Thai Culture Guide

Thailand has long been known for its rich history and refined culture developed from the early Lanna period through Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and this golden era of Rattanakosin. Thai classical dance and music, traditional costume, architecture, Buddhism, art and craft, and well-renowned mannerism such as the gracious act of ‘wai’ greeting, are among polished Thai culture that has graced the society for more than 2,000 years.

Visitors to Thailand marvel at the exotic beauty of Thai temples, the displays of traditional dance, costume and music, or the many charming handicrafts produced for souvenirs and export. It’s all the result of more than 700 years of well defined and wealthy development of the Siamese and Thai.

Achitecture
One of the showcases of Thai culture, architectural expression in Thailand is uniquely seen in its graceful temples, intricately detailed finishing and age old techniques…more

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Thai Etiquette
From the famous Thai wai, to respecting elders, Thailand has a host of important etiquette values that foreigners would do well to observe in order to avoid causing unnecessary offence…more

Buddhism
2,500 years and still going strong, Buddhism pervades all aspects of Thai traditional life, and widely shapes the tourist character of the country. Here’s a brief introduction…more

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Art & Literature
Better known for its distinctive art than literature, Thailand is nonetheless home to some astonishing beauty in both modern and religious art including the new generation…more

Music & Dance
These are two distinctive characteristics of Thai culture that leave a lasting impression on visitors, with graceful traditional dance backed by the delightful phiphat orchestra…more

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Food
The cuisine of Thailand deserves special mention for its worldwide popularity and distinctive, delicate blend of piquant flavours that can be fiery but certainly never dull…more

Thai cultural background in brief

Even in the modern era, Thai culture boasts unique creativity and innovation in arts and designs, claiming their own identity in the world of artistry and craftsmanship. These designs are famously shown in Thai glazed earthenware ‘Bencharong’ (meaning five colours), originated in Ayutthaya, painted in five basic colours, white, black, red, yellow, and green, and also exquisite designs in utensils with pearl inlays, unique products from the south of Thailand. Wood carving, traditional architecture and Buddhist art among others are popularly sought after.

Lanna, the kingdom in the north, was the first really organised civilisation of Thailand and art flourished under the patronage of King Mengrai in the 14th century when skillful artisans were imported from Shan states in Burma and blended their meticulous endeavours with the existing Mon culture. Later, Thai monks who went to observe and study Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Angkor and Lan Xang (Laos) kingdoms returned home, bringing with them the distinctive style of the countries’ artistic mastery.

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By then the Sukhothai period was flourishing and is now considered to be the Golden Age of ancient Thai cultural and artistic development. This period was particularly important to Thai culture as it was the starting point of development in Thailand’s individuality in arts and crafts. The legacy has been preserved in a magnificent UNESCO world heritage site, where plenty of examples of antiquity can be marvelled at.

Siam, as it was historically known, was at its zenith in the seventeeth and eighteenth century when the grand capital of Ayutthaya was considered the most sophisiticated city of its era in Southeast Asia. With this wealth, and the large area is controlled, Ayutthaya produced a rich legacy of cultural developlment such as Thai classical music, dance, art, and architectural grandeur which can still be widely seen everywhere in Thailand.

Much of this is wrapped up in Buddhist religious expression, and is deeply ingrained with the heirarchal respect that is afforded to various levels of society. The most famous is the Thai wai, the prayer-like gesture to show respect to elders and those of importance. It is still universally used to this day, and remains unique to Thailand. It embodies the great Thai etiquette which is so important to their culture and central to this is the endeavour for a harmonious non-aggressive society, which the Thais generally do so well.

The current Rattanakkosin era of the reigning Chakri dynasty continued as a dominant force in the region’s development, encompassing a large area and modernising while managing to avoid the dilution of colonialism on Thai culture. The Grand Palace is the best example of this rich seam of cultural wealth from this period, as Bangkok became the richest city in the area. But beautful national costume, refined dance and the distinctive cadence of a traditional Thai orchestra are also quitessential Thai characteristics that are enjoyed by tourists at cultural shows.

Furthermore, food has certainly put Thailand on the map the world over with its much loved, and often spicy, cuisine known for blending all sorts of exotic ingredients. Thais certaily value eating, and as the nation has prospered so has the culinary character.

More recently the modern nation has excelled at producing excellent local music artists, some exemplery cinema with a unique artistic eye, endless pop artists, and a well defined local archictectural style based on traditional design values.