thai public immediately after the UNESCO vote. He announced the UNESCO decision at Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram in Bangkok, widely known as Wat Pho and the premier center of Thai massage education.

At Wat Pho, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok and a stone’s throw from the old Grand Palace, monks treat patients and travelers and also offer courses and certificates in Thai massage and other healing arts and sciences.

Photo courtesy of  http://www.culture.go.th/