Literature in Gold: The Rama Story as Depicted on Thai Lacquerware Cabinets. A talk by Frederick B. Goss



The purpose of this study was to examine the Thai rendition of the Rama story as depicted on lacquerware cabinets. The objective was to see how and why the ostensibly secular Rama narrative was used on cabinets designed to hold sacred Buddhist scripture. This study examined cabinets held by the National Library of Thailand and found that, of those that have some form of narrative depiction, approximately half can be associated with the Rama story, more than for any other identifiable group of narratives, with scenes that tend to focus on fighting and combat. It can be concluded from this study that the Rama story, as depicted on the lacquerware cabinets, was used in a symbolic manner to create the presence of Phra Ram and convey the message of Phra Ram acting, either in association or conjunction with the king, as the protector and guardian of Buddhism. Along with this symbolic meaning, one could also read a didactic message to convey a lesson of the triumph of good/truth over evil/ignorance.

Dr. Frederick B. Goss recently completed a PhD degree in Thai Studies, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, submitting a dissertation entitled “Literature in Gold: Ramakien as Depicted on Thai Lacquerware Cabinets fr  om the Early Rattanakosin Period”. In 2007, he received a Master’s of Arts in Thai Studies from Chulalongkorn University. His research has been focused on traditional Thai literature, with a primary emphasis on the Rama story in Thailand in all its forms and depictions. One of Frederick Goss’ publications on this topic can be accessed here: Living Literature: Ramakien, the Thai Rendition of the Rama Epic.

Date: Thursday, 16 November 2017
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2016-2017 Lecture Series.