Culture of Thailand
Statue of a mythical Kinnon at Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok
The culture of Thailand incorporates cultural beliefs and characteristics indigenous to the area known as modern day Thailand coupled with much influence from ancient India, China, Cambodia, along with the neighboring pre-historic cultures of Southeast Asia. It is influenced primarily by Animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, as well as by later migrations from China, and southern India.
Young Buddhist monks receiving joss sticks.
Thailand is nearly 94%-95% Theravada Buddhist (which includes the Thai Forest Tradition and the Dhammayuttika Nikaya and Santi Asoke sects), with minorities of Muslims (5-6%), Christians (1%), Mahayana Buddhists, and other religions.
Thai Theravada Buddhism is supported and overseen by the government, with monks receiving a number of government benefits, such as free use of the public transportation infrastructure.
Buddhism in Thailand is strongly influenced by traditional beliefs regarding ancestral and natural spirits, which have been incorporated into Buddhist cosmology. Most Thai people own spirit houses, miniature wooden houses in which they believe household spirits live. They present offerings of food and drink to these spirits to keep them happy. If these spirits aren't happy, it is believed that they will inhabit the larger household of the Thai, and cause chaos. These spirit houses can be found in public places and in the streets of Thailand, where the public make offerings.
Prior to the rise of Theravada Buddhism, both Indian Brahmanic religion and Mahayana Buddhism were present in Thailand. Influences from both these traditions can still be seen in present day Thai folklore. Brahmanist shrines play an important role in Thai folk religion, and the Mahayana Buddhist influence is reflected in the presence of figures like Lokesvara, a form of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara sometimes incorporated into Thailand's iconography....