Khon is a genre of dance drama from Thailand. It is traditionally performed solely in the royal court, by men in masks accompanied by narrators and a traditional piphat ensemble. A variation of this genre with female performers is called khon phu ying. In Cambodia, the analog of the Khon is a less refined version known as Lakhon Khol.
The drama referred to as Khon is associated solely with the representation of theRamayana epic, known in Thai as the Ramakien (translated as the Glory of Rama). Over the centuries the epic has been adapted to Thai culture and traditions, with some episodes and details being expanded and others being reduced or removed.
The Ayutthaya and Sukhothai Ramakien verses, written mainly for recitation during the shadow play and other dramatic performances, were mainly derived from oral sources and these were later used as the basis for the versions that we know of today.
Records of the Ramakien in Thai literary works data back to the reign of King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai period as we find stone inscriptions relating to Rama and Sita. In addition, episodes from the Ramayana appear on lintels at various Khmer temples. Foreign sources such as the writings of the sixteenth century French diplomat La Loubere also described Khon performances and it seems that the Thai version of the Ramayana was already a well established literary tradition during the Ayutthaya period.