Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage

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Inscribed in 2019 (14.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

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.

This illustration of sen, or energy lines, is among a set of stone inscriptions for public learning on display at Pho Temple since King Rama III (1787-1851) and still considered the most comprehensive repertoire of knowledge of traditional Thai massage.
At a ground-breaking national seminar in 1985, a resource person displays manuscripts of traditional Thai massage passed down in his familial through generations. The meeting marked the watershed leading to the creation of the project for revitalization of traditional Thai massage.
A Chiang Rai (northern Thailand) folk healer giving massage therapy to a patient
A masseuse applies pressure points to relieve headache pain
A mode of massage that could help simultaneously relieve back, leg and knee pains
Herbal compress balls, usually containing 'wind' dispelling herbs, are a traditional Thai massage aiding component used to disperse excess 'wind' in sen lines to increase blood flow and to reduce inflammation
A visually impaired masseur having received training from the Skills Development Center for the Blind in Nonthaburi (central Thailand), practices traditional Thai massage as an occupation.
Tambon Chiang Rak Noi Folk Medicine Learning Center in Ayutthaya (central Thailand) offers a training course in traditional Thai massage for the public.
Students practice their skills of traditional Thai massage in class at Abhaibhubejhr College of Thai Traditional Medicine in Prachinburi (eastern Thailand).
Practitioners of Thai traditional massage and medicine gather at a Wai Khru ceremony hosted by the Federation of Traditional Medicine of Thailand to express gratitude and reverence to the teachers in the sanctified customs.