The elaborately fashioned and gilded masks worn by dancers performing in the popular Ramayana dance drama are one of the enduring symbols of Thai culture. Since their introduction at the beginning of the Rattanakosin period in the late 18th century, many hundreds of thousands of masks have been produced by skilled craftsman.
Less wellknown as an art form, the history of Thai puppetry dates back to as early as the 11th century, with mention being made in scriptions from north and central Thailand regarding their role as an offering to the gods. During the reign of King Narai of Ayutthaya in the 17th century, large, metre-high puppets known as Hun Luang were used to relate popular folk tales for the enjoyment of the court and the general public. However, the greatest evidence for the popularity of Thai puppets comes from the Bangkok period (1782 to the present), when a puppet performance would form part of many ceremonies from funerals to Buddhist holy days.
Today, practitioners of these art forms are becoming scarce and the finely crafted puppets in particular are hard to find. This book unites for the first time puppets and masks from some of the finest collections, and will help to make a unique facet of Thai culture more widely known.