Thai Khon Mask Maker Keeps Disappearing Tradition Alive in the Saphan Mai Area


BANGKOK (AP).- Any taxi can take you to one of Bangkok’s glitzy new shopping malls, but you’ll have to poke around and trod carefully down a crumbling, fetid old alley in a working-class district to find a true artifact of genuine Thai culture. The neighborhood used to be a thriving community of makers of Khon masks, the keystones of ornate glittering costumes used in the stylized classical Thai dance form known as Khon. A street sign for tourists boasts of its glorious past, but most workshops in the Saphan Mai (“Wooden Bridge”) area were shuttered years ago. Come to a small, tin-roofed house some weekend, however, and you’ll find 56-year-old Prateep Rodpai, one of Thailand’s last traditional Khon mask makers. The Khon tradition was imported from India around the 10th century. It evolved from a Hindu religious ceremony into a