Serie zur Geschichte Bangkoks

Diskutiere Serie zur Geschichte Bangkoks im Thailand News Forum im Bereich Thailand Forum; [highlight=yellow:bfc60203d6]Zeitung "The Nation" beginnt heute eine Serie zur Geschichte Bangkoks[/highlight:bfc60203d6] Da es völlig unklar...


[highlight=yellow:bfc60203d6]Zeitung "The Nation" beginnt heute eine Serie zur Geschichte Bangkoks[/highlight:bfc60203d6]

Da es völlig unklar ist, ob es diese Geschichte später als "virtuellen Sonderdruck" geben wird oder nicht, schlage ich einfach einmal vor, dass die Interessieten hier alle Teile hierein kopieren. Ich erhebe keinerlei Anspruch, dies ganz allein machen zu müssen. Vielmehr würde ich mich über eine Mithilfe sehr freuen! Also jeder, der zufällig der erste ist, wenn eine Folgegeschichte rauskommt, der ......... Vielen Dank.

Teil 1:
100 FIRSTS THAT SHAPED BANGKOK: Ideas, people & events that made our city

Published on Oct 1, 2004

It´s difficult in these high-tech times to reconcile the Bangkok we know with all that its citizens witnessed in 222 years of history´s enfolding sweep. The city today struggles to make room for the 21st century´s ever-advancing technology even as people´s lives are fundamentally transformed and the government unveils grand ambitions to make Thailand Asia´s focus for finance, communications, fashion and more.

It´s fascinating to consider the changes that have swept in waves over this former backwater port on the Chao Phya River that grew into a world-embracing metropolis. In a series of articles beginning today, The Nation embarks on a celebration of 100 great ideas, unique people and groundbreaking events that shaped Bangkok over many decades.

The story begins with the historians´ recollections of the community that has been Thailand´s capital since the 18th century, when King Rama I founded the continuing Chakri dynasty here at the heart of what was then called Siam. The city was chosen to be the centre of administration, commerce, politics, economics, education and culture. And it remains so today. Envied as a gateway to the Orient, it is crowded, chaotic, polluted and noisy, yet its virtues nevertheless lure travellers from all over the globe.

Even in this spacious Land of Smiles, Bangkok has its distinctive charm. It has long been a melting pot for various peoples - from Lao, Khmer and Vietnamese to Indians, Chinese and, yes, many Westerners. Thais from across the Kingdom are drawn here to embrace its modernism mingled with traditionalism and pursue its promise of prosperity.

In the 222 years since it was established in 1782, Bangkok has witnessed countless events and changes that forever reshaped the lives of Thais and, to an extent, the interests of people around the world. Ideas came on the winds of change to inspire generations, and Bangkok itself was reshaped in its geology, economics, politics, sociology and culture.

Thai society had progressed little from the late Ayutthaya era, in the reign of King Narai (1656-1688), to the early Rattanakosin era, in the days of Rama III (1824-1851). Nothing changed in terms of traditions, belief, attitudes and regulations.

Great leaps came after Siam and Britain signed the Bowring Treaty in 1855, while King Rama IV (1851-1868) was on the throne. In the decade that followed, similar pacts were forged with the United States, France and a score of other states.

This opening up to foreign trade sparked a revolution in production and consumerism, led by "nak-rian nok" - returning citizens who had been educated abroad. The sweeping technological innovations of the 19th century flooded into Thailand with them and the country rushed to encounter the onrushing new world.

On June 24, 1932, the so-called "Promoters", a group of well-educated urban intellectuals, carried out a coup d´etat that brought an end to absolute monarchy, and the People´s Party was in control.

A flood of significant events followed. There were the brutal years of war, beginning with Siam´s own conflict with French Indochina in 1940-41. In World War II, Thailand allied with the occupying Japanese, leaving it on dangerous ground at war´s end. But the Kingdom made rapid adjustments in the decades that followed, even as the Western powers exerted strong influence on Thai life and politics.

Changes in Bangkok were fast and often disconcerting. What had been a tiny taxation port - Thon Buri Sri Mahasamutr on the east bank of the Chao Phya - had flourished in haste across the river, clogging the great waterway with vessels of commerce between the Gulf of Thailand and the northern provinces.

This was the capital that had seen the Bangkok Recorder - the first Thai newspaper - launched by American missionary and physician Dan Beach Bradley, whose printing house produced much Thai literature and many textbooks translated from English.

Bangkok´s first land thoroughfare, Charoen Krung Road, opened in 1860, the same year the Siamese first glimpsed ice. The Kingdom´s first telegraph line was established in1883, and the first railway - the Paknam Line - in 1891. Chao Phraya Surasakmontri imported the country´s first car in 1897, as well as the first telephone.

Another first for Bangkok, the Rama VI Bridge, came in 1926. Bangkok´s skyline, of course, knew no high-rises in earlier times. Its vast sprawl of wooden houses rose no more than three storeys. Only its palaces and temples pierced the horizon. Factories were small and covered with palm leaves, most of them situated along the Chao Phya´s banks.

Modern industry began to arrive in the 1910s, but grew slowly. In 1913 there were only six industries registered.

For a long time the Kingdom´s economy advanced only in terms of agriculture. Most people´s income derived from fine crops of rice from the paddy fields that could be seen everywhere, even in Bangkok´s suburbs.

That bucolic scene has been replaced forever with housing estates and skyscrapers, shopping malls and entertainment complexes, huge restaurants and jammed carparks, the Skytrain, the subway and spaghetti expressways.

Today all roads lead to Bangkok as the rural population abandons its villages to heed the call of better income and a semblance of civilisation in the great capital. It´s been estimated that there are up to 12 million people in Bangkok, though only four million are registered, and the city still calls out for more workers with better skills and better education, so entrenched has it become in the ways of the 21st century.

Bangkok continues to modernise while at the same time struggling to solve the problems caused by its speed and ambition. Change carries on.

Nitinand Yorsaengrat

Chonburi's Michael

100 FIRSTS: The Chao Phya: the lifeline to the city for centuries

Published on Oct 2, 2004

Central Thailand’s primary waterway, the Chao Phya River, brings us ebbs and flows that are at the core of Bangkok culture. This “mother of waters” has provided the country not only with a major means of transportation, but also with rich mineral deposits that make its vast basin among the world’s most fertile farming regions.

Bangkok’s development over the centuries has moved in harmony with the Chao Phya’s cyclical breaths.

In the early 14th century, the Chao Phya didn’t exist as we know it now. The small waterways that remain its major tributaries – the Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan rivers – and many small streams originating in the mountains of the north, united at Pak Nam Pho, in present-day Nakhon Sawan, and wound southward for more than 300 kilometres. They passed Ayutthaya and Bangkok before flowing into the Gulf of Thailand in what is now Samut Prakan’s Pak Nam district.

Bangkok, then officially known as Thon Buri Sri Mahasamutr, was the most important port for Ayutthaya in the early 14th century, an island within what became the Chao Phya. The river flowed like an oxbow around the land.

Foreign traders were ordered to leave their ships at the mouth of the river and seek permission from the governor of Bangkok to visit Ayutthaya.

