Since its construction in the 19th century, Wat Pho temple in Bangkok, historically the centre of the royal tradition of Thai Medicine, has maintained its relevance as a medical centre. Housing the ancient stone engravings, the temple has served as a medical library of healing techniques, herbal medicine and massage.
In the past, massage was practiced in temples mainly by resident monks, although nowadays this no longer takes place. Wat Pho, however, continues to be one of the most respected schools of massage and naturopathy, offering courses for both natives and foreigners.
The Shivaga Komaraphat Institute, also known as the Ancient Medical Hospital, is located in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It has recently emerged as a center for the study of traditional healing arts. It was founded in 1962 by Achan Sinthon, who developed an innovative combination of royal massage with the indigenous influences of the mountain tribes surrounding Chiang Mai. The institute also offers courses and is the head of the northern lineage. Today Sinthon’s son Wasan Chaichakan runs the school.
It was in 1955 under the direction of the founder of the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage school, Preeda Tangtrongchirtr, when a group of teachers met to exchange and share knowledge with the aim of establishing and organizing a general massage routine and protocols for the treatment of some simple disorders – about 60 combinations of effective points. In this way, the school became the headquarters of the southern lineage that bears his name.
Similarities and Differences
As in many Asian arts, lineage is considered an important element of authenticity and a sign of high quality. The members of a lineage respond to a number of regulations and certain ethical codes.
The northern and southern schools have very slight differences in massage styles. Both are very compatible and can seem identical to the inexperienced person. In addition, many other practitioners mix these techniques with others from different traditions of Myanmar or China. The influences and methods vary from town to town, with some techniques treasured from family to family and varying from individual to individual, all coexisting peacefully.
The most obvious difference between these schools is in the way in which the SEN energy lines are worked. In the south, the pressure used is superior to the softer style of the north. Another difference is the incorporation of more stretching techniques in the northern style.