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is referred to in numerous ways in the Thai language, with names that mean "Kingdom
of the Thais," "nation of Thais," and others. All names are similar
in that they all include the word "Thai," which means "independence,"
but is almost certainly in reference to the ethnic Thai people in the name of the
The way of life in Thailand began thousands of years ago as the people called themselves
"water lords;" even today the people still rely on the waterways as the
true heart of Thai culture. Although the people living on this land have changed
over time, the way of life has been slowly transferred from people to people, with
the current Thai people turning this past way of life into their modern day culture.
As in the past, the land that Thailand now covers is covered with rivers running
from north to south and in the country's south there are numerous lakes and
an incredibly long coastline. It was these waterways and the reliance on water that
Thai culture is built upon.
As people settled in the region that is today Thailand, and later immigrants settled
in the region, communication and transportation were based on access to the water
and later canals were constructed to give the people access to more land as civilizations
arose while languages and foods became more wide spread. Water became more than
a means to move, it became the center of trade and organized culture; the waterways
united the people under one government, while they gained access to more and more
Thai culture arose over time due to their vast networks both inland and to outside
lands via the ocean. The economy blossomed with a stable government and the people
shifted from focusing solely on food and survival to arts, construction, and budding
economies. Powerful cities arose, art flourished, and the food became a focus of
the people who slowly gained the resources and money to expand their palates, forming
a unique and world-famous cuisine that still exists today.
Along with foreign foods and spices, Buddhism arrived from settlers in the west.
Buddhism quickly became the prominent religion and even today much of Thailand's
legal system and ideologies are rooted in Buddhism. Other ideas from lands abroad
also arrived and changed the people; the Khmers, Mon, and Burmese among others took
over many parts of the country, changing some aspects of the cultures, but also
forcing the Thai people to cling to their past as both the cities of Chiang Mai
and Ayutthaya became centers of cultural growth. This cultural growth is even more
magnified in the 1500-1900s when the Europeans arrived in large numbers and the
people sought to maintain their history and independence.
With the Europeans came fear, but also outside influences and a growing sense of
national and ethnic identity as the people clung to each other and their royal family
to maintain sovereignty. They kept independence by wisely working with the foreign
powers. This governmental stability allowed the country to maintain their culture
and continue their economic growth instead of warring; in this way these outside
influences helped the country introduce new health and learning standards as Thailand
quickly became one of the best educated and wealthiest countries in the region.
Today Thailand's culture and way of life are a result of their past as they
maintain high economic, educational, and health standards. They remain the diplomatic
leader in the region, yet they take great pride in their culture and past, which
has been threatened at so many times. In many ways, Thailand has kept their traditions
alive, however in other ways they have adopted the outside influences by introducing
new technologies and items from other countries. Often times these external introductions
have magnified their culture while making life a bit easier. Today Thailand truly
is a mix of past and present.
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