It was King Chairachathirat, the 15th ruler of Ayutthaya, who in 1542 ordered a canal to be dug through the port city, straightening the river to enable foreign traders to reach Ayutthaya more easily. The new canal divided Bangkok into a west and east bank, Thon Buri and Bangkok as they are known today. The river’s new route – past what is now Thammasat University, Siriraj Hospital and the Temple of Dawn – became the Chao Phya. The old branch is today the Bangkok Yai and Bangkok Noi canals.

Nonetheless, in the Ayutthaya period, the Chao Phya River was known to foreigners as the Meinam (or maenam, literally “river”). The name “Chao Phya” seems to have first appeared during the Rattanakosin period.

King Rama IV explained in the Bangkok Recorder newspaper in 1850 that the Siamese in the old days had called every river “maenam”, adding the name of the most important settlement nearby, such as Maenam Bangkok and Maenam Tha Cheen. “The true name of Maenam Bangkok is Maenam Chao Phya”, the king said.

Ayutthaya’s long, proud rule came to an end in 1767, when the king of Ava ordered his army to invade Bangkok in order to approach Ayutthaya from the South. The Siamese general Phraya Tak soon reclaimed Bangkok from the usurpers of Ava, however, and established Bangkok as the Kingdom of the new Siam. Crowned King Taksin, he occupied the throne from 1767 to 1782.

Taksin built his capital, which he named Thon Buri, on both banks of the Chao Phya River. His residence and offices were on the west bank, on land now belonging to the Royal Navy, Wat Rakhang and the Temple of Dawn. The east bank, from present-day Wat Mahathat and the Royal Grand Palace to Wat Poh (Phra Chetupon), was occupied by Chinese settlers.

Thon Buri was the capital of new Siam for 15 years. On April 6, 1782, King Taksin was assassinated at the Temple of Dawn, and Thon Buri soon after became part of a Bangkok, re-established on the east bank as Rattanakosin, the capital city of the Chakri Dynasty.

The Chao Phya was no longer the chief route to the great capital of old Siam but the central artery itself of the capital of the new Siam. New palaces for the king and members of his family were built on the river, as were the raft-houses of his ordinary subjects.

The river now came into its own as the main means of transportation between the inland cities and farmlands to the outside world. Trading flourished along its course and boat-building and fishing along its banks. No wonder the Chao Phya is so revered: in the Rattanakosin era, it brought new life, hope and opportunity to the millions living along its shores.



Serie wird inzwischen in der Sektion "Special Report" geführt.

100 FIRSTS: The birth of Bangkok-Rattanakosin

Published on Oct 3, 2004

At his enthronement on June 13, 1782, King Rama I bestowed an auspicious name upon the new capital of Siam on the east bank of the Chao Phya River: Krungthep Mahanakhorn Amorn Rattanakosin Mahintra Yutthaya Mahadilokpop Noparat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Rachanivet Mahasathan Amornpiman Avartarnsathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit.

The name is locally shortened to "Krungthep Mahanakorn" or "Krungthep", but to foreigners, the city remains known as Bangkok.

The design and architecture for the settlement of Rattanakosin closely followed the traditions of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. It was sited, for protection, beside a river, and turned into an artificial island by the construction of defensive canals.

To the north of the Grand Palace, adjoining the royal temple of Wat Pra Kaeo, was Pra Sumeru Field, where royal cremations were held. In the east was Sanam Chai, where the King reviewed his troops. To the west was the river, and to the south Wat Poh.

Rama I ordered the ceremonial raising of the City Pillar on April 21, 1782. It is made from laburnum wood and decorated with heartwood and contains the city's "birth certificate". For a long time a rumour persisted that on the day the City Pillar was erected four snakes had crawled beneath it and been swiftly killed, a bad omen signifying that Bangkok would remain the capital for only 150 years.

Rama IV, an expert on astrology, therefore formally inscribed a new birth certificate, changing the date to December 5, 1852. The Pillar was rebuilt and now rests in the City Pillar Shrine on Maha Chai Road.

Oddly, however, the 1932 political coup that changed Siam from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy occurred on the city's "original" 150th anniversary.

Rama I also had images of three devas, or guardian angels, forged: Phra Suea Muang (symbolising military power), Phra Song Muang (civil power) and Phra Lak Muang (juridical power). The first two are now in the Thepharak Shrine, near the City Pillar Shrine.

The image of Phra Siam Devadhiraj, chief of all Siamese guardian angels, was created in the reign of Rama IV and can be seen today in the Grand Palace's Phaisan Taksin Throne Hall.

The Emerald Buddha (Phra Putta Maha Mani Rattana Patimakorn, or Phra Kaeo Morakot), often described as the national Buddha image, was placed in Wat Phra Kaeo. Brought from Vientiane by Rama I, it is said to have first appeared in Chiang Rai around 1434, according to Lanna chronicles. Rama I ordered the extension of defensive canals from Lod Canal, which had been dug in King Taksin's time, to the present-day Banglamphu-Ong Ang canals. The Padung Krung Kasem Canal was dug later.

People settled on both banks of the Chao Phya. The old areas on the west bank, in present-day Phasi Charoen district and from the Temple of Dawn to Wat Rakhang, were crowded with communities of Thais, Mons and Chinese. Not far from Bangkok Yai Canal there lived Muslims and Catholic Christians, including French and Portuguese.

The east bank, along with the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, now became home to people from all walks of life. Nobles and royal attendants settled near the Grand Palace, while Banglamphu bloomed from a simple village of gardeners to become, since the time of Rama IV, an entertainment hub. The old Chinese population of the area that became the Grand Palace resettled at Sampeng. Present-day Tha Tien from Ban Moh to Pahurat became a home to Viet, Lao and Mon communities.

Wat Poh, built in the Ayutthaya period, was enlarged and became the primary temple under King Rama I's patronage. It is said to have been Thailand's first university, because King Rama III later ordered texts inscribed on stone slabs around the temple for people to read and learn from. Wat Mahathat was also enlarged between the reigns of Rama I and Rama IV and became the centre of Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhist learning in Southeast Asia.

Rama I also built Wat Suthat to house, in Bangkok's tallest vihara hall, an eight-metre-tall statue of Phra Sri Sakaya Muni Buddha he had brought from Sukhothai. It is believed that the King wanted the temple, in Buddhist tradition, to symbolise the centre of the universe. Wat Suthat is situated in the centre of Rattanakosin, near where the Brahmin Devasathan Temple and the Giant Swing were built in 1784.

The Siamese historically practised both Buddhism and Hinduism, as derived from Sri Lanka and India, while several royal ceremonies had their roots in the Devaraja (god-king) doctrine of Khmer tradition. Triyumpavai-Tripavai, the Swing Ceremony, was held to honour Shiva's annual visit to earth. In a ritual believed to symbolise the rising and setting of the sun, teams of young men were swung to a height of 25 metres to grab a bag of gold suspended from the end of a bamboo pole with their teeth.

The ceremony was one of 12 annual royal rituals. In the Ayutthaya period it was held in the first lunar month but moved to the second lunar month in the Rattanakosin period, ultimately dropping from the list of royal ceremonies during the reign of Rama VII.

No temple within Rattanakosin was allowed to hold cremations, so Wat Saket was built outside the city wall for the purpose. The nearby Golden Mount was built during the reign of Rama III.


