Culture of Thailand
The culture of Thailand incorporates a great deal of influence from India,
China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand's main theology
Theravada Buddhism is central to modern Thai identity and belief. In
practice, Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional
beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. In
areas in the southernmost parts of Thailand, Islam is prevalent. Several
different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate
Thailand. Some of these groups overlap into Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and
Malaysia and have maintained a distinctly traditional way of life despite
strong Thai cultural influence. Overseas Chinese also form a significant
part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. Their successful
integration into Thai society has allowed for this group to hold positions
of economic and political power, the most noteworthy of these being the
Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who held power from 2001 until 19
September 2006 when he was ousted by a military coup d'état.
Like most Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part
of Thai spiritual practice. Thais have a strong sense of hospitality and
generosity, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Seniority is an
important concept in Thai culture. Elders have by tradition ruled in
family decisions or ceremonies.
The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is generally offered first by the
youngest of the two people meeting, with their hands pressed together,
fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch their face to
the hands, usually coinciding with the spoken word "Sawat-dii khrap" for
male speakers, and "Sawat-dii ka" for females. The elder then is to
respond afterwards in the same way. Social status and position, such as in
government, will also have an influence on who performs the wai first. For
example, although one may be considerably older than a provincial
governor, when meeting it is usually the visitor who pays respect first.
When children leave to go to school, they are taught to wai to their
parents to represent their respect for them. They do the same when they
come back. The wai is a sign of respect and reverence for another, similar
to the namaste greeting of India & Nepal.
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its
natives martial art call "Muay". In the past "Muay" was taught to Royal
soldiers for combat on battlefield if unarmed. After they retired from the
army, these soldiers often became Buddhist monks and stayed at the
temples. Most of the Thai people's lives are closely tied to Buddhism and
temples; they often send their sons to be educated with the monks. ”Muay”
is also one of the subjects taught in the temples.
Muay Thai achieved popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Although
similar martial arts styles exist in other southeast Asian countries, few
enjoy the recognition that Muay Thai has received with its full-contact
rules allowing strikes including elbows, throws and knees. Football
(soccer), however, has possibly overtaken Muay Thai's position as most
widely viewed and liked sport in contemporary Thai society and it is not
uncommon to see Thais cheering their favourite English Premier League
teams on television and walking around in replica kits. Another widely
enjoyed pastime, and once a competitive sport, is kite flying.
Taboos in Thailand include touching someone's head or pointing with the
feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest
part of the body. Stepping over someone, or over food, is considered
insulting. However, Thai culture as in many other Asian cultures, is
succumbing to the influence of globalization with some of the traditional
taboos slowly fading away with time.
Books and other documents are the most revered of secular objects. One
should not slide a book across a table or place it on the floor.
Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter
and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic,
chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, and fish sauce. The staple food in
Thailand is rice, particularly jasmine variety rice (also known as Hom
Mali rice) which is included in almost every meal. Thailand is the world's
largest exporter of rice, and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of
milled rice per person per year. Over 5000 varieties of rice from
Thailand are preserved in the rice gene bank of the International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI) , based in the Philippines. The King of Thailand
is the official patron of IRRI.
Thai society has been influenced in recent years by its widely-available
multi-language press and media. There are numerous English, Thai and
Chinese newspapers in circulation; most Thai popular magazines use English
headlines as a chic glamor factor. Most large businesses in Bangkok
operate in English as well as other languages. English is also spoken
among many Thais, sometimes as a way of demonstrating their educated,
high-society status, but other times because of the lingua franca nature
of English. Thailand is the largest newspaper market in South East Asia
with an estimated circulation of at least 13 million copies daily in 2003.
Even upcountry, out of Bangkok, media flourishes. For example, according
to Thailand's Public Relations Department Media Directory 2003-2004, the
nineteen provinces of northeast Thailand themselves hosted 116 newspapers
in addition to radio, TV and cable.
resource : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand