Thailand (previously known as Siam) is located in South East Asia with
in the West and North, Laos in the North East, Kampuchia in the East, and Malaysia
in the South. The wicker - work objects were collected in the central part of the
country, which covers seven provinces, namely Ratchaburi, Nakorn Pathom, Suphanburi, Phra
Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Samutsongkhram. This part of
Thailand is a wide fertile plain through which flow the four main rivers: the Mae Klong,the
Tha-chin the Chao Phraya and Bang - pa -kong.
Up until the past decade, tropical vegetation and crops grew well. No
chemical fertillzer was felt essential. Bamboo groves and palm trees were
outstanding. Swamps, brooks, canals, lakes and ponds could be found
everywhere. A quotation from King Ramkhamhaeng's inscription "nai
nam mi pla, nai na mi khao (In the water there is fish. In the field there is
rice)" virtually defined the natural resources of this area. But the rapid
growth of industrial plants, especially those located on the Banks of the Mae Klong,
and recently implement of modern irrigation have changed the physical appearance of the
region perceptibly. For the present generation the factual statement quoted
from the inscription seems to be merely an old saying. Although there still is some
rice in the field, there are scarcely any fish in the water.
The people who live in the central plain of Thai nationality. Ethnologically,
however they are descendants of Khmers, Mons, Laos, Chinese, karen and people
refered to as Chao Amphawa (the native of Amphawa, a district in Samut - songkhram),
Chao Ratchaburi (natives of Ratchaburi) or Chao Ayutthaya (natives of
Ayutthaya). There are many villages where bilingual speakers are found in the
population above 50 years of age upwards. Other languages spoken among the ethnic
groups besides Thai, which is the national language, are Khmer, Mon, Laotian, Karen
and Chinese of various dialects.
The villagers normally live in one storey house. Some sit on the ground and
some rise a few feet above it. Please see photographs.
Usually there are either empty spaces or trees between or around each house.
The house is generally covered with a thatched roof. The walls are made of
bamboo or thatch, or a combination of both materials. The floor is made of bamboo or
wood. The house that sits on the ground normally uses the earth as its floor.
A well-to-do family lives in a wooden house covered with corrugated iron or tiles.
In towns, shops made of brick and stone or wood line roads on which all kinds of modern
vehicles ride, Most of the town dwellers are of Chinese descent, whereas other
ethnic groups normally remain in the country - side .
Buddhist monasteries or shrines can be found in nearly every village whereas
a spirit house can be found at almost every house. Sometimes one can see a
trunk of a big tree, especially the Bodhi tree, wrapped around at its middle part or
a few feet above the ground with yellow or red piece of cloth. These phenomena
symbolize beliefs held by the Thais in the central plain. The people in this
part ot the country hold an admixture of beliets of Buddhism, ghost - lore and
Historically, the names of most of the provinces where the wickerwork objects were
collected first appeared hundreds of years ago. Archaeological evidence show
that the area that cover Ratchaburi, Nakorn Pathom and Suphanburi was a
center of ancient civilization during the 6th or 7th to the 11th century A.D. Ayuttaya was
the second capital city during 1350 A.D. - 1767 A.D.
The villagers in this area make their living mainly by farming, gardening
domesticationg animals, hunting, The main crops are rice, sugarcane, beans, tapioca
plant, coconut fruit and corn. All kind of tropical vegetables, fruits and plants
are grown. The agricultural products not only feed the local inhabitants but also
constitute the country's chief exports. Fishing, on the other hand, can only
serve local consumers. Except fishermen in Chonburi and Samutsongkhram do
their fishing in the gulf of Thailand while others do theirs in rivers,
brooks, canals, lakes and ponds, and they normally use traditional hand - made
tools. Besides those major occupations, the villagers also practise minor
ones. One of the most popular minor occupations is making wicker - work objects.
Wicker - work, as mentioned earlier, is one of the oldest kinds of traditional
handicrafts made in Thailand. One can sometimes come across basketry or
wickerwork objects in old mural paintings in Buddhist monasteries. Those objects
were used as a part of the people's household utensils. In folktales of legends told
in this area one also finds that this kind of handicraft often had a role
to play in the characters' everyday life. Because one still finds wicker
- work objects made and used by villagers of today, one can therefore assume that wicker -
work or basketry has been a long living traditon in Thailand.
Unfortunately, however, they are sign that this tradition is gradually disappearing
general description of the wicker - work collected in seven provinces or the central plain
is in the following chapter.