Nicht das einer denkt, Nr. 4 wäre schon erschienen. Aber Nr. 5, das ist die folgende:

"100 FIRSTS IN BANGKOK: 5. Canals in Bangkok
Published on October 06, 2004

From the First Reign to that of King Rama III, Bangkok within its walls was an almost unimaginably tiny place considering its vast sprawl today. The seven-kilometre city wall enclosed just 2,163 rai – less than three-and-a-half square kilometres – and a population of between 70,000 and 80,000. Bangkok has since spread outward to cover some 1,570 square kilometres and become home to an estimated 12 million people.

The choice of dwelling places in the earliest years was either inside the wall or on Rattanakosin Island. If citizens chose to live beyond the gates, they often faced difficult conditions, not least of which was flooding.

There were, however, the huge expanses of orchards and fields everywhere, and these were viewed with pleasure by the multitudes who travelled via the great transport routes of the day, the canals.

The waterway network that so enthralled foreign visitors and helped build Bangkok’s reputation was traversed primarily in small, light boats.

Out on the water – the bulk of Bangkokians living in raft-houses along the Chao Phya and its tributaries – the genuine life of the city could best be seen, its heartbeat most surely felt.

Townsend Harris, a businessman who served as US President Franklin Pierce’s envoy to the court of Rama IV, estimated there were around 7,000 raft-houses at the time. And he could see for himself why Bangkok was called “the Venice of the East”, so elaborate was its labyrinth of natural and man-made waterways filled with boats.

The first and most important canal was dug in 1783, in Rama I’s time, a defensive structure known as Rob Krung (literally, “around the city”).

On the throne just one year, the King ordered the capital’s expansion to the east, and 10,000 Khmer prisoners of war were set to work burrowing a trench linking Banglamphu Canal, to the north of the Chao Phya, with the Ong-arng Canal in the south.

Rattanakosin Island was actually formed by Rob Krung to the east and the Chao Phya to the west.

At the same time, Rama I demolished the eastern city wall, built in the reign of King Taksin, and two new parallel canals were excavated to connect with Rob Krung.

Beyond facilitating his subjects’ movement and protection, Rama I had Mahanak Canal built next to Wat Saket so they could come together and socialise, while performers recited the traditional improvised poetry known as “sakava” for their amusement.

When war with the early Vietnamese loomed, King Rama III had Chinese workers dig the Saen Saeb Canal, from present-day Hua Mark to Chachoengsao’s Bangkhanak district, to ship his troops.

The Saen Saeb also connected the Chao Phya with Bang Pakong and eased the journey to Chachoengsao. Chinese labourers were also responsible for the city’s outermost defensive canal, Padung Krung Kasem, which in Rama IV’s time linked present-day Wat Tewarat Kunchon to Wat Kaew Fa. It met Mahanak Canal at the Mahanak junction, which continues to be an important trade centre.

Rama V oversaw the construction of Prem Prachakorn Canal by Chinese workers, which connected Phadung Krung Kasem Canal with the Chao Phya in old Ayutthaya.

Necessity, much planning and, obviously, a lot of forced labour went into giving Bangkok its Venetian airs, but far more importantly, its people a means of getting around.

These canals have always been transportation routes, bringing all the food staples and life’s other essentials from near and far. They have also, worryingly, always served as communal toilets and sewers – this is no modern phenomenon.

King Rama V recognised with alarm that the Chao Phya and the canals were becoming horribly polluted breeding waters for disease. He moved to protect them by law in 1902, and 95 canals in Bangkok and Thon Buri were formally registered.

Alas, the once-beautiful canals’ vulnerability to contamination helped sign the death warrant for most. As the motor car created a popular culture of road transport, Bangkok’s canals began disappearing, and the great majority today lie refilled where once so many thousands toiled to excavate them. "


100 FIRSTS: Arrival of Western influence
Published on October 08, 2004

"In the Third Reign of Rattanakosin, the Kingdom of Siam extended its influence as far as Indochina and the Malay Peninsula. Hostilities with Burma and Vietnam had ended, and trade with other countries, including China, proceeded very successfully.

“Thai culture” was widely viewed as a civilised one, yet even in an era of proud and ancient tradition, that historic culture was both at its peak and slipping into decline.

The winds of change from the West that arrived in Siam while King Rama III was on the throne shook Siamese society to its core. So great was the political and economic power of the Western powers that Siam knew it had to accept occidental influence just to maintain its freedom.

The King and his officials were of course the first to recognise the depth of this influence, and the way they reacted would set the standard for future generations. This was the beginning of what some academics have called the era of “neo-traditionalism”.

In “Journal of an Embassy from the Governor General of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China”, British envoy John Crawfurd observed that the Siamese of Rama II’s day – both court officials and commoners – believed themselves to be civilised people. “To them,” he wrote, “China is the great country, followed by Siam, Burma, Vietnam and the other countries in Asia. The West is uncivilised.”

By the mid-19th century, though, a change of attitude had become essential. The Siamese were forced to pay more attention to the West after Great Britain’s victory over Burma in 1825 and its subsequent forays into China. There were also formidable new technologies being brought from the West.

To Siam’s leaders, China had been omnipotent, Burma undefeatable, so Britain’s successes struck them deeply, clearly necessitating detente with a Western power that had previously been ignored.

Captain Henry Burney, who in 1825 was the British Indian government’s emissary to Siam to deal with friendship and trading issues, wrote that Siam’s leaders were eager to know everything about Great Britain, especially its political institutions.

Historians now believe some Siamese leaders might have had a chance to read John Crawfurd’s earlier chronicle, with its suggestion that Britain might seize Bangkok, and they abruptly awakened to the danger.

The Kingdom’s focus on the West intensified quickly after Protestant missionaries from America arrived on its shores.

Christian proselytisers had been coming since the Ayutthaya period, but most were Catholic and interested only in spreading their faith. They had met with little success because they lacked the support of the country’s rulers, who based their power on Buddhism and Hinduism.

Hinduism’s Devaraja (“god-king”) doctrine and Buddhism’s Dhammaraja (“king-dhamma”) teaching asserted that the King is God, and that if he behaves well, his authority is both guaranteed and protected by Buddhist dhamma. There was no need to seek out a new “God”.

In any event, the King’s subjects were uninterested in Christianity and couldn’t understand these utterly different foreigners. The Siamese practised Buddhism and animism, as their ancestors had, and were happy.

But then the first group of Protestant missionaries arrived from America in 1833, led by John Taylor Jones. The Americans were different from earlier Western clergymen. They brought technology and knowledge about such matters as natural science, medicine, astronomy, geography and printing.

With such a sea change evident in the way man looked at his universe, it was inevitable that Siam would soon yield to, and then embrace, the era of modernity."

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


"100 FIRSTS: The first university
Published on October 09, 2004

With Western nations exerting increasingly strong influence on oriental affairs, Siam´s 19th-century leaders reacted by receiving the foreigners in one of two ways: with enthusiasm or with caution. King Rama III was among those who chose the latter path.

A chronicle by Chaophraya Thipakornworawongse reported that, on his deathbed, Rama III warned his men, particularly Phraya Si Suriyawong (Chuang Bunnag), to be wary of the West.

