THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

TRAITS and TREASURES

THAILAND

THAILAND
TRAITS and TREASURES

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

1

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

2

CONTENTS
THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES
Archaeology and History The Thai Monarchy Phra Sayam Thewathirat The National Symbols of Thailand The Royal Ceremonies in Celebration of the King’s Birthday Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Role of Thai Women in Broad Perspective The Royal Ploughing Ceremony The Royal Kathin Ceremony Royal Processions Royal Processions on Land The Royal Barge Suphannahong Religions in Thailand Thai Architecture The Grand Palace Thai Literature Legends and Folktales Traditional Performing Arts in Thailand Music Festivals Sports Kite Flying Takraw Muay Thai Thai Food Thai Herbs and Spices Thai Fruits
THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

6 10 16 18 20 24 29 31 34 36 37 38 41 46 56 64 71 76 84 88 94 94 98 101 108 110 111

3

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES
Thai Handicrafts Souvenirs from Thailand Attractions Tapestry of Roots Northern Headwater Mountains and Valleys Cradle of Historical Siam Northern River Plains and Mountain Flanks Rice Bowl Central Plain Upstream River Basins Gateway of Siam - Core of Contemporary Thailand Central Plain Downstream River Basins and Estuaries Ancient Civilizations Isan Heartland Tracing Prehistoric and Early History Isan Western Plateau Sustaining the Southeast Asian Mainland Artery Isan Northern and Eastern Riparian Belt Antiquity Grid : Conservation of the Built Environment Isan Southern Plateau Integrity with Diversity Eastern Mountains, Valleys, and Coast Kaleidoscopic Cross-sections Western Mountain Ranges, Valleys, and Plains Golden Chersonese Peninsular River Basins and Gulf Coast On the Edge of Paradise Andaman Sea Coast Sanuk
THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

116 120 129 155 179 205 233 265 295 333 385 411 431 461 496

4

Preface
One of the many countries with distinctive traits, Thailand is one endowed with a rich heritage of art and culture resulting from the accumulation of endless evolutions and development. Historical evidence further reflects its wisdom, aesthetics, environs and other symbols that together form the identity of the Thai nation. Hence, the valuable treasures in this cradle of civilization should be preserved, continued, studied and disseminated to foster more profound and accurate understanding. On behalf of the special sub-committee for the publication of Thailand : Traits and Treasures, I would like to express our appreciation to the National Identity Board for giving us the opportunity to research and write about some outstanding aspects of Thai society in the regions and communities so that those unfamiliar with and interested in Thailand would have greater knowledge and understanding of our country. I would also like to thank my colleagues on the sub-committee for their hard work and inputs which have significantly contributed to this publication. Special thanks go to the Tourism Authority of Thailand for providing funding support for part of the expense in the publication of Thailand : Traits and Treasures. The special sub-committee hopes that this book will render both knowledge and pleasure to the readers.

(Dr Suvit Yodmani) Chairperson of the special sub-committee for the publication of Thailand : Traits and Treasures under the National Identity Board

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

5

Archaeology and History

THAILAND : : TRAITS and TREASURES THAILAND TRAITS and TREASURES

66

Archaeology and History

W

hat is now Thailand has been home to a number of ethnic groups since the dawn of human history. Prehistoric stone implements dating back to the Paleolithic Period have been found in many parts of Thailand. A recent discovery of Homo erectus skull cap fragments in the north puts the dates of human history in the country back to the period between 1.6-0.5 million years. Evidence of settled village life was also discovered in many areas totalling half the size of the country. Artefacts made by the people in this period include implements made of stone, wood, bone, and shell to serve various specific functions. Rock art exists in a number of cave sites in all parts of the country. Many rock paintings depict very clearly the ways of life of settled village people with scenes like wet rice cultivation, cattle-herding, a man leading an ox by rope, and dog-handling. By about 2000-1800 B.C. bronze appeared in common use. With tin and copper deposits, Thailand was probably one of the few places where both minerals could be collected.

