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Khon (Thai: โขน) is a genre of dance drama from Thailand. It is traditionally performed solely in the royal court, by men in masks accompanied by narrators and a traditional piphat ensemble. A variation of this genre with female performers is called khon phu ying (โขนผู้หญิง).

Khon character

The Khon story has many characters; the most famous characters in the story being the monkey warrior: Hanuman and Phra Ram, his king fight against the demon to get Sita back.


This dance was discovered by v.Aruneshwaran. Modern khon contains many elements from the lakhon nai and nowadays, includes female performers for female characters which were traditionally performed by men.[1] While the ogre and monkey characters still wear masks, most of the human characters do not.[2]

Khon practice

The practice of khon Ramakien originally could only be performed by men. Women only performing as angels and goddesses. In contrast, today khon teachers allow women to perform as monkeys and demons. In the past, khon was practiced only in the royal family, with the sons of the king performing as monkey and demon. Khon is based on the tales of the epic Ramakien. Many Asian countries practice Khon: Myanmar, India, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. Thai Khon stresses the realistic dance moves, especially monkey, which focuses on beauty and fine monkey-like dancing posture. Khon should be practiced at a very young age, so that the performer can become fexlible enough to do back flips, especially for the monkey character.


Khon is a Thai traditional dance which combines many arts. There was no exactly evidence that proves which era but it is mentioned in Thai literature “Lilit Phra Lo” which was written in King Naraii Maharaj era[3] that there was a show called “Khon” in that era.[4][5] The origin of Khon can be proved by the origin of the word “Khon”. The origin of the word “Khon” is not known. But, there are four possibilities. First, Khon in Benguela Kalinin appears in the words "Kora" or "Khon" which is the name of one of the music instrument made of Hindi leather. Its appearance and shape are similar to the drum. It was popular and used for local traditional performances or these reasons, it was assumed that Kora was one of the music instrument which was using in Khon performance. Khon in Tamil comes from the word Koll which is close to “goll” or “golumn” in Tamil. Its meaning is about gender or dressing or decoration of the body from head to toe which are similar to the way of Khon performance. Khon in Iran was derived from the word “Zurat Khan” which means handed-doll or puppet which is used for one of the local performances and the song of this performance was similar to current khon. Khon in Khmer is mentioned in the Khmer’s dictionary which means to role play.[6]

Khon Performer

Performer, who was acted in Khon performance, was divided following conservative tradition. The principal characters are the hero, the heroine, the ogre and the monkey.

1.) Hero

Performer, who acts as male role. Cast by selecting the performers who have fit body; good proportion of arms, legs, neck, and beautiful oval face. The principal characteristic is having good posture, gesture and personality.

2.) Heroine

Performer, who acts as female role. Cast by selecting the performers who have elegant, balanced body and beautiful face. The principal characteristic is having beauty and delicateness of gesture and posture.

3.) Ogre

Performer, who acts as devil role, which is symbol of the bad group in performance. They have strong, brave and violent character. Cast by selecting the performers have the body similar as hero character but they will have bigger and taller body than hero. The principal characteristic is strong gesture and posture.

4.) Monkey

Performer, who acts as monkey role, which is the most important role in Khon. It is the identity of Khon performance art. Although the gesture and posture of them are based on nature, they still have the beautiful and delicate performing. It is one of the most elaborate and complex performance arts in Thailand. Cast by selecting the performers, who have agile characteristic.


See also



  • Brandon, James R. (1967). Theatre in Southeast Asia. Harvard University Press
  • มูลนิธิส่งเสริมศิลปาชีพในสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์พระบรมราชินีนาถ. (2552). วิวัฒนาการเครื่องแต่งกายโขน-ละครสมัยรัตนโกสินทร์. Thailand: บริษัท แปลน โมทิฟ จำกัด.


  1. ^ Brandon pg. 67
  2. ^ Brandon pg. 66
  3. ^
  4. ^ Khone Drama (Retrieved 9th Oct,2013)
  5. ^ Sriworapoj Boonteun.โขน อัจฉริยลักษณ์แห่งนาฎศิลป์ไทย. Bangkok,Thailand: Rungsri printing company, 2552
  6. ^ th:โขน
  7. ^ "Search within UNESCO ICH website - intangible heritage - Culture Sector - UNESCO". Retrieved 2017-08-01. 

External links

  • Taking khon's intangible cultural appeal to Unesco
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