“There will be no more wars with Vietnam and Burma," the monarch intoned. "We will have wars only with the West. Take care, and do not lose any opportunities to them. Anything they propose should be held up to close scrutiny before accepting it: Do not blindly trust them.”

It is believed that Rama III actually had the old, Ayutthaya-style Wat Pho (Chetuphon Wimonmanklaram) rebuilt and ordered texts to be inscribed on stone slabs around it, in order to invoke the broad, historic knowledge of the Siamese for all to see.

The inscribed texts at the temple reflected the Kingdom´s wisdom of Buddhist dhamma, military strategy, medicine and pharmacology, astrology, botany, geography and even poetry in all its styles.

Everyone, from the most common of labourers, suddenly was no longer denied access to the education available in temples. They were permitted to read the texts and learn the supreme knowledge of Siam at that time.

As a result, Wat Poh came to be regarded as Siam´s first university. In a 1986 article, academic BJ Terwiel noted that when the first American missionary, John Taylor Jones, visited Siam, the abbot of Wat Prayoonrawongsawat tried to convince him of the superiority of Siam´s teachings regarding the earth and the universe compared to Western theories.

The American physician-missionary Dan Beach Bradley wrote in his book, “Siam Then”, that King Rama III had barred him and another foreign doctor from treating his brother, Prince Mongkut. The monarch preferred native doctors and herbal remedies.

Rama III accepted new technology and knowledge from the West, but at the same time insisted that Siamese culture remained preferable.

An inscribed stone slab at the time listed only 32 nations of the world. Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was ranked first as "a land of pure Buddhism", followed by Siam, while the Netherlands was fifth, Italy sixth and France seventh. Mighty Russia was 16th.

Even more intriguing, Great Britain -- about which Siam´s leaders had the most trepidation -- was not even on the list.

Although King Rama III withheld overt support from the visiting missionaries, he did not prohibit high-ranking Siamese from studying with them. Among these was Prince Mongkut, his brother by a different mother who would become Rama IV, Mongkut´s brother Prince Chudamani, Krommuen Wongsasanit, Kromkhun Dejadisorn, Chaophraya Phra Khlang (Dis Bunnag) and his sons Chuang and Kham Bunnag.

Prince Mongkut was interested most in the natural sciences, astronomy and the history of Europe and America. By late 1835 he could devise astronomical map. When he lived at Wat Boworn after being ordained, his small dwelling was full of books, including the Bible, Webster´s dictionary, hydrographic texts, star maps, charts on coming eclipses and, of course, an atlas of the world.

He designed his own printing press, which could function in Thai and Pali, and later ordered one from Britain, the first Asian to do so.

Prince Chudamani (Pinklao, the Second King in the reign of Rama IV) was another high personage who was keen on Western knowledge.

A keen boat-builder and engineer, he was the first Thai who could speak fluent English, and practised Western manners, even dining in the European style. In his palace were new inventions he ordered from America and Britain.

Chudamani was also the first Siamese to let an American missionary attend to ailing members of his family. His daughters were inoculated with smallpox vaccine, another first for the Kingdom.

And, remarkably for the time, he supported the unprecedented right of Siamese women to give birth by modern means.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat

The Nation"


"100 FIRSTS: American Missionaries
Published on October 10, 2004

The first group of Christians to visit Siam were Catholic missionaries from Portugal who arrived in the old capital Ayutthaya. Protestant Dutch traders followed them in 1598, then the British began pursuing business deals in 1612.

The Catholics were once again on track when King Louis XIII of France sent missionaries to the court of King Narai in 1662.

They met with no success proselytising monarch and his courtiers but were allowed by King Narai to establish two churches and a religious school, the first school for commoners in Siam, to spread Christianity. Most of the 700 students were boys from the families of Chinese immigrants.

By the time of Ayutthaya’s collapse, there were an estimated 5,000 Christians in Siam. Most were Chinese and Portuguese.

In the Rattanakosin period that followed, the Protestant missionary movement found a foothold in Bangkok in 1828 under Karl Gutzlaff, a Prussian Lutheran. He was succeeded in turn by John Taylor Jones, the first American Baptist missionary on these shores. He settled in Bangkok in 1833.

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions began sending their emissaries in 1834, and the next year brought Dr Dan Beach Bradley, the most famous of them all in Thailand's history.

Bradley was the first foreign physician to settle in Bangkok, and he was keen on both the medical sciences and engineering. The first surgical operation in Siam, and the first newspaper, were his initiatives. The Protestant missionaries from America arrived in Bangkok with a strong will to create a better world, and that meant that besides teaching people to be good Christians, they wanted to spread knowledge.

The Catholic proselytisers in Siam, led by Jean Baptiste Pallegoix, were busy teaching their faith to some 4,000 souls in the city and 3,000 elsewhere in the country, according to the French preacher’s chronicles. Pallegoix was King Rama IV’s English and Latin tutor and a talented inventor, photographer and linguist. Nevertheless, he had little influence as a purveyor of the “new knowledge”.

But Dr Bradley and his fellow American Baptists were meanwhile shaking Siam with the new revelations of science and technology. Their role reached its peak while Rama IV was on the throne. During the first five years of his reign, they performed many tasks for the court and even made proposals to the monarch about state bureaucracy. Female missionaries including the wives of Dr Bradley and his colleague Dr House were invited to teach English to the ladies of the royal court.

Their considerable influence gradually faded, however, after the King began listening more to hired foreign counsellors, whose realms of interest lay beyond “mere” religion.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat"


Published on October 12, 2004

The first time Bangkokians were ever able to have a flutter on something akin to a lottery was with the “huay”, which appeared in 1835, in King Rama III’s time.

It was introduced by wealthy Chinese trader Jao Sua Hong, who had been appointed Phra Sichaiyaban. Jao Sua Hong borrowed the idea from China: 44 tickets under the same title, with 44 Thai letters, from kor kai and khor khai to hor nok hook. It was known as “huay korkhor”.

The method of play was similar to that of any lottery. A designated banker would pluck the winning ticket at random from a large bag, and those with matching inscriptions won a prize.

The first huay house was situated at the foot of what is now Damrong Sathit Bridge on Charoen Krung Road, and the whole area was jammed on ticketdrawing days. Gambling was enormously popular, and huay houses soon popped up all over the city, each one paying vast annual taxes to the government.

Rama III had agreed to the opening of the first huay house because the cost of living had skyrocketed due to widespread flooding in 1831 and a severe drought in 1832. As well, he wanted an end to the opium trade, and to rid his people of the habit ordered stores of the drug burned, while at the same time sanctioning Jao Sua Hong's huay house as an alternative diversion.

The success of the huay business only increased as time went on. In Rama IV's day, it extended into Phetchaburi and Ayutthaya. Rama V planned to proscribe the huay that caused his subjects to live in poverty. He improved the huay houses, giving them a more European flavour, and ultimately allowed the government to sell tickets – named “lottery” tickets for the first time instead of “huay”. The first government lottery took place in 1874.

In 1916, King Rama VI formally banned the huay, and the following year, as World War I raged, he suggested a government lottery to raise money.

