October 5, 2014

1270 THAILAND - Classical Dancers

The present Thai classical dance (natasin) probably developed during the Ayutthaya period (1350-1767), although very little is known about the process. The possible origins of Thai dance may be found in the Khmer tradition as depicted in the dance images in the Khmer reliefs of Angkor and the Khmer-related reliefs of the Phimai temple in eastern Thailand. One possible transmission route for this clearly Indian-influenced dance technique could also have been South Thailand with its connections with Sri Lanka and the Srivijaya Empire. There may also be the possibility that the dance tradition was brought from India direct to the regions of Thailand by Indian Brahman gurus.

The formulation of the present style took place during the reign of Rama I (1782–1809), and the standards were set by the principal master of the Royal Lakhon troupe, Chaofa Krom Phra Phithakmontri. Thus, standardisation of the dance technique happened exactly simultaneously with the rewriting of the Ramakien and with the creation of the dynastic Rama cult of the Bangkok period. It is no wonder that the sub-techniques of classical Thai dance are classified according to the characters portrayed in the Ramakien. The first group, the noble humans, are divided into major heroes (Phra Ram), minor heroes (Phra Lak), major heroines (Nang Sida), and finally to minor heroines (Montho). The second group consists of demon characters (yak), and the third monkeys (ling), both also central to the Ramakien.

Dance students start their training between eight and ten years of age. In the first phase all of them study the fundamental series of movements, the slow movements (phleng cha) and fast movements (phleng reo). For the refined characters (Phra and Nang) there were originally 108 basic movements, but later they were reduced to 68 movements in the major movement series (mae bot yai) and to 18-20 in the smaller series (mae bot lek). It makes full use of the meaningful and elegant hand gestures, echoing the Indian mudras. The steps are light. The bare soles of the feet rarely touch the ground, while the toes are often turned upwards. The demi plié (lim) of the legs permits the characteristic flexibility of movement, the shifting of weight from one side to the other, and the small, jerky accents of the dance, while the shoulders and upper torso are kept straight. The demons’ movement technique has its roots in ancient martial arts. Thus the demons’ dance is aggressive, whereas the monkey’s dance has its acrobatic and playful elements.

There are several terms in the Thai language referring to different types of dance: natasin refers to classical Thai dance, whereas rabam phun muang refers to folk dances. According to conservative estimates, there are over a hundred different dance traditions in Thailand, roughly classed into four main groups: the central, northern, northeastern and southern styles. The Central Thai style has been maintained since the Revolution of 1932, which overthrew the absolute monarchy. The technique is canonised in manuals, of which the earliest existing are the early Bangkok period manuals preserved at the National Library of Thailand.

About the stamps


The two se-tenant stamps form the series 500th Anniversary of Thailand-Portugal Diplomatic Relations, a joint issues Thailand-Portugal designed by Mayuree Narknisorn (Thailand Post Co., Ltd.) and Calos Barahona Possollo (CTT - Correios De Portugal), and issued on July 20, 2011. It is well known that Portugal was the first Western nation which came into contact with Thailand (and probably the one who has earned most from this relationship). The two pairs of se-tenent designs illustrate:
• the arrival of Nau, the Portugese ship to Ayutthaya - it's on the postcard
• the historic scene of contact - it's on the postcard

The last stamp is part of the series Rhynchostylis Orchid, issued on August 5, 2010:
• Rhynchostylis gigantea (Speckle)
• Rhynchostylis gigantea Kultana Strain
• Rhynchostylis gigantea var. alba - it's on the postcard
• Rhynchostylis gigantea var. rubrum

This is a post for Sunday Stamps #190, run by Viridian from Viridian’s Postcard Blog. The theme of this week is: se-tenant stamps. Click on the button to visit Viridian’s blog and all the other participants.


Thai Classical Dance - Asian Traditional Theatre and Dance

Sender: ???
Sent from ??? (??? / Thailand), on 07.04.2014 


  1. The dancers are very colourful. I have nothing from Thailand and was surprised to see the length of time the country has had links with Portugal.

  2. what a moment that must have been -- the actual day of contact, as depicted. thank you for joining in this week.

  3. Interesting, and beautiful colourful stamps.

  4. I didn't know Thailand had links with Portugal. The stamps and card are all very beautiful.