In the 13th century two Thai chiefs united to form the kingdom of Sukhothai, the first Thai state. Lasting until the 15th century, Sukhothai set forth a cultural foundation that developed throughout Thailand’s history and continues today. Under Ramkhamhaeng, who ruled over Sukhothai during the late 13th century and greatly expanded its territory, the kingdom experienced a period of artistic growth. Ramkhamhaeng is credited with developing the Thai alphabet and producing the first written inscription. The various people living within the kingdom were united in part by Theravada Buddhism, which had spread to the area from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).
Fostered by the tenets of this new religion, Sukhothai reached a golden age of artistic achievement during the 14th and 15th centuries. In this period, artisans produced artifacts of exceptional quality in stone, bronze, and fired clay.
In the mid-14th century the kingdom of Ayutthaya was founded in southern Thailand. It rapidly became a major power in the region, ultimately absorbing the kingdom of Sukhothai as well as the Khmer (Cambodian) kingdom of Angkor. Located on an island in the Chao Phraya River with access to the sea, Ayutthaya lay well situated to serve as a port for the increasing regional trade and for religious pilgrimages and commercial ventures from Europe.
Extended contact with foreign cultures and the solidarity of the kingdom inspired a flowering of the arts. Ayutthaya lasted until the second half of the 18th century, when it was sacked by the Burmese.
Today, the fundamental characteristics of traditional Thai culture still prevail in many mediums. However, certain art forms, such as painting, sometimes synthesize the ideals of Thai beauty and form with Western-influenced modern concepts. "Thailand" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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