The modern Government Lottery Office was established in 1939, in the reign of Rama VIII, but Thailand to this day has never managed to fully eradicate the illegal lottery.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


100 FIRSTS THAT SHAPED BANGKOK: 12. The First Surgical Operation

Published on October 13, 2004

Surgical operations were unheard of in Siam until American physician and missionary Dr Dan Beach Bradley arrived in Bangkok in July, 1835. The following month, on August 27, he performed surgery – without the benefit of anaesthetic – on the forehead of a Chinese labourer with a benign tumour. The operation was a success and Bradley received admiring applause. The surgeon was henceforth known as “the very smart doctor from America”.

On January 13, 1837, a cannon exploded at a temple fair at Wat Prayoon in Thon Buri, killing eight people and injuring many more. One of the wounded was sent to Bradley, who amputated his right arm at the shoulder. Later that year, he spent almost an entire day extracting a man's molar.

In his book “Siam Then”, Bradley recalls that one of his first medical tasks after arriving in Bangkok was treating slaves of the King who were sick with cholera, smallpox and other diseases caused by unhealthy living conditions. The doctor complained that he could do little in the long term because the royal court ignored his pleas to improve the slaves’ lot.

He later opened a small clinic in his house and within a few months had treated some 3,500 patients, ranging in age from 10 to 100. Bradley recorded in his journal 180 illnesses among the Siamese, with skin problems the most prevalent, followed by eye ailments, especially cataracts.

Bradley's reputation as a great doctor spread across the country. On November 10, 1836, a Buddhist monk from Sukhothai brought his brother, who had been blinded by infection and five other monks suffering from cataracts to see the doctor. He performed operations on all of them.

In treating the cataracts, it is believed that Dr Bradley employed a cuttingedge method for the time, “extracapsular extraction”, which had just been invented by French ophthalmologist Dr Daviel.

Bradley wrote that his medical fees were fruit and food. His single largest payment took the form of 45 buckets of rice from Chaophraya Polathep, another of the many cataract sufferers who was fortunate enough to meet the good Dr Bradley.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


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3 . Palaces, people and the city
Oct 04, 2004

In Bangkok’s earliest days, city planning was attuned to the siting and expansion of palaces. The Royal Grand Palace and Wang Na – the Palace of the Second King – were built near the Chao Phya River, while others for princes who had become too old to stay in the Grand Palace were constructed to the north, south and east.

And while some of the new capital’s palaces were built on unoccupied land, the construction of others entailed the expropriation of whole communities without compensation.

King Rama IV ultimately put an end to such enforced resettlements, ordering that any occupied land needed for royal projects must be purchased from his subjects.

The early palaces were built in traditional Siamese style, with foreign architecture showing no influence until the reign of Rama V.

The Royal Grand Palace – and Wat Phra Kaeo’s outer grounds – have long been acknowledged as the most beautiful places in Bangkok. Experienced artisans from all over the country were summoned to help build the graceful wang (palaces) and wat (temples) of the new Siam, and their distinctive contributions have magnificently reflected the Siamese view of life ever since.

Among the buildings within the Grand Palace compound are throne halls and smaller palaces, all repeatedly renovated and refurbished over the years. There are 25 interior gates linking 35 structures, as well as 13 exterior gates and 17 forts around the wall.

The Phra Maha Monthien in the Grand Palace was the marvellous residential complex of early Chakri kings, who stayed mostly in the chief Throne Hall, the Chakrapatpiman.

Other interesting buildings in the complex are the Dusit Maha Prasat and Chakri Maha Prasat throne halls. The former, displaying traditional Thai architecture, was built in Rama I’s time. The soaring tiers of its red, gold and green roof culminate in a gilded spire shaped like the King’s crown, and each tier bears a typical chor-fa (slender bird’s head), hang hong (a swan’s tail), and a three-headed naga (serpent).

In contrast, the Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall, built in the days of Rama V, is a hybrid of Thai and European architecture. The throne hall itself was built in European style and the roof in Thai.

No one other than the King’s children was allowed to be born or die inside the walls of the Royal Grand Palace, but if such a dire event occurred, a Brahmin ceremony to “compensate” each of the palace gates had to be held. For this reason pregnant women were not permitted to enter the complex.

Wat Phra Kaeo was built to Rama I’s specifications as a temple within the royal compound, just as Wat Phra Sri Sanphet had held pride of place in the old city. While the influences of sacred Siamese literature – derived from the Indian epic Ramayana – are much in evidence there, it was a temple without monks.
The Palace of the Second King (Wang Na) was built at the same time on the present sites of Thammasat University, the National Museum and the National Theatre.

There were also three smaller palaces where Silpakorn University and the Fine Arts Department now stand, and these were occupied by Prince Kasatranuchit (Men), a son of King Taksin and daughter of Rama I, and Princes Arunothai and Apaithat, sons of Rama I.

After Prince Men was charged with sedition and assassinated by Rama II, his palace was taken over by Prince Jetsadabodin, who in time became Rama III.

The three princes’ palaces were combined during the reign of Rama IV and given to Prince Maha Mala, and then became government property with the coup of 1932.

The west exterior gate of the Royal Grand Palace, which opened on to the Chao Phya River, for generations teemed with traders, shoppers and elephants. Among the bustling piers (tha) in the area were Tha Chang Wang Luang and Tha Chang Wang Na, whose names include “chang” in recognition of the fact that royal elephants (chang) regularly bathed there.

Tha Chang Wang Luang is today called Tha Phra, because it was the anchorage for the barge that brought the giant Buddha (Phra) image for Wat Suthat in Rama I’s time.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


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4. Sanam Luang
Oct 05, 2004

A flying crew pull their kite against an opposing team during a kite competition in the old days at Sanam Luang.Sanam Luang

The vast public park called Sanam Luang Bangkok's wide open space of royal pageantry, religious piety and breezy days of kiteflying takes its name from the Thai words meaning "grand ground", or "the ground that belongs to the King".

To the Siamese of the early Rattanakosin period, the field was "Thoong Phra Meru" (literally, "the royal cremation ground"), since this open space to the north of the Royal Grand Palace was where the remains of monarchs and other highranking royalty were cremated.

In the reign of King Rama III, Sanam Luang was a demonstration rice field that underscored Siam's prosperity to foreign envoys. The king also ordered a royal pavilion built there for the annual royal ploughing and rainmaking ceremonies.

He had a crematorium built at nearby Wat Saket and tried to convince members of royalty to hold their cremation ceremonies there alongside those of ordinary people, but his pleas went unheeded.

When Rama IV came to the throne, he decided that Thoong Phra Meru was an inauspicious name and changed it to Sanam Luang. Certainly the grounds became more popular with the public in his time, for Sanam Luang was soon hosting entertainment, including theatrical performances, martialarts demonstrations and, yes, kiteflying.

Sanam Luang originally covered only a small portion of its present southern half. The rest was occupied mostly by the Palace of the Second King, the balance by mere floodplain.

Following his first visit to Europe in 1897, King Rama V wanted to transform Sanam Luang so that it resembled the lovely parks he'd seen in front of the grand buildings of European capitals. Having abolished the position of the second king, he ordered the demolition of the walls and forts of the palace to the east so that Sanam Luang could be extended.

In 1902, when he had hoo kwang and mahogany trees planted along Rajdamnoen Nok and Rajdamnoen Nai avenues, he also ordered 365 tamarind trees planted to provide shade around Sanam Luang.