Copper mining sites in Northeast and Central Thailand have engaged archaeologists in a project on archaeo-metallurgy for more than ten years. Successive excavations reveal large-scale copper smelting industries, with tons of slags and ingot moulds, and many burials associated with metal artefact offerings. Iron came into use relatively early, too. It first appeared with bronze in the same artefact : a bi-metallic spearhead has its blade made of iron with a bronze socketed handle. A number of iron bracelets were found wrapped around bracelets made of bronze. By 500 B.C. - 200 A.D. contacts with India and China were increased, as attested by trade goods such as etched beads, glass ceramics, as well as other objects made of metal with motifs indicative of foreign origins. Chinese records mentioned the existence of many towns and cities from the 3rd century A.D. onwards. Some urban societies rose to their peaks in the 7th century A.D.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

7

The Thais did not settle in Southeast Asia until towards the end of the first millennium A.D. Sukhothai was founded around 1220 1 A.D . in northern Thailand. Its third ruler, King Ramkhamhaeng (12791298) invented Thai script, for the first time, in 1283. This prosperous city and kingdom was ruled by a benevolent paternal monarch, or ‘father-king,’ in contrast to the ‘godking’ of contemporary Angkor in Cambodia. Sukhothai culture, its people, and way of life were based very much on Buddhism, as was another contemporary kingdom known as Lan Na, situated further north. Sukhothai lasted about 160 years, falling under the domination of Ayutthaya in 1378. Buddhist art of the Sukhothai Period remains a distinguished classic style in Thai history.
1

Ayutthaya, founded in 1350 A.D., was a very powerful state. The regime adopted the Khmer model of ‘God-King’ in administering royal affairs. Its 417 years in power left unmatched records in world history as the only state in Southeast Asia open to international trade and diplomacy with almost any country that came into contact, including those of Europeans. French records related in detail the friendship

All historical data, i.e. years and centuries, refer to the chronology of the Western Calendar.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

8

between King Louis XIV of France and King Narai of Ayutthaya in the 17th century. Ayutthaya was united and militarily strong, capable not only of defending itself from outside attacks, but also, from time to time, able to expand its sovereignty into neighbouring countries, some of which became vassals of Ayutthaya, for some time. However, Ayutthaya fell to the military power of Myanmar in 1767. Taksin, a general who escaped from the city with some followers, rallied Thai forces to repulse Myanmar and become king, setting up a new capital at Thon Buri in 1768. The present Royal House of Chakri was founded by one of Taksin’s generals, who established Bangkok in 1782 and became King Rama l. Under his rule the former territory of Ayutthaya was regained. In the 19th century, foreign contacts were increased. The first Thai recognition of Western power in the region was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Thailand and the United Kingdom in 1826. In 1833, the United States began diplomatic exchanges with Siam (as Thailand was called until July 1939). However, it was during the later

reigns of King Rama IV (1851-1868), and his son, King Rama V (18681910), that Thailand attained firm rapprochement with Western powers. Through the diplomatic skills of these monarchs, combined with the modernizing reforms of the Thai government, Siam emerged as the only country in South and Southeast Asia to avoid European colonization. Under the reign of these two Thai kings, the Kingdom of Siam underwent rapid modernization. A new financial system was introduced and post, telegraphic and railway communications were established. Irrigation was developed in the central plain, resulting in the production of a large rice surplus. The system of justice was remodelled as the government reorganised. The absolute monarchy continued until the bloodless coup of 1932 converted Thailand into a constitutional monarchy. Despite the removal of political power, the monarchy still retains the love and loyalty of the Thai people. The present king, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has engaged himself in more than 3,000 ‘royal development projects’ so far, since his accession to the throne in 1946.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

9

The Thai Monarchy

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

10

The Thai Monarchy

T

he Thai people have an invaluable cultural heritage that their forefathers had diligently created and maintained for posterity to be proud of. This cultural heritage stands out as the unique identity of an ancient nation. Above all, it is the Thai monarchy that has bestowed great benevolence on the country, the heritage of pride and dignity that all Thais are aware of. The characteristics of the Thai monarchy have undergone various changes during the passage of time. In the early stages, there were many independent Thai dominions and the Thais had to fight among rival groups and against outside enemies. Thus, Thai monarchs in those days were mostly warrior kings. After a long period of fighting and migrating, the Thais finally settled down in the area which is now Thailand. Sukhothai, the first capital of the Thai Kingdom, was established. Though only a part of the North in present-day Thailand, Sukhothai became extremely important historically and politically. Sukhothai was the centre of commerce
1

and Buddhism. Befitting the literal meaning of its name, “The Dawn of Happiness,” the peaceful nature of the city was reflected in the image of its kings, especially King Ramkhamhaeng the Great who ruled his subjects like a father does his children. The King had a bell hung up in front of the palace for anyone in plight to ring and their case would be heard and dealt with fairly by the King himself. King Ramkhamhaeng also established friendly relations with China and other neighbouring kingdoms, thereby ensuring the country’s stability. He was also credited with inventing the Thai alphabet in the year 12831. As for religion, he had invited Buddhist monks of the Lankawongs tenet from Nakhon Si Thammarat to stay at Sukhothai. Under his reign, Sukhothai King Ramkhamhaeng flourished in almost the Great every area. In the Ayutthaya Period (13501767) King Naresuan the Great was the epitome of valour. As Crown

