Proposed Inclusion of Khon and Traditional Massage on Cultural Heritage List

Cultural Performance at Cicada Hua Hin
Cultural Performance at Cicada Hua Hin

The Cabinet has agreed with the proposal of the Ministry of Culture for the inclusion of Khon masked dance and traditional Thai massage on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat said the Cabinet endorsed the ministry’s proposed inclusion of the two national icons. After the proposed inclusion, the Ministry would need one year before forwarding the proposal to the government at the 12th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for certification. The session will take place from  4 December to 8 December 2017 in Seoul.

The Khon iconic performance art is the first of five national cultural icons the government will suggest to UNESCO each year until 2021. UNESCO has urged its member countries to safeguard the world’s intangible cultural heritage, which it says includes practices, knowledge, skills and instruments associated with culture and traditions. After putting khon and traditional massage forward this year, Muay Thai kickboxing, the Nora dance drama and a traditional Thai meal set will be proposed in the following years.

According to the minister, one reason traditional khon was first chosen is it perfectly shows Thai cultural wisdoms. Her Majesty the Queen is a major supporter of khon and associated art forms, including costume design. First performed in the ancient Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya centuries ago, khon is a form of drama based on the Hindu epic  Ramayana  narrating the battle between Rama, an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu, and Ravana, who kidnaps Rama’s wife.

The Thai version of Ramayana is mainly told through khon performance with most characters wearing elaborate costumes, including masks, and dancing in various postures to show their feelings and actions. The artists behind the scenes who make the costumes and the performers who talk, sing, play and perform all exhibit a high understanding of Thai culture, Mr Vira said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also preparing to make Thailand a member of the UNESCO-sponsored Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which has about 150 members.

Thai PBS