About the same time, the cremation ceremonies of highranking royalty were moved to the official royal crematorium at Wat Thepsirin (in the presentday Pomprab district).

The only time Sanam Luang served as a cremation place for ordinary people was in 1973, after the popular uprising for democracy on October 14. Victims of the violence were cremated in the north of the grounds, separated from area used for the royal ceremonies to the south.

Sanam Luang has been a multipurpose area ever since Bangkok was founded, far beyond its grander uses as the venue for royal and official ceremonies in every reign.

When Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram was prime minister, it witnessed horseracing, beauty competitions and antigovernment protests. It hosted the city's biggest weekend market until Chatuchak opened in 1982.

Today, yearround, there are trade fairs and casual entertainment and leisurely family strolls, although it is still used for such large celebrations as New Year's Eve gatherings, Songkran in April and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May.

And few Thais will forget the importance of Sanam Luang in the country's proud march toward democracy. Proposals persist for an annual commemoration to be held there of the 1973, 1976 and 1992 political clashes that took place in and around the grounds. The blood spilled there on those grim days could only further sanctify such a historic place.



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6. The Chinese immigrants
Oct 07, 2004

Chinese immigrants have played a huge role over the centuries in helping build Bangkok into one of the most prosperous cities in Southeast Asia. Researchers believe the Chinese originally found new homes in Siam 1,000 years ago,

settling first in great numbers in what became the south of Thailand, and then, from the 14th to mid 18th centuries, in Ayutthaya.

The Siamese court recognised their talents as business agents, traders and seafarers, and employed many to mediate pacts with foreign countries, rewarding them in turn with the freedom to conduct their own business and domestic affairs.

Between 1782 and 1851, the first three kings of the Chakri dynasty supported Chinese immigration as an aid to trade. Historians say that in the reign of Rama III, fully half of Bangkok’s 400,000 citizens were Chinese. American academic William Skinner conjectures that by 1850, that number had increased to at least 300,000, and 95,000 more arrived each year over the next century. The influx dropped only with the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

In a 1986 report, academics at Yunnan’s Southeast Asia Study Institute cited four main reasons behind the massive Chinese migration to Thailand. Exports of rice blossomed in Rama IV’s reign, and during that of his successor, from 1905 to 1909, Siam shipped out 885,000 tonnes – 40 per cent of its overall output.

Second, mainland China simply lacked enough arable land to sustain its farmers. A third factor was the new steamboat lines launched by British companies, which brought people from Hong Kong and Shantou (Swatao). The final impetus for immigration came from natural disaster and war.

Most – 95 per cent – came from Guangdong, Fujian (Hokkian) and Zhejiang provinces, with many more arriving from Yunnan province. Most were Taechew, Hainanese and Hakkan (Kae).

The Taechew worked as retailers, construction workers and rice millers, or on sugarcane, pepper and tobacco plantations.

Most Hainanese worked in the sawmills and ports and on rubber plantations, or became gardeners or pig farmers.

The Hakkan were craftsmen, peddlers, rickshaw drivers and housekeepers.

People from the south of Fujian preferred working in the mines of southern Thailand, or on barges. Those from Guangdong went into construction.

Collectively, their economic contribution was immense. Until 1855 they ran all the rice mills in Bangkok, and even then the number of Chinese immigrants accelerated with the signing of the Bowring Treaty with Britain.

From 1870, they were building more rice mills and using steam engines to help process up to 200 tonnes a day. In 1912 there were 50 mills in the capital that belonged to Chinese, and more in the provinces.

The merchants who bought the unhusked rice from Siamese farmers were Chinese, as were the traders who shipped the rice abroad, including to China. The only role in the chain they shunned was the actual growing.

It was an auspicious beginning, and things only got better. The immigrants gradually adapted to Thai ways and via a mutual cultural osmosis countless business-minded descendants become leaders of Thai society.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


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10. Dept store, steamboat introduced
Oct 11, 2004

In 1824, Scottish merchant Robert Hunter became the first Western trader to settle in Bangkok. Shuttling between Thailand, Singapore and London, he was the man who five years later set the conjoined brothers Chang and Eng on their road to worldwide fame as “the Siamese twins”.

Hunter rented a tall building in front of present-day Wat Prayoon in Thon Buri from Chaopraya Borommahaprayoonwong, where he lived and where, in 1826, he opened Morgan & Hunter, the Kingdom’s first department store. Here he sold imported products, including fabrics from India and textiles and medicines from the West, quinine among them.

Hunter was much concerned about profit. A chronicle by Kromluang Wongsathiratsanit asserts that he even sold opium from China, a drug that Siam had clearly asserted was unwelcome.

It was Hunter too who, in 1844, brought the first steamboat into the Chao Phya River. When King Rama III declined to buy the old vessel because the price was too expensive, Hunter threatened to ask the British government to send warships to Siam. The furious monarch abruptly sent him into exile, from which Hunter was unable to return until Rama IV was on the throne.

In any event, within a few years the Chao Phya was full of steamboats carrying goods imported from the West. They came to symbolise the New World, but importantly, their arrival prompted Prince Chudamanee – Rama IV’s brother, who would become the Second King later in the Fourth Reign – to develop his own trading vessels.

In 1833, the Prince and his aide, Jamuen Waiworanat (Chuang Bunnag), with help from an American missionary and the engineer John H Chandler, built a junk. Then, on July 4, 1848, they launched a 20-foot, Western-style steamboat based on the British model.

Chandler also helped the Prince establish a machine tool plant, and later became an agent in the machine trade between Siam and Great Britain.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


@ Jinjok: Vielen Dank für das Auffinden der Beiträge, die nicht unter dem Rubrum 100 Firsts erschienen sind!

"100 FIRTH : Vaccinations
Published on October 14, 2004

As well as introducing the delicate science of medical surgery to old Siam, the American physician and missionary Dr Dan Beach Bradley brought the Kingdom its first protective vaccinations.

The first to be innoculated against common diseases were Prince Chudamani’s daughters, but as smallpox continued its murderous spread, killing hundreds of people – with 1839 the worst year on record – King Rama III let Bradley vaccinate the ladies in his court, followed by all of his subjects.

According to Bradley’s book, “Siam Then”, the monarch paid him Bt20 (at that time worth approximately US$12, or Bt497 today) to purchase the vaccine for the poor.

Bradley’s 1840 “Tamra Plook Phee Kho” (Treatise on Vaccination), written as a guide for Siamese doctors, was much appreciated by the King, who paid him Bt240.

Bradley gradually revised the book and published 300 copies for sale to the public in 1844. Vaccine, however, was not always readily available in sufficient quantities – Bradley’s own eight-month-old daughter died from smallpox a year later. But the good doctor from the US had again proven his value to the people of Siam.

In “Siam Then”, Bradley wrote that, at first, he’d used an old method of inoculation, injecting people with a mild form of smallpox, but met with little success. He preferred proper vaccine, but didn’t have a chance to try it here until a friend in Washington, Dr SVC Smith, sent him some on January 22, 1840. Among his first patients were the children of such high personages as Chao Phraya Phra Klang and Prince Chudamani, as well as Prince Mongkut’s officials.

Vaccination using cowpox to build immunity against the deadly scourge of smallpox was discovered in theory by British army surgeon Edward Jenner in 1798.

