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03 Jul 2011

Kana Wat Khanon

One of the surviving Nang Yai troupes, Kana Wat Khanon rarely performs outsides its own temple. It is currently fundraising to make copies of its 300 year-old puppets for performance purposes, in order that the original puppets can be preserved in a museum. In the troupe, there are around 30 members, aged from 6 to 17 years old. Ten play the traditional music and about twenty perform the Nang Yai show.

The word "Nang Yai", or shadow play, literally means "big hides" because the shadow figures sometimes reach a height of 2 metres. Nang Yai, a rich cultural heritage, is among the oldest forms of theatrical arts ever performed in Thailand. It can be traced back to the times of King U-thong of Ayutthaya (1350-1369).
In former times, the area around Wat Khanon was a customs post. This enabled the constant contact between Ratchaburi town and Bangkok.

Nowadays, Wat Khanon is the only temple with its own Nang Yai troupe which has regularly kept on its operation. Thus, Wat Khanon has played an important role in the conservation of Nang Yai of the country. The temple, in cooperation with the government and the private sector, bring Nang Yai on stage both domestically and internationally.

Recently, Wat Khanon Nang Yai honourably received an award from the UNESCO for its active role in safeguarding what the UN terms "intangible cultural heritage". The troupe was among the 32 entrants in a contest organised earlier this year by the Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) in Japan.