All historical data, i.e. years and centuries, refer to the chronology of the Western Calendar.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

11

Prince, Naresuan relieved the Ayutthaya Kingdom from the acute threat of hostile occupation posed by a foreign power, in 1574. Since then he had fought many battles, the most famous one being the single combat on elephant back against the Burmese Crown Prince, in which King Naresuan was victorious. Another renowned king of the Ayutthaya Period was King Narai the Great who, at the beginning of his reign, put down rebellious members of the court. His wise handling of officials resulted in efficient management of state affairs. His diplomacy in establishing friendly relations with Western countries, especially France, raised the status of Siam in the eyes of Westerners. Two emissaries were sent to France. The first one was lost at sea but the second one was received with splendours by King Louis XIV since it was the first time an Eastern monarch had sent an ambassador to the French Court. The French king eventually sent 636 soldiers to serve in the Thai king’s service. Though a devout Buddhist, King Narai allowed Jesuit missionaries to preach their religion in Siam and Thai who wished to convert to Christianity

were allowed to do so. The King even bestowed land on which the Jesuit priests could build a church and schools. Contact with Westerners brought modern knowledge and technology, especially in the areas of medicine, astronomy, architecture, and military training. In the compounds of King Narai’s Palace at Lop Buri, the second capital city, the king had a pipeline and fountains installed, and at Yen Villa an observatory was built from which the king could observe lunar and solar eclipses . In the Thon Buri Period (1767-1782) King Tak Sin the Great was another warrior king who managed to put down rivalling factions and re-establish the kingdom, after the fall King Tak Sin the Great of Ayutthaya in 1767. In the Rattanakosin Period (since 1782 ), King Rama I, founder of the Royal House of Chakri, established Bangkok as the new capital city on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, opposite Thon Buri. After a series of warfare, the country was in peace and the King found time to turn to producing literary works. Subsequent Chakri monarchs had

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

12

all contributed to the progress and happiness of the country. King Rama IV, better known in the West as King Mongkut, was a scholar. He was well-versed in various fields, especially astronomy, since he was able to predict a total solar eclipse accurately. He could speak and write English and once wrote a letter to US President James C. Buchanan offering some elephants to be used in warfare. The King assigned an Englishwoman, Mrs. Anna T. Leonowens, to teach English to the royal children, notably Prince Chulalongkorn, at the royal court. Prince Chulalongkorn succeeded his father as King Chulalongkorn or Rama V. It was in his reign that Siam underwent extensive modernization. Ascending the throne at the tender age of 15, the king faced many problems, domestic and foreign, which he dealt with very efficiently. The king sent a number of his sons to be educated in Europe so that they would return to help develop the country. He was the first Thai king to make state visits to European heads of state. The King’s meeting with Czar Nicholas II of Russia was a splendid move of diplomacy since it kept England and France

from colonizing Siam. King Chulalongkorn always saw to the welfare of his subjects, sometimes visiting them incognito to observe their circumstances. He was a superb writer and poet as well, but King Chulalongkorn his greatest achievement or Rama V was the abolition of slavery, a gradual and bloodless process that has earned him the appellation of “Phra Piya Maharat,” or the Great Beloved King. His successor, King Rama VI, who received his education at Oxford University, held the rank of general, First Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, an honorary rank bestowed on him by King George V of Great Britain. He was an accomplished scholar who had produced prolific writings in various genres, in both Thai and English. Besides writing plays, he also acted in performances. A superb translator, his rendition of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is part of Thailand’s school curriculum. The War of the Polish Succession, a historical novel written in English, attests to his mastery of the English language. The king had a model town called “Dusit Thani”