Siam ordered vaccine from abroad until 1901, when King Rama V authorised the Ministry of Public Instruction to establish a Pasteur Institute here, in order to produce vaccine locally for the first time.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat"


100 FIRST: ‘Treatise on Midwifery’
Published on October 15, 2004

Dr Dan Beach Bradley wrote his helpful Treatise on Vaccination in 1840 (although it was not published for another four years), yet he regarded the care of pregnant women and midwifery a subject of even greater concern.

Alarmed at some of the practices he witnessed in early 19th-century Siam, the American physician and missionary believed that modern methods of childbearing would greatly aid local mothers and their offspring.

Thus he spent the Bt240 he was paid by King Rama III for his work protecting the Siamese from smallpox on a book on pregnancy and midwifery. “Kampee Kantharaksa” (Treatise on Midwifery) was published in 1842, offering 200 pages of advice and some 50 photos and illustrations by local artists.

It was the country’s first Thai textbook on modern obstetrics.

In the old days, it was customary for a woman who had just given birth to lie by a fire for a month. The practice, called yu fai, was believed to allow the womb to heal properly while curbing her sexual appetite.

Bradley was appalled that the practice continued even though many mothers suffered from the heat and actually became ill. At the same time, many babies were stillborn or unhealthy as a result of faulty theories about birthing and childcare.

The doctor wrote that many Siamese women insisted their bodies were structured differently from those of Western women, so they believed his methods were unsuitable for them. Bradley decided to write a book to try and correct such misconceptions and further improve the Siamese quality of life.

Agreeing that Siamese mothers must abandon yu fai, Prince Mongkut and Prince Chudamani enthusiastically approved of Bradley’s plan. Although initially there were few followers, Bradley’s observations – and his books – were the first steps towards changing harmful attitudes that had been retained from generation to generation.

“Kampee Kantharaksa” was also the first Siamese medical textbook to be made available to the general public, another extraordinary innovation among the citizens of the day.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


100 FIRSTS: First Printing
Published on October 16, 2004

The Siamese had been familiar with the printing press since the reign of King Narai in the Ayutthaya period, when a French Catholic missionary named Laneau established a printing house in 1662.

French chronicles of the day claim he mass-produced Christian sermons, but all hard evidence was lost with the collapse of the old capital in 1767.

In the period that followed, a Catholic priest founded a printing house at Santa Cruz Church in Thon Buri and published the book “Kham Son Christang”, using Roman script. The Thai alphabet had yet to be cut into printing blocks.

That changed some time after 1819, when another missionary, American Ann Yudson, and a Burmese printer created the first complete set of Siamese font. Two books were published using Siamese text: a group of Baptists released “Christian Preaching” in Burma, and James Low issued “Tamra Waiyakorn Thai” (“Thai Grammar”) in Calcutta.

Before he moved to Siam, American physician and missionary Beach Bradley was offered Yudson’s printing press and Thai font while in Singapore.

He launched his own printing business in 1836 in Thon Buri’s Santa Cruz district before moving to what is now Captain Bush Lane off New Road and later to a house near Wat Prayoon.

The first book Bradley printed was “The Ten Commandments”, the first Thai-language book published in Siam.

In 1839 the government hired Bradley to print an announcement outlawing opium smoking. This is regarded as the country’s first official published announcement.

Bradley two years later, with the skills of a Singaporean printer, developed a far more beautiful Thai font.

In 1861 he published “Niras Muang London” (“A Voyage to London”) by Mom Rachothai, Siam’s first copyrighted book.

Bradley continued tinkering with Thai fonts. By the end of King Rama IV’s reign there were four known fonts. The font he devised became the basis for the printed Thai still used today.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


100 FIRSTS: The First Newspaper

Published on Oct 17, 2004

The consensus among scholars is that American missionaries deserve the credit for introducing the first newspapers to Asian society. A Dr Gutzlaff published a very early newspaper in China, while in Siam it was the inimitable Dr Dan Beach Bradley who pioneered the concept of news reportage and in doing so encouraged a positive regard for the critical evaluation of current events.

In 1844, nine years after he arrived in Bangkok, the American physician and missionary received King Rama III's permission to publish a local newspaper. The Thai-language Nangsue Jodmai Het, The Bangkok Recorder debuted on July 4, America’s Independence Day. Bradley served as editor while the manager was a Dr Caswell, who later became Prince Mongkut’s English tutor.

The Recorder was a single, 23-by-27-centimetre sheet with just 35 subscribers, all but two of whom were of very high standing in society. Initially a monthly publication, it came out on the first Thursday of every month. The price of the paper started out at Bt1 per year, subsequently fell to 25 satang and finally, to drum up interest, was offered free to all government officers and head priests.

The newspaper included features on foreign and trade news, articles about the sciences and medicine and question-and-answer exchanges between the readers and the editor. Local news and stories about Christianity were rare.

Bradley deserves further credit for using some of the earliest transliterations, which served in part to give the Thai language new life. He employed terms like chao phaendin for kings and presidents and helped to bridge many of the gaps between the English and Thai languages. Bradley also created other terms, like look rua for “crew”, rua doen talay for “seagoing steamer” and rua gol fai for “steamship” or “steamboat”, and many other words which are still in use today.

The original Nangsue Jodmai Het, The Bangkok Recorder, the name itself including a translation, lasted only a year, ending abruptly when Bradley’s wife Emilie died in 1845. The doctor then took his three children and his wife’s body back to the United States.

Dr Bradley returned to Bangkok with his new wife Sarah in 1850, resuming his missionary work and relaunching his printing house. He published many local novels in Siamese, including the famous “Niras London” by Mom Rachothai and “Sam Kok” (“The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”) by Chaophraya Phrakhlang. Each had around 200 to 300 copies printed, priced at Bt4 or Bt5.

Bradley had a rival in the publishing business, a fellow American missionary named Dr Smith, who published a set of poetic stories by Siamese writers that sold for just 25 satang. In 1859, Dr Bradley decided to publish an annual English-language newspaper called the Bangkok Calendar, which adopted the name of a defunct daily that had been run by a Dr Chandler from 1847 to 1850. For his part, Chandler re-entered local journalism in 1864 with the Siam Times, the country's first English-language daily newspaper.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


100 FIRSTS THAT SHAPED BANGKOK: The First Dictionary
Published on October 18, 2004

To effectively spread their faith in Asia, America's Baptist missionaries realised they had to study the native languages. Dr Karl Gutzlaff led the way in the 19th century, becoming fluent in Chinese. John Taylor Jones followed his example when, in 1833, he became the first of the US missionaries to arrive in Siam.

During his first years here, Jones devoted much of his time compiling the first Siamese-English dictionary. Two of his colleagues, JH Chandler - who moved to Bangkok from Mawlamyine, Burma, in 1840 - and Jesse Caswell, developed it further.

The two missionaries translated Jones' dictionary, transforming it by 1846 into what is regarded as the first fully Siamese dictionary.

Anake Nawingamune, acclaimed for his writings on traditional Thai arts and culture, suggests that an all-Siamese dictionary could have been written earlier by a French Catholic missionary named Laneau during the reign of King Narai of Ayutthaya, but no one has actually seen a copy.

