KHON MASK : Thailand Heritage (Soft Cover)
This wonderfully-illustrated book brings to life in glorious and rich detail the Khōn Mask, which is emblematic of Siamese “high culture,” and one of Thailand’s great contributions to art and civilization. Yet much of this “high culture”, including the Khōn masked drama, lies within the grasp of ordinary Thais who relish the colourful masks, vivid spectacles and meaningful tales that were once often privy to a select few. The intricate and varied designs of these colorful masks denote a range of characters whether celestial beings, demons, royals, or monkey soldiers, where the colours of the masks, the shapes of eyes and mouths, and the masks’ various ornamentations all have specific and complex meanings rooted in Thai history and myth. The Khōn Mask plays a central role in a highly-evolved artistic culture that consists of an elaborate and multifaceted blend of narrative poetry, epic drama, complex music, and a highly-stylized, interlocking system of choreography, costumes, and crafted masks not found elsewhere in the world. This is perhaps best exemplified in the dramatization of the classic Thai epic tale, the Rāmakíen, which is rooted in the ancient Indic drama, the Rāmāyana, but evolved over the centuries to integrate the varied aspects of Thai culture, history, and sensibilities, and in which the Khōn Mask is an essential feature. The rich and distinctive illustrations and detailed descriptions of this book provide readers with a unique perspective and understanding by weaving together wide-ranging aspects of Thai culture and history in the context of the Indic substructure of Southeast Asian history and culture with the enduring significance of the Khōn Mask, one of Thailand’s foremost artistic legacies.
One of Thailand’s great contributions to civilization is the Khōn mask, which is representative of Siamese “high culture.” Its use is perhaps best exemplified in the Thai epic, Rāmakíen, which was derived from the ancient Indic drama, Rāmāyana. The uninitiated observer would find the colorful masks, ornamentation, and intricate facial features, which denote varied characters such as demons, royals, or monkey soldiers, very difficult to decipher without the benefit of expert guidance. This fully-illustrated book does just that by portraying and describing the meaning and significance of the Khōn masks, bringing them to life in all of their glorious detail. While the Kingdom of Thailand is well known on the world stage, much less known is the Siamese high culture that has evolved over centuries. What we find is an intricate blending of narrative poetry, epic drama, complex music, and a highly stylized interlocking system of choreography, costumes and crafted masks unknown elsewhere. This is best seen in the Khōn mask drama in its presentation of the Thai epic, the Rāmakíen. Even though the Rāmakíen ultimately derives from the Rāmāyana of ancient Indic civilization, the Thai version closely reflects Siamese civilization. In the Khōn mask drama, we find a very large cast of characters. Without guidance, the viewer would be overwhelmed. Thus, the characters must be categorized and easily identified. This is done through a coded system of costuming and intricately crafted masks. The colours of faces, the shapes of eyes and mouths, the crowns worn, the ornaments displayed, and the weapons wielded all go to show whether the character is demonic, celestial, royal, or even a monkey soldier or forest hermit. Eventually the observer will learn to associate the names of the characters and the masks they wear. Hence, the ultimate purpose of this fully illustrated book is to provide explanations of the Khōn masks as a rich contribution to world civilization.