Nuad Thai, or traditional Thai massage, has been officially recognized as the kingdom’s “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.
The international body convened in Bogota, Colombia, to inscribe the latest additions, which included not just Thai massage, but also two regional martial arts: Malaysia’s Silat and Indonesia’s Pencak Silat.
Described by the Paris-based body as “part of the art, science and culture of Thai traditional healthcare,” massage has been practiced in the kingdom for centuries. Like its food, Thailand’s massage is popular around the world as well. It involves stretching, muscle compression, and rocking to increase flexibility and relieve tension.
Across Southeast Asia in the Philippines, a regional indigenous tradition called Buklog also got the UNESCO nod, with the added recognition that action must be taken to save it from disappearing. Buklog is described as an elaborate thanksgiving ritual system of the Subanen, an indigenous people in the southern Philippines.
Indonesian and Malaysian martial arts Pencak Silat and Silat, respectively, are essentially the same: a full-body fighting form incorporating striking, grappling and throwing, in addition to weaponry.
It’s not the first time the body has ruled on a tradition not unique to one nation. In 2018, it settled a hot dispute between Thailand and Cambodia by declaring traditional Khon dance to belong to both.