In 1854, the French Catholic missionary Jean Baptiste Pallegoix published a dictionary titled "Sappajana Pasa Thai" that encompassed Siamese, Latin, French and English.

A few years later, Samuel Gamble McFarland began work on a new English- Siamese dictionary. It was later improved by his sons, George and Edwin, who in 1865 also manufactured the first typewriter to use Thai fonts.

According to Anake, around 11 Siamese-Siamese and Siamese-English dictionaries were created by American missionaries between 1865 and 1872. In 1873, five years after King Rama IV passed away, the prolific American preacher and physician Dr Dan Beach Bradley, by then 69 years old, started working on a long-envisioned project: the "Akraphithansap" (Dictionary of the Siamese Language).

He undertook the treatise with the help of one Ajarn Tat, but after Bradley died on June 23, 1873, his son Dan F Bradley saw it through to completion, in that same year. It comprised 828 pages and 40,000 words.

Modern academics agree that it was the best all-Thai dictionary of that era, the first to compend almost every word used by ordinary Siamese, including slang. It also strove to standardise the language by placing characters and sounds in the order used in Thai grammar of the time.

The first all-Siamese dictionary compiled by a Thai - a masterful work by Phraya Pariyatthamthada - appeared in 1891, during the Fifth Reign.



100 FIRSTS THAT SHAPED BANGKOK: Light of the Modern Era
Published on October 19, 2004

Though on the throne for only 17 years, King Rama IV oversaw the astonishing period when the nation actually migrated into the modern era, being transformed from “Old Siam” into “New Siam”, and ultimately evading the creeping colonialist shadow cast by the West.

Westerners, and particularly the often intrusive American missionaries like Dan Beach Bradley, were enormously appreciative of the new monarch, since Rama III, who died on April 3, 1851, had been no admirer of occidental ways, and repeatedly shunned foreigners’ appeals for broader relationships and more trade.

In his book “Siam Then”, Dr Bradley wrote that Prince Mongkut – in his last days clad in monk’s robes before entering the palace as the new king – called upon a group of American Protestant missionaries. The prince asked for their help in opening a school where young Siamese men could study English and the sciences, a school like those in the West. He also said he intended to try constitutional monarchy, as practised in Great Britain – if not in whole, then at least in part.

Mongkut agreed that it was unfair for the Siamese to be governed by only one man. Moreover, he said, traditional pride in the “Greatest Siam” was no longer sufficient under threat of Western domination.

From his first year on the throne as Rama IV, King Mongkut broke many traditions. He ordered royal officials to wear a garment covering their torso when in his presence, but was the first Siamese monarch to let ordinary people see him when he left the palace and, scoffing at the superstition that the camera stole one’s soul, was the first to allow his photograph to be taken.

In 1855, Hong Kong Governor Sir John Bowring, envoy of Britain’s Queen Victoria, fulfilled Mongkut’s prophecy by offering a treaty of friendship and commerce. Though fully aware that his country would be adversely affected, the king was obliged to acquiesce, lest Siam face the same social and fiscal disasters that had befallen Burma and China.

By this treaty, British subjects enjoyed wide freedom to trade with the Siamese, with import tariffs limited to just 3 per cent.

The following year, similar treaties were signed with American envoy Townsend Harris and France’s M de Montigny. In 1858, trade opened with Denmark and Portugal, in 1860 with the Netherlands and in 1862 with the States of the German Customs Union and the Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. There were pacts authorised with Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Italy in 1868 and Japan in 1898, and many more followed, each in turn bringing more and more foreigners to settle in Bangkok.

Rama IV had opened the Kingdom to a rapid influx of foreign commerce – and at the same time opened his people’s minds to modern currents of fashion and philosophy. He maintained the country’s “reasonable traditions”, while remaining open to new concepts.

Among the King’s most internationally celebrated nods to Westernisation was his hiring of Anna Leonowens, a widow from Singapore, to teach his children English. But more importantly, this was a ruler willing to affirm the right to freedom of religion, who encouraged the Christian missionaries in their educational and medical work.

Rama IV reformed the Hinayana Buddhism most widespread in Siam at the time, making it more practical and creditable. He suggested to his still-superstitious people that the Earth was round and revolved around the sun, and that eclipses were purely natural phenomena.

He set up the first Siamese printing house, built roads, and issued the first modern currency to meet the requirements of expanded trade. He reformed the government, installing foreign advisers, and called in European officers to improve the army and organise a police force.

King Rama IV died on October 1, 1868, at the age 64, and remains among the Siamese monarchs most recognised abroad.

Nithinand Yorsaengrat


100 FIRSTs THAT SHAPED BANGKOK : 19 - Buddhist Reformation

Published on Oct 20, 2004

The most important Buddhist reformation ever attempted in Siam began during the reign of King Rama III under Prince Mongkut, the monarch’s son who was then a monk, and continued when he ascended the throne as King Rama IV.

Although he had genuine enthusiasm for the new knowledge and technology of the West, King Rama IV advocated caution when it came to Siamese acceptance of all things occidental. He realised Buddhism's importance to his countrymen and made sure it was maintained at the core of the nation’s spirit.

In the earlier Rattanakosin period, accepted theories about the Earth and the universe derived from the book “Tribhum Phra Ruang”, which was believed to have been written by King Mahathammaracha Lithai of Sukhothai sometime in the 14th century. Its concepts were drawn from Buddhist and Brahmin belief, and in itself the old tome was claimed to be part of Buddhist teaching.

“Tribhum Phra Ruang” addressed the universe in terms of four “bhumi” (states) of the spirit: the enlightened, the state without form, the state with form, and the state with sensuousness. The Earth was the land separated into four regions: Utrakuru, Chombhudaveep, Burapavitheha and Amarakoyan. Siam and the other countries of the Earth existed in Chombhudaveep. Beneath the earth, the book claimed, was a large fish whose movements caused earthquakes. Rain, thunder, lightning and the like were caused by angels at work in the universe.

It was American missionary John Taylor Jones who first introduced Siamese people to the modern world map, but naturally it took many years to change local minds about the grand picture of the universe, and for the citizenry at large to accept that the tenets of “Tribhum Phra Ruang” were untrue. King Rama IV took it upon himself to explain to his people – and to foreigners – that the old treatise was in fact not Buddhist text derived from the revered Tripitaka (“the Three Baskets”).

Having created the new sect of Buddhism while he was still a prince, he stressed that essential Buddhism focused on truth, cause and outcome. The Dhammayutikanikaya monks devoted themselves to Lord Buddha’s teachings and spurned traditional animism as a wayward path.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that King Rama IV did not strongly support his sect when he was on the throne. He said he did not want all monks in the Kingdom moving to Dhammayutikanikaya; he wanted them to continue in their customary activities. For the Dhammayutikanikaya sect he founded, it seems, he wanted only men from the families of high personages.

Academics have conjectured that King Rama IV, realising the difficulty of changing people’s minds overnight, was merely seeking to avoid social conflict. At the same time, though, it became essential for Siamese leaders to understand the scientific aspects of Buddhism so they could use it as a tool to protect the country from the worst of Western influence.

The monks of the Dhammayutikanikaya sect would play a crucial role in educational reform during the reign of King Rama V, opening temples schools where children could study modern subjects, including arithmetic and science.


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