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

13

The Nine Kings of the Royal House of Chakri

King Rama I

King Rama II

King Rama III

King Rama IV

King Rama V

King Rama VI

King Rama VII

King Rama VIII

King Rama IX

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

14

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

15

constructed as a means to gradually prepare the Thai people for democracy. His decision to join the Entente Cordiale and declare war on Germany and Austria - Hungary in World War I was an ingenious move that helped maintain the sovereignty of Thailand. For the first time Thai soldiers marched proudly through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris alongside the other allied troops. A legacy left by King Rama VI is Chulalongkorn University, the oldest institution of higher learning in Thailand, built in commemoration of his royal father. King Rama VII, also a son of King Chulalongkorn, was the last king of the absolute monarchy when the bloodless coup of 1932 changed the system of government to the constitutional monarchy. Actually, the king had already planned to relinquish his power to the Thai people. He bestowed the first Constitution on the country, and it is more than apt for him to be designated “The Father of Democracy.” The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, has been revered for sacrificing everything for his people. Apart from being the longest reigning monarch in the world, His Majesty is perhaps one of the hardest working heads of

state. All through the 60 years on the throne, his activities have covered not only affairs of state, but also activities in diverse fields. His numerous development projects, philosophy of Sufficiency Economy, and New Theory not only bear direct benefit on the Thai people but can also be applied worldwide. The Artificial Rain Project and the Chaipattana Aerator are examples of his initiative and invention that prove useful in agriculture and the conservation of the environment. All these contributions are encapsulated in His Majesty‘s name, “Bhumibol,” which means “Strength of the Land.” The remark made by King Rama I that “Siam has a common father, the king, who possesses the Ten Kingly Virtues. He possesses morality, ability, bravery, and knowledge as his great assets, and never scorns any people of foreign origins or races that have come to be under his bounty, in all periods and eras, for they all are Siamese, who are equal, regardless of race, and take pride in their country” has proved to be true. Therefore, the Thai people should maintain this august institution, since the monarchy most succinctly constitutes the national identity.

Phra Sayam Thewathirat

T

he Thai people believe that Phra Sayam Thewathirat is a Deva-guardian, or supreme deity, who perpetually safeguards the Nation, the King and the Royal Family. The term was first used by King Rama IV (1851-1868) who realized that Thailand must have long had a Deva-guardian to protect her from all kinds of threat and calamity, thereby ensuring her survival, especially from Western colonialism which, in the end successfully brought all of Thailand’s neighbours under its control. In this regard, as a measure of the far-sightedness and prescience of Thai kings, King Rama III (18241851) warned his most senior officials near the end of his reign to start preparing the country against threats from the Western powers, stating that in the future there would no longer be any serious warfare with neighbouring countries, but only conflicts with the West, a prognosis that proved to be remarkably accurate. As a result of this belief in the existence of a benevolent Devaguardian, King Rama IV commissioned Prince Pradit Worakarn, to create a

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

16

statuette to give concrete expression to the idea and to provide an object for continuing worship and reverence, so that the Deva would protect the Nation and assure its prosperity, forever. Phra Sayam Thewathirat is an 8-inch high standing Deva image cast in gold, with the right hand holding a sword, and the left hand raised to the chest in a posture of blessing. The statuette was first placed in the Song Tham Throne Hall, where King Rama IV as well as successive kings after him would, by tradition, pay homage and present offerings of food and other worship items daily. The image has since been moved to the Phaisan Thaksin Throne Hall and set on a carved sandalwood base, having a design of a swan and dragon in front of a plaque with the words “The Abode of Phra Sayam Thewathirat” inscribed, where the figure remains to this day. At present, the ceremonial offerings are performed twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is an ancient Thai belief that these two days are auspicious for holding ceremonies connected with all kinds

of arms. Phra Sayam Thewathirat symbolizes a defensive weapon protecting the Nation and the Royal House of Chakri. An important offering-ceremony is also held on Thai New Year’s Day, or Songkran, which is celebrated on 13 April. Thus, the ceremonies are seen as a symbolic enhancement of the power and sacredness of the Deva. In 1982, the year commemorating the Bangkok Bicentennial as the capital city. The image of Phra Sayam Thewathirat was brought out to the Dusit Throne Hall for the people to view and pay homage for the first time. Each time, the courtyard of the Throne Hall overflows daily with a constant stream of people vying to be in the presence of one of the most venerated images of the land.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

17

The National Symbols of Thailand
The Thai Elephant

T

hailand’s best-known national symbol, the elephant, has been associated with the Thai people for centuries. The Asiatic species found in Thailand, Elephas maximus, was used for heavy work and was a vehicle of war in Thailand up until th the 16 Century. One of Thailand’s most famous rulers, King Mongkut (officially, King Rama IV, 18511868) once offered some elephants to US President James Buchanan (1857-1861), praising their usefulness for heavy work. Thailand had an elephant flag from the reign of King Rama II (1809-1824), depicting a white elephant on a red background. Thais who adopted many Hindu beliefs and rituals in daily and royal life, regard white elephants as auspicious, perhaps owing to their rarity. Though the elephant’s role in modern Thai society has diminished, Thais continue to treat them with great respect. A Thai Elephant Conservation Centre was set up in 1969 in Lampang to care for young elephants and th train their mahouts. March 13 has now been designated Elephant Day

by the Royal Thai Government, which joins with non-government organisations to celebrate this noble animal and raise funds, and heighten public awareness of elephant conservation activities.

