Lai Thai or Traditional Thai Patterns emerged and primarily inspired by Buddhism, as Thailand has long been a Buddhist country since ancient times. Originally, Thai master artisans had created patterns with inspiration from lotus flowers, jasmine garlands, incense smoke, and flame from candles. Even though Thai art was also influenced by other countries like India, China, and Cambodia. Yet, the ancient masters were able to create unique patterns, which can genuinely identify Thainess and distinguish it from Western art. Indeed, the major difference between Thai art and Western art is that Western art is mainly naturalism. While Thai art is a development of natural shapes and a mix of idealism with creativity from Buddhist philosophy. For example, some Thai art infused with a belief in Buddhist heaven and hell.
However, some Thai patterns were derived from nature, such as trees, animals, vines, leaves, and flowers. The history of Thai patterns firstly started since the ancient Chiang Saen era. Then continuously passed down to periods of Sukho Thai, Ayutthaya, and Rattanakosin respectively. After refinement and development of designs, current Thai patterns nowadays are in fixed and perfect forms from generations.
Traditional Thai patterns are classified into 4 categories.
It refers to patterns of decorative lines that appear in artworks. Within this category, there are many patterns including Kranok Sam Thua, Kranok Plaew, Kranok Bai Tet, etc.
2. Nari category
It is forms and portraits human beings such as monks, women, angels, etc. It requires a great practice in drawing faces, eyebrows, mouths and postures of humans.
3. Krabi category
It covers a depiction of non-human beings include monkeys, giants, and demons. It mostly refers to the main characters from Thai Literature Ramakien.
4. Kacha category
This category refers to paintings and forms of animals such as elephants, horses, buffarows, tigers, etc. It also includes imaginary animals, generally known as Himmapan creatures or Thai himmapan forest mythical animals. For example, Kinnaree, Erawan, Hongsa, Garuda, Mucha Naga, etc.
In conclusion, the main use of traditional Thai patterns was initially to decorate and ornament the buildings and architectures in monastery institutions and monarchy residences and palaces. With popularity, Thai patterns are applied on fabric clothes, utensils, furniture, accessories, and jewelry. Combined creativity and cultural identity make the delicate designs of traditional Thai patterns one-of-a-kind unique art skills in the world. A worthy national art heritage of Thailand.
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