Body Parts and Their Meaning
The terms for body parts and metaphorical use of these terms is an interesting aspect of the Thai cultural personality.
Face is the most notable part of the body. Like in many languages, face or "naa" comes to mean "reputation, honor, respectability, credibility and integrity. A Thai can lose "khaai", save "raksaa", earn or gain "dai", and salvage "koo" his face.
Hand or "Mue" can figuratively means expertise, in addition to the ability to use one's hand to work and to touch. A "mue patiwat" is an expert in staging a coup d'etat while a "mue haasiang" is an expert in political campaigning. A thief can be called a "mue gaaw", literally meaning to have a hand with glue on it.
Head "hua" and one's heart "jai". The compounds can be divided into two structural types. In one type the word "hua" or "jai" is in the subject position. In the other, it is in the object position. Examples.
Thai people put more emphasis on their heart than their head. There are many more compound words with "jai" than with "hua". Three of these "jai" compounds tell a great deal about interpersonal relationships of the Thais. They are:-
Thais are taught from an early age to "Greang jai" other people, which means they have to be careful with what they say and what they do so that they will not in anyway offend, upset or displease others. As a consequence,Thai people usually try their best not to "khat jai" others.
The eventual outcome is that most Thais seem to be very good at "ow jai" or pleasing others. What this means is that conflicts are to be avoided at all cost so that harmony can be maintained and the way to do it is to be attentive to those one comes into contact with. This confirms the "mai pen rai" nature.
The language of the people reveals a lot about their culture. In this section we indentify the "Heart Language" and three important Heart values
The figurative meaning of mouth or "paak" is verbal skill and words. A person's mouth can be good "dii", bad "sia", light "bao", heavy "nak" and numerous "maak". "Paak dii" means to have a good speech skill. "Pak sia" means to be unrestrained with criticisms and comments. "Paak bao" means to be able to learn language at a very tender age. "Paak nak" is to refrain from voicing one's opinion and feeling.
Neck or "khaw" is associated with preference and taste. A "kaw kafae" likes coffee while a "khaw chaa" likes tea. "Kaw footbon" is a person who loves to watch football. "Kaw nang phleng" prefers musical films.
Thais have an extra body part, an abstract or spiritual part called "kwan". "Kwan" is where one's morale and psychological health resides. An age old practice which is still found in rural village is the "suu kwan" or "riak kwan" ritual. This is performed to welcome visitors as well as returnees. A piece of cotton or string will be tied around a person's wrist by the elders, regarded as parents or grandparents by all in the community, who will be calling his "kwan", which wondered away during the trip, to come back to his body.
The importance of "kwan" is observed also in the event when a baby or a small child falls. When his mother picks him up she will give him a hug and call his "kwan". The belief is that a person's "kwan" has to reside peacefully within one's body for the person to be healthy in body and in spirit. Any unusual experience, such as a fall, a shock or a long trip, can disturb "kwan", which has a tendency to always leave the body in fright. When a person sleeps, his "kwan", a wonderer by nature, will leave for a tour of the world outside. It will return when the person wakes up. The Thais are then taught to wake a sleeping person up as gently as possible.
The following compounds illustrate the Thais' perception of this spiritual body part.
The sweet sound is said by a mother when she picks her child up when they are frightened after a fall.
kwan eri-ee kwan maa = Oh, Kwan, oh Kwan. Come back.
Cotton Wrist Bands
The wrist bands are diverse in design, colur and can be made of different material and offer different meanings.. see more
Thai term for gifts and souvenirs is "khong kwan", which means objects for one's kwan.
This concept of spiritual and psychological well-being is later coupled as well as confused with another concept, "winyaan". The latter can be equated with soul in Western thinking. For the Thais, "winyaan" remains with a person as long as he is alive. It leaves him when he dies to take up residence in the body of a new born baby.