Ratchaphruek
he national flower/tree, Ratchaphruek (Cassia fistula Linn.), known by several names, including the Pudding Piper Tree or Indian Laburnum, is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of 8-15 metres. Its yellow flowers grow in clusters close to its limbs and branches, and its cylindrical pods grow from 2060 centimetres long.

T

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

18

The Thai Pavilion

W
The Ratchaphruek is a native of the Asian tropics and is found in mixed deciduous forests. It blooms from February to May and grows leaves prior to flowering. The Thais consider it an auspicious tree, as its roots, bark, leaves and pods are of medicinal use for both humans and elephants. The bark and wood are used to tan leather. The golden red, hard wood is used for making pillars, cart wheels, and plough handles. The people of Bueng Kaen Nakhon in the Northeast hold a festival called the Dok Khun Siang Khaen Festival from 13-15 April annually while the tree is in bloom. Dok Khun is the colloquial name for the Ratchaphruek.

ith its graceful curves and classical form, the Thai Sala, or open pavilion, is an easily recognisable symbol of Thai architecture. The Sala is a type of rest shelter found in temples, private homes and alongside major highways and canals. The rectangular building usually has four wooden or brick pillars and a very steep roof. The roof of the Thai pavilion has especially wide eaves that provide shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. As it now commonly is fitted with bench seats around three sides, it is important that the shade cover the persons sitting inside. While modern Thai pavilions tend to be plain, those inside monasteries or royal palaces may be elaborately decorated. The gables at either end are embellished with carvings and gilded, with a glass mosaic in the background. The finials are decorated with horn-like ends, while the triangular gable is often topped by a representation of a Naga, a mythical serpent.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

19

H. M. the King’s Birthday Anniversary

The Royal Ceremonies to Celebrate

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

20

The Royal Ceremonies in Celebration of H. M. the Kingûs Birthday Anniversary
n the past, Thailand did not have any distinct royal ceremonies to celebrate the monarch’s birthday anniversary, as is practised nowadays because Thai people held the belief that they must not let anybody know the date and time of their birth, as such revelation might pose a threat or bring bad luck to them . It was, hence, of vital importance especially to the reigning monarch as the pre-eminent royal head of the country, not to allow anybody to get to know the exact time when he was born. By tradition, the corresponding coordinates were and still are recorded in a person’s individual chart of astrological constellation at birth (duang chata rasi) that is kept confidential, even treated as a secret. More recently in history, during the Third Reign of the Royal House of Chakri, King Rama III (18241851) had annually one Buddha

I

image cast to commemorate each year of his reign. Yet that ceremonial marking of the progression of the Third Reign did not reveal the year, month, date and hour of the ruler’s birth. The royal ceremony on the King’s birthday anniversary was initiated in the reign of King Rama IV(1851-1868), earlier ordained into the monkhood, and upheld upon his accession to the throne as the fourth ruler of the Royal House of Chakri. Two events marked the celebration of the King’s birthday anniversary. They are the ceremony to pay respect to the Buddha image and the merit-making at both the Royal Palace and at the temple known as Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. During the present reign, yearly a series of ceremonies commemorates this occasion, from 3-6 December. On the first day, 3 December, H.M. the King proceeds to review

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

21

the trooping the colours and the taking of the oath, receiving pledges of loyalty and honesty by the royal guards. On 4 December, at Sala Dusitalai in the Dusit Royal Palace, the King grants an audience to groups of people representing a cross-section of the entire society, who come to offer their birthday wishes. On 5 December, the King’s birthday anniversary, the most important royal ceremonies evolve. In the morning, the King proceeds to the Amarin Winichai Throne Hall in the Grand Palace to receive in audience the members of the Royal Family and subjects as well as government officials, while soldiers fire salutes in his honour. In the

afternoon, the King graciously bestows titles to some high-ranking Buddhist monks before listening to the citing of Buddhist sermons. In addition, the King grants an audience to Chinese and Annamite monks at Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, to receive their blessings and to present them with offerings, Thereafter, the King has money handed to all his old

