Introduction

Thailand (previously known as Siam) is located in South East Asia with Burma
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 animism.

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

                A general description of the wicker - work collected in seven provinces or the central plain is in the following chapter.  


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