The visitor to Thailand has the rare opportunity to witness exquisite and unique forms of artistic expression. Traditional Thai art can be seen in museums and temples, palaces and theaters, or in the living culture and day-to-day activities of the Thai people themselves.
Most classical Thai art originated in or under the patronage of the royal courts. Classical art encompasses Buddhist art as represented in religious architecture, decorative murals, and Buddha images. The art reflected the complex formal structure and etiquette of court culture, with its heavy Indian influences, and expressed both religious and intellectual impulses. Entertainment was considered to be of secondary value in this category of art.
Another category is popular Thai art, which arose from age-old village realities and the rites associated with birth, death, and the seasonal cycle of crop cultivation.
When speaking of traditional Thai art in general one is able to distinguish between these two groups. On the other hand, different as they are, they are complementary and mutually reinforce each other. Much Thailand’s classical or court-inspired art later evolved into simpler forms which found popular appeal. Classical drama, for example, moved into the realm of popular culture in the form of comic folk-operas.