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

22

royal attendants. On this occasion, a greeting book is provided at the Grand Palace for well-wishers to convey their felicitation for the King. Another Buddhist ceremony is held on 6 December at the Amarin Winichai Throne Hall, where the King offers alms to monks and listens to their citing of sermons. Then, he graciously advises his royal family members to release various kinds of aquatic animals into the Chao Phraya River at the Ratchaworadit Royal Pier. Besides royal ceremonies as mentioned, several activities in support of public charities are held to celebrate this important event, both through private initiative and by government agencies. The Prime Minister, Royal Thai Government, hosts a festive reception in celebration of the His Majesty the King’s Birthday Anniversary, known as Samosorn Sannibat, freely

translated as the ‘propitious congregation’, at Government House, on 7 December. This event, Samosorn Sannibat, is graced by the presence of members of the Royal Family and attended by invited guests, including eminent personages of the Kingdom and foreign dignitaries. In the year 1960, H. M. the King’s birthday anniversary was decreed an important day for the Thai nation by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, the then prime minister of Thailand. Up to now, it is a Thai national day, a most important event in the life of the Thai People.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

23

The Role of Thai Women

U

nderstanding the many facets of the role of Thai women broadens and deepens foreign readers’ knowledge about Thai culture. It is meaningful to focus, first and foremost, on the role of Her Majesty, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, the eminent role model of Thai women.

Queen Sirikit of Thailand
Since she became Queen, Her Majesty has assisted His Majesty the King in his development work. On the occasion of the King’s ordination as a monk, in 1966, the Queen served as Regent. The Queen has set the eminent role model for Thai people by promoting their well-being. Her Majesty has worked hard to provide them with a better life. Through her inexhaustible kindness, she has promoted the development of Thai people beyond imagination.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

24

Ever since the coronation of His Majesty the King, in support of his work, the Queen has been looking after the Thai people, especially after those struggling to earn a livelihood and in need of occupational know-how. For more than 50 years, Her Majesty has upheld her vigorous resolve and strong commitment to occupational development geared to supplement family income, out of

genuine concern and loving care that only a mother could possibly give. In most grateful appreciation, the National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand moved, in 1976, that her th birthday anniversary, August 12 , be celebrated as Mother’s Day, henceforth a national holiday. Her Majesty has given rise to many development programmes that benefit men, women, youth and

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

25

children alike. She has initiated projects furthering both formal and non-formal education, promoting cash crop cultivation, preserving as well as revitalizing artisan techniques, and improving family welfare. All this has created employment opportunities, thus enabling families to generate supplementary income, in the long run. In supporting the King in his numerous rural development projects geared to enhance social welfare and diversify agriculture, the Queen established “The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupation and Related Techniques – SUPPORT”. Among its objectives are to preserve time-honoured crafts, techniques and skills. To facilitate the renaissance of ancient artistic treasures, she initiated the preservation, not to say the salvaging of traditional artistry under threat of disappearance. By retrieving indigenous knowledge from virtual oblivion and reviving techniques feared lost yet reconstituted through analyzing rare, preserved specimens of artisanship, she has enticed experts and laypersons alike to tap natural resources and mobilize human resources as well. As a result, thanks

to her gracious initiative, dormant indigenous knowledge has been reactivated, new livelihood enabling strategies have evolved, creativity is kindled, and the range of superb artifacts keeps expanding. The SUPPORT Foundation, for short, trains rural people in numerous occupational specializations. Such crafts are pottery including designing,

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

26

moulding, plastering, glazing and firing; sculpting of ceramic figurines and statuettes; decorating porcelain and ceramics; toy-making; making nielloware and jewellery; marquetry, incrustation and engraving; trimming, millinery and making hats as well as apparel finery; making of handbags and purses; making of pillowcases; fibre-extracting, processing, and twirling; basket plaiting and wicker-ware-making; mat-weaving; woodworking, cabinet-making, and wood-carving; spinning, dyeing, and weaving; crochet, embroidery, and lace-making; and dress-making. Craftspeople thus trained find seasonal or full-time employment. As these beneficiaries have developed ever greater skills, SUPPORT Foundation products are becoming more and more sophisticated. Her Majesty has taken the lead in promoting the arts and crafts of Thailand by organizing exhibitions at home and around the world, thus gaining international fame for SUPPORT

products and generating income for an increasing number of craftspeople and their dependents. In the same spirit, Queen Sirikit has encouraged the formation of social welfare organizations, of which she accepted patronage, to offer assistance such as shelter for the homeless and orphaned, supplementary meals for children while at school, and funding medical treatment of badly afflicted individuals in dire need of help. The Queen has endeavoured in every way to elevate the status of women through programmes to educate and train

