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Traditional Khon mask making in Thailand

10-21-2010 08:59 BJT

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The Khon tradition was imported from India around the 10th century. It evolved from a Hindu religious ceremony into a morality play in Siamese royal courts, and has since enjoyed royal favor.

Khon is the cultural equivalent of Japanese kabuki. It used to be performed for important social functions such as funerals, but like so many of the old traditions, it's struggling to survive.

The exquisitely painted Khon masks are the keystones of the ornate glittering costumes used in the stylized classical Thai dance form known as Khon.

A typical Khon performance recounts an episode from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

But in a case of trickle-down culture, the masks are also used as decorative objects - displayed in many homes and even Thai restaurants abroad - and as objects of worship.

56-year-old Prateep Rodpai is one of Thailand's last traditional Khon mask makers.

Prateep Rodpai said, "Since mask making is a family business, it's something my children can inherit. It won't fade away anytime soon. However, the extinction might take place after the next two generations if modernity seeps in and the new generations of children turn more toward western culture."

In their Bangkok workspace, Prateep and wife Pinthip are putting the final touches to some masks.

Prateep Rodpai is one of Thailand's last traditional
Khon mask makers. These types of masks are the
keystones of ornate glittering costumes used in the
stylized classical Thai dance form known as Khon.
Prateep's uncle, a Khon performer more famous as a puppeteer, taught him the rudiments of Khon mask-making. Prateep still uses the formula passed down from his uncle for his clay - a mixture of rice powder, some paper starch, a pinch of calcium talc and plenty of cement; he keeps the proportions a closely guarded secret.

The Primary School boys seen here won great applause for their athletic performance of an episode in the Ramayana.

Funding from the Bangkok city government pays for the students' costumes and masks. Performing groups like this are now helping the Khon traditions from dying out.

Editor:Liu Fang |Source: CNTV.CN

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