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National Geographic Vintage Photographs
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Get a blast from the past with an online-exclusive gallery of images, many rescued from the cutting room floor.
Photo: Thai dancers

An Epic Drama
Photograph by H. T. Cowling, circa 1919

Decked out in brilliantly brocaded costumes, these actors engaged in a traditional dance drama, known as lakhon, around 1919 in Thailand. Originally called kohn and performed only for royalty and nobility, this drama changed names once it moved outside the court and became popular with the public. Still enjoyed today, lakhon draws from folk tales and the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana—an epic poem about good conquering evil. The entire poem takes 720 hours of continuous performance, while a shorter version lasts 20.

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