Country: Thailand
A carved section of the royal carriage Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot.
A carved section of the royal carriage Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot.

One of the oldest crafts, woodcarving was once mostly tied to religion and therefore has existed as decorative elements at temples, Buddha image halls, temple pavilions, tripitaka halls and cabinets, chedis (stupas), etc. Many of these beautiful creations, carefully carved by skilled craftsmen of different periods, can still be found across Thailand. This is a testament to a valued craft transferred from generation to generation reflecting the local wisdom of each community.

As an integral part of the Lan Na culture, woodcarving is an ancient and unique art that reflects Lan Na beliefs, values and traditions as well as the people’s way of life that was intertwined with nature. These carvings can be found at important religious sites and houses and on some utensils. Teak is the most popular wood for carving; it is not too hard and has beautiful wood grain that allows for diverse motifs. Teak experiences little shrinkage and is resistant to the elements as well as termites, weevils and other insects. Other popular kinds of wood are mok (Wrightia religiosa Benth.) and pine. Woodcarving comes with many categories as follows:

  • Line carving, incising along lines
  • Bas-relief, carving with a shallow depth
  • High relief, carving with most of the sculpted image projecting from the background
  • Full relief, a three-dimensional wood sculpture

Woodcarving begins with preparing images or patterns and then transferring them to the wood. The wood is then roughly cut to get the desired shape before carving is made with sharp gouges of varying sizes and characteristics, such as a straight gouge and a round gouge, with a hammer to create images or patterns. In the final stage, finishes are applied to the wood surface for durability and beauty, such as colouring and coating.

A replica of the carved head post of the royal barge Narai Song Suban used in royal ceremonies

Show cases of the craftsmanship of the Crafts Section of the Office of Traditional Arts Ministry of Culture