The History of Traditional Thai Color Terms: A Case Study of the Color Green

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Kriangkrai Honghengseng

Abstract

Color terms in each society and culture differ depending on its environment and context. This is similar to Thailand, where color terms vary accordingly to different cultures and historical periods. There are many colors with variations in tones such as green, yellow, red, blue, white, and black. The green color, or "Khiaw" in Thai, varies extensively across the color spectrum where it is given more than 30 terms. For example, Khiaw Khee Ma (‘dark cork’), Khiaw Khor Ped (‘teal’), Khiaw Tang Chae (‘green bronze’), etc. The origins of each color term are diverse, commonly associated to Thai people's wisdom, beliefs, custom, and ways of life. Nowadays, the use of traditional Thai color terms have continuously diminished; predominantly used amongst craftsmen and seniors, more so than juniors and youths. Therefore, it is worth exploring varieties of green color predominantly used across Thai traditional paintings, sculptures, and visual arts.

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