The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Thailand as merchants in the 12th century. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, following years of war in Thailand, Chinese immigration was encouraged in order to help rebuild the economy. The subsequent integration of the Chinese into Thai society was so successful that by the mid-19th century half of Bangkok’s population was of pure or mixed Chinese blood. There have been periods of anti-Chinese feeling and immigration restrictions, but the Chinese still dominate Thailand’s com mercial sector. Chinese traditions and beliefs remain strong in their communities.
Leng Noi Yee Temple in Bangkok is an important Mahayana Buddhist shrine that also incorporates elements of Taoism and Confucianism. The temple, with its glazed ceramic gables topped by Chinese dragons, is the focal point of the annual Vegetarian Festival.
“Hell’s banknotes” are a form of kong tek – paper replicas of real objects, burned to provide for the dead during their next life.
Chinese Shop-Houses: Shop-houses are a common feature of Chinatown. The family lives on the first floor while the ground floor is devoted to the family business, whether it is a small workshop or a store selling, for example, food or household goods.
Chinese opera, performed by traveling troupes, features a dramatic mixture of martial arts, acrobatics, singing, and dance.
Sign painting is not just a decorative art form. These good luck messages, written in gold, are said to ward off evil and sickness. They are displayed in great numbers during the Chinese New Year.
Dim sum, literally “touch the heart,” can be sampled in many of the area’s Chinese restaurants. The bite-size snacks include shrimp toast and pork dumplings.