Collection Description

Culture Name

Central Thai

Culture Description

The Central Thai live in central and southern Thailand and speak a dialect of the Thai language of the Tai-Kadai family. The original home of the Thai people was in the Chinese province of Yunnan from where they migrated south in successive waves, beginning about AD 1050. Wet-rice agriculture dominates the economy with about four-fifths of the population living in rural communities. The kingdom of Thailand was never colonized by a Western nation. Practicing Theravada Buddhism, most of Thai men have been ordained as priests, although only a small minority makes the priesthood their life work.


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Asia --Southeast Asia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

There are 27 documents in the Central Thai file. Many of the studies focus on sociocultural change. Eight studies are centered on the village of Bang Chan outside of Bangkok. Sharp (1978, no. 8) provides a social history of Bang Chan, L. Hanks (1972, no. 36) examines changes in rice cultivation practices over the course of a century, while Janlekha (1956, no. 7) examines those changes within one five-year period (1948-1953). Other Bang Chan studies include J. Hanks's (1963, no. 1) account of customs and beliefs regarding pregnancy and birth; Phillips's (1966, no. 4) and J. Hanks's (1965, no. 37) studies of Thai personality and character; and Textor's (1973, no. 11) and L. Hanks's (1962, no. 28) studies of folk religion. Geographic and ethnographic surveys of other villages and regions are found in Kaufman (1960, no. 12), Amyot (1976, no. 20), Donner (1978, no. 42), and Amara (1979, no. 45). Studies of sociocultural change at the village level (other than Bang Chan) are found in Piker (1975, no. 44), Tomosugi (1995, no. 55), and Kemp (1992, no. 56). Stifel (1976, no. 46) looks at changing patterns of land ownership and Hirsch (1994, no. 57) examines the impact of economic development on rural-urban relations and politics. Preecha (1980, no. 59) provides a comprehensive account of a market area. Other religious studies include Terwiel's (1975, no. 19) and Attagara's (1968, no.25) studies of folk religion and Bunnang's (1973, no. 39) sociological analysis of monastic organization. Related articles are Ingersoll's (1975, no. 43) examination of the relationship between merit-making and identity formation and Mulder's (1996, no. 60) ambitious analysis of Thai cosmology, self, and modernity. With regard to modernity, Sumalee Bumroongsook (1995, no. 61) investigates how societal changes have affected parental authority and Napat Sirisambhad (1987, no. 58) looks at change and class differences in women's roles and status. Ayabe (1973, no. 50) edits a collected volume of four articles on education and culture. Somchinata T hongthew-Ratarasarn (1979, no. 41) investigates love magic.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstract in the citation preceding each document.

This culture summary is based on the article, "Central Thai," by Marlene Martin and David Levinson, in the Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 5, East and Southeast Asia. 1993. Paul Hockings (ed.) Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. Ian Skoggard wrote the synopsis, December 1999.

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