Luk Thep: Thailand's Baby Doll Tradition

Luk Thep on sale in Chinatown, Bangkok
Luk Thep on sale in Chinatown, Bangkok | © tingtongdaddy/Shutterstock
Iona Proebst

Thai’s are known to be a superstitious bunch, and the Luk Thep baby doll tradition is no different. Want to know more about the fascinating Luk Thep culture that made headlines around the world? Read our article to find out more about this unique tradition and the ongoing search for good fortune.

What is a Luk Thep?

Luk Thep, or “Child Angels” are plastic, life-like baby dolls that are believed to be possessed by spirits that bring about good luck and future prosperity. Luk Thep are treated like any other baby or child, they are fed, dressed and cradled. The lifelike manufactured dolls have become a large and (somewhat) normal part of everyday life for Thai people as well as a worldwide sensation that international media outlets latched on to.

How did the Luk Thep tradition come about?

Luk Thep on sale in Chinatown, Bangkok

Where does the Luk Thep tradition originate from?

There are a few different theories on the origins of Luk Thep, with some making the assumption that Luk Thep are updated versions of Kuman Thong. Kuman Thong were fetuses which had passed away before being born which were kept and believed to carry the spirit of the dead child. Others believe that the Luk Thep tradition is tied to Thailand’s low fertility rate, as middle-aged Thai women are most often the ones toting these sacred dolls about. Another common belief is that due to the challenging economic climate in Thailand in 2016 when the tradition was born, Thailand’s citizens needed something to cling on to (literally). However, the consensus sways more towards the Luk Thep culture being connected to the fusion of Thailand’s strong Buddhist belief and influences from Hinduism, animism and object worshipping traditions.

Next time you see a life-size doll being pampered and doted on by a bunch of adoring adults in the Land of Smiles, you’ll know exactly what is going on and be able to fill in the blanks for any bewildered travellers.

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