The academic study of culture falls in the discipline of Anthropology or Social Anthropology. The West encountered new cultures after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1494 AD and Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India in 1498 AD. The interest in other cultures led to a serious study of all cultures. The pioneers in this field are Franz Boas, A.R.Radcliffe Brown, W.H.R.Rivers and Sir Grafton Elliot Smith.
For Elliot Smith, all cultures had their roots in the Egyptian culture. This approach is called the diffusionism in Social Anthropology. In a modified form, the German, Leo Forbenius developed the concept of Kulturkreise or Culture Circles: that is culture spresd from many centres. There is another school which argues that each culture evolves on its own. The reality perhaps is a mixture of many elements.
Thailand’s culture is immensely rich and it is vibrantly alive. This is perhaps because it has kept alive its past traditions. Besides, these traditions are recreated and reinvented every day in the daily life of people. Buddhism has unlimited wealth and creativity. One visit to the temple of Wat Phra Kew and Wat Po would demonstrate this. Not only Loy Krathong or Songkran, rich festivals, even the day to day greetings and respect for elders tell us of the beauty of social interaction.
Even the small temples on different intersections and roundabouts tell us what prayer is or what is devotion. The most famous of all such shrines is the Erawan shrine. Smartly dressed, apparently westernised people establish their communion with the creator everyday.
This gives a vibrant sanity to Thai Culture. The bond with tradition is strong and in the language of the poet T.S.Eliot, the Thais have successfully established the “contemporaneity of the past”.