Thai Massage | UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Published: Dec 13, 2019
Edited by: Team TB

Thai Massage on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List

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Above all, I’m happy. Happy for Thailand, the Thai People, for all Thai Traditional healers and therapists, and for Thai Massage (Nuad Thai). It’s a great honor and recognition to be featured on the UNESCO ICH list, and I would almost like to add — it was about time!

It definitively takes Thai Massage far away from its still lingering image of being a sex-massage or Happy Ending massage treatment, or at best “just another massage modality,” and puts it right there where it belongs. I’m not saying this because our website is primarily about Thai Massage and the Thai Healing Arts, but simply because Thai Traditional Massage is truly an extraordinary, extremely powerful and beautiful healing art beneficial for both giver and receiver.

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Nevertheless, I do have some critical remarks about how this feat is reported about in the global media which gives me an aaargh … uhu … embarrassing toe-curling sensation. I want to talk a bit about that, because I feel Thai Massage deserves so much more than the rather thin, sensational, historically incorrect, and moreover … unnuanced representations.

And to be honest, I even find the description of Nuad Thai on the UNESCO site rather slim. Yet, on the other hand, okay, every encouraging promotion of Thai Massage is good … so, I won’t complain too much.

So, to let you finish this article still today, I’ll leave the historical inaccuracies about the origin of Thai Massage and the Wat Pho Medical Massage school out of the discussion, because that really needs much, much more in-depth reading.

But let’s take a look at the “sensational” part, starting with the BBC news item that opens with “The back-cracking traditional Thai massage has been added to a prestigious Unesco heritage list.” Really … back-cracking? Sure, there are back cracks involved … sometimes, but to put it like this? It’s a bit too much to my taste.

Or the Guardian that opens their article with “The body-folding, sharp-elbowed techniques of Thai massage have been added to Unesco’s prestigious heritage list.” Uhuh … arrrgh … no, please!

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The opening line on EFE was also completely in style: “Having an elbow dug into a shoulder blade or being placed into contorting stretches are usual therapies of a Thai massage, or Nuad Thai, recently recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.” I won’t even comment on this one. At this point my toes simply curled through the roof!

But all well. I think, by now, you’ve got the picture. Let me say this — if you really want to know more about Thai Traditional Massage you may start with some articles on our site such as What is Thai Traditional Massage?, A Brief History on the Origins of Thai Massage, and the History of Wat Pho.

And to know what it actually means to be a Thai Massage therapist we invite you to take a look at our post Doing Thai Massage Professionally.

For the rest, I enjoy this day, as said … I’m thrilled. The UNESCO ICH listing for Nuad Thai finally gave the story of Thai Massage a Happy Ending!

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