Thai Massage School Shivagakomarpaj & Old Medicine Hospital.
There are perhaps more Thai massage clinics per square kilometre in Chiang Mai than anywhere else in the country. Among these, the Old Medicine Hospital has the most long-standing and prestigious reputation. It has long been one of the most prestigious traditional medicine centres in Thailand.
Most traditional Thai ‘healers’ trace their lineage back to the “Father Doctor” Jivaka Komarabhacca, the Buddha’s personal physician. In addition, one’s direct lineage of teachers is considered an important indication of authenticity and a mark of high quality. The Shivagakomarpaj Lineage is one of the most respected and widespread line ages of Thai massage in the world today.
About Ajahn (“Master”) Sintorn
Great honor is bestowed on Ajahn Sintorn Chaichakan as the founder of our tradition of Thai massage, and as the primary teacher. (Ajahn is an honorific title given to respected teachers, and is usually translated as (“Master”).
Ajahn Sintorn was the founder of the Old Medicine Hospital and of the Shivagakomarpaj Lineage. He first studied traditional Thai medicine at Wat Pho in the late 1950s. Upon completing the degree in 1958, he stayed on as a teacher for four more years. Before that time, Wat Pho did not teach Thai massage, and at the personal request of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), Ajahn Sintorn was instrumental in starting the massage program to complement the herbal training Wat Pho had offered for many years.
In 1962, he returned to Chiang Mai and began to practice medicine at small dispensary on the grounds of several city temples. At this time, the government of Thailand was only interested in supporting Western medicine, and Thai traditions were kept alive by their association with Buddhist institutions. Living in the north of Thailand, Ajahn Sintorn adapted his practice of massage and herbal medicine to incorporate aspects of northern culture.
One important change he made to the Wat Pho massage routine was to slow it down, he says to suit the “laid-back style” of Chiang Mai natives. He also focused on local herbal knowledge, incorporating treatments that were not part of the Wat Pho tradition into his pharmacopoeia.
In 1973, Ajahn Sintorn purchased land just outside of Chiang Mai centre and established the current facility. With only a small grant from the government to start up, the institution was quite small at that time, with only 10 in-patient beds. From these humble beginnings, the institution’s traditional medicine hospital grew to the current size. In the 1990s, the program graduated an average of 60-70 Thai students per year in traditional medicine, and the Western students of Thai massage numbered well into the hundreds. Today, the Old Medicine Hospital is part of both national and regional efforts to standardize and regulate the massage industry, to improve safety and authenticity of traditional healthcare in the years to come.
Ajahn Sintorn remained the director of the Old Medicine Hospital facility until his passing away on Oct 19, 2005. His son, Ajahn Wasan is the current directors.