Traditional Thai massage, known as “Nuad Thai” has been officially recognised as by UNESCO as an object of “intangible cultural heritage.”
The news was confirmed at an event held in Colombia from 9 – 14 December 2019, where two forms of martial arts from Indonesia and Malaysia were also added to UNESCO’s list of intangible world treasures.
UNESCO describes Thai massage as being “part of the art, science and culture of Thai traditional healthcare.” Nuad Thai can be traced back through several centuries of Thai tradition, and is developing a stellar reputation on the modern stage, as scores of international travellers experience its multiple health benefits during their stay in the Land of Smiles.
Being placed on UNESCO’s prestigious list was “historic”, according the Thai delegate at the meeting in Bogotá, Colombia, last month. “It helps promote the practice of Nuad Thai locally and internationally,” he said.
Authentic Thai massage is characterised by intensive stretching movements and muscle manipulation, including compression and rocking in order to increase flexibility and relieve tension. Signature movements involve therapists using elbows on key pressure points and joints, directing blood circulation around problem areas to solve muscle aches – which can be quite a shock to those experiencing it for the first time. Despite the occasional discomfort, studies have proved Nuad Thai can help relieve back pain, headaches, insomnia and even anxiety.
Nuad Thai can be found everywhere, from upscale Bangkok spas and Phuket beachfronts to modest street-side shophouses. An hour of therapy can cost as little as US$5.
Originating in India, the practice is believed to have been brought to Thailand by travelling monks around 2,500 years ago. An indication of the tradition’s importance to Thailand can be found at Bangkok’s Wat Pho temple, where 19th century scholars engraved their understanding of massage techniques into the stone reliefs of the temple walls, under the orders of King Rama III.
Thai massage grew to prominence on the modern stage in the twentieth century, when Bangkok’s Nuad Thai School opened in 1962 and went on to train more than 200,000 massage therapists. These disciples of Nuad Thai have spread their knowledge and the health benefits of Thai massage to over 145 countries worldwide, making Nuad Thai a truly global treasure.