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

27

Tufts University, Boston, in 1980; the Borobodur Gold Medal by the United Nations Educational and Social Commission (UNESCO), in 1992; the AIT Gold Medal for Leadership in the Conservation of Natural Resources and Protection of the Environment by the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, in 1992; the acclaim as “Woman of the Year” by Stanford University, California, in 1993; and the Gold Medal with women, so that they may better their prospects in life. In this spirit, the Queen has served as President of the Thai Red Cross Society. Her Majesty’s compassion has been extended not only to the Thai people but also to refugees from neighbouring countries. Her Majesty the Queen’s exceptional, outstanding leadership in fostering the role of Thai women has received international recognition in forms of awards and honorary degrees from world-renowned institutions and organizations such as, to name some, the Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO), in 1979; the Honorary Doctoral Degree in Humane Letters by the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,

Mention in recognition of outstanding achievements in the Training Programme to Improve Farmers’ Income under the tutelage of The SUPPORT Foundation, awarded at th the “Brussels EUREKA 2001 : 50 Anniversary of the World Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technology”, in 2001.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

28

The Role of Thai Women in Broad Perspective
ooted in an agrarian society, culture and economy, Thai women have played vital roles throughout the kingdom’s history. Particularly at times of war, women tended to agricultural production as well as related activities and secured food supplies. In contemporary Thai society, women enjoy the same constitutional rights and share civic responsibilities as men. Civil society has had women actively involved in terms of suffrage, voluntary work for the benefit of society, culture and environment, and formal education, at all levels, since th early in the 20 Century. There is ample evidence that parents, in bringing up their children, have instilled in their daughters a pronounced need for achievement. The result is omnipresent. Women work as teachers at all levels of the educational system, from kindergarten to university.

R

Likewise, health services and medical care are provided by women, to large extents and at high intensity. Many Thai medical doctors practising in Thailand and abroad have gained a high reputation for their professional skills and human relations. In regional national, and international arenas, women have joined men in building Thailand’s reputation as a serious competitor in sports. For example, th in the 28 Olympic Games, August 2004, hosted by Greece, of the four Thai women entries for weight-lifting, two won gold medals, and the other two a silver and a bronze respectively. Another woman, with only six years of training, won a bronze medal in Tae-kwon-do. Because of the superb performance of the woman athletes, th Thailand came out 25 among over 200 participating countries. Scientific research work and fine art as well as performing arts are domains where woman scholars and

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

29

artists have excelled. Thailand’s bureaucracy offers career paths to women leading up to the highest echelon, both in the domestic and foreign civil services. The armed forces have women soldiers in their ranks and files, rising to the rank of general. Likewise, women perform important roles in organizations that are in charge of public administration as well as maintaining law and order. In the 1990’s, women were able to become district officers and governors, positions which had previously been monopolized by men due to traditional thinking and belief that women would not be able to be “tough” in dealing with violence-prone criminals and gangsters. This tradition and belief have been dispelled through experience and fact. The competitive undercurrent between genders becomes evident in Thailand’s economy. More than half the country’s workforce engaged in agriculture are women, given the fact that a large proportion of the adult, able-bodied men have sought and found work abroad to boost family income through their remittances. Marketing agricultural produce is largely in the hands of woman traders, both in wholesale and retail trade.

Commerce-at-large, including finance, banking, insurance, export and import, is a segment of the economy with professional women ensuring best practice, and in increasing numbers holding key positions. The transition from an agriculturebased to an industrializing country could not possibly have succeeded without the work input, dedication and diligence of today’s large female labour force, both at the shop floor and in top managerial positions. The likely singular achievement of Thailand’s professional women is the establishment and development of the country’s transportation, hospitality and tourism industry. Its resounding success has become the engine of Thailand’s economic recovery. It stands to reason that women, given their constructive and productive roles, have entered politics as candidates in elections at the various levels of the democratic system, from subdistrict councils to national parliament, where those elected serve as people’s representatives. Over recent decades, women have held ministerial posts in the Royal Thai Government or served as members of the Kingdom’s Senate.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

30

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

31

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony

T

he Ploughing Ceremony marks the start of the season when paddy land is prepared for rice cultivation. It signals to farmers that the time has come to work their fields and encourages them to try harder. This ceremony has customarily been performed in almost all countries of Southeast Asia. In monarchies, by tradition the ruler presides over the ceremonial proceedings. During the Ayutthaya Period in Thai history, this ancient ceremony had been incorporated into the Palace Laws and became known as Charot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan, or the First Ploughing Ceremony, which formerly was performed exclusively as a Brahmin ritual. In the reign of King Rama IV (18511868), the Buddhist ritual was added, known as Phuet Mongkhon Ceremony, to bless plant matter and rice seed used in the ploughing process. It had been held at the Phra Ubosot of Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, on the day before the First Ploughing Ceremony. In more recent times of Thailand’s history, the ceremony of Phuet Mongkhon

Charot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan had been performed yearly, until it ceased in the year 1936. By royal command of H. M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, this ancient Thai tradition was revived in the year 1960. It has been held annually, to this date. In history, this ceremony was held on an auspicious day determined by a royal astrologer, sometime in the month of May, to mark the beginning of the rice-planting season in Thailand. At present, this ceremony is performed in two parts. To start the ritual proceedings, the Royal Phuet Mongkhon Ceremony is performed in the Royal Chapel at Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. Rice seed, plant matter and agricultural implements to be used in the ploughing ceremony are blessed through religious rites presided over by the King. In the morning of the following day, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony proper is carried out in traditional style at Sanam Luang, on the open ground in the heart of the city of Bangkok. Beforehand, the ceremonial site is prepared by having furrows dug into the ground for the ritual ploughing.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

32

A high-ranking government official in charge of agriculture is appointed to perform the role of the Lord of the Harvest, with four unmarried women officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives as his assistants. These Celestial Maidens, as they are known, carry the seeds in baskets suspended from slender yokes resting on their shoulders while circumambulating across the symbolic field, behind a pair of oxen / bullocks drawing the plough, directed

by the ploughman. Thereupon, the Lord of the Harvest selects one of three pieces of scarlet cloth of varying lengths. His choice predicts the amount of rainfall for the incoming agricultural year. Then, the seeds blessed earlier by the King are

broadcast into the furrows, from where they are later gathered by farmers who regard them as auspicious and keep them to mix with seed to be used in cultivating their own fields. The ploughing ceremony is completed by leading the draft animals to troughs containing fodder and liquids, including paddy, corn, legumes, sesame, grass and water as well as liquor. The animals’ first choices of fodder and liquids serve as means to predict the harvest of the forthcoming season. Upon conclusion of the ceremony at Sanam Luang, some of the rice seed broadcast onto the ceremonial site is taken to the experimental rice growing station on the palace ground of Chitralada Villa, the royal residence, to be planted for the production of seed that will be required for next year’s ceremony. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, deemed a vital event by Thai farmers for their agricultural fortune, signifies one of the prominent traditional features of Thailand’s cultural identity.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

33

The Royal Kathin Ceremony

athin is a Pali word for the wooden frame used to measure length and width by which the robes of Buddhist monks are cut, approximately 2 - by 1- meters (originally five by three sok, or 2.5 by 1.5 metres), hence called kathin robe. In the olden times, monks would make kathin robes by themselves by sewing together pieces of discarded cloth and dying it. More recently, kathin robes are sold ready-made. It has become a tradition to present monks with kathin robes upon the ending of the Buddhist Lent, during which monks are staying inside their

K

temple compound. During a period of four weeks, starting upon the first th night of the waning moon of the 11 month and ending with the first night of the waning moon of the th 12 month. According to Dhamma precepts, any disciplined monk with older robes than others would be chosen by the monk assembly to receive presents of kathin robes. Following tradition, Buddhist believers would place kathin robes before the monks citing the Pali words of offering. This rite is known as Thot Kathin.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

34

There are two kinds of Thot Kathin, the Royal Thot Kathin and the Thot Kathin performed by the general public. The Royal Thot Kathin refers to the ceremony during which the king himself or, by royal command, members of the Royal Family present monks in temples under royal patronage with robes and gifts. Thot Kathin by the general public are events in temples other than those under royal patronage, at which people present the monks in residence with robes and gifts. Earlier in the Rattanakosin Period, the Royal Thot Kathin Ceremony had been held during the th th period between the 6 and 9 nights of the waning moon in the 11th month, each year, especially at the 9th waning moon when the river banks would

be flooded. That is the time suitable for the Royal Barge Procession. Nowadays, the King would proceed to officiate at the Royal Thot Kathin Ceremonies at 16 prominent temples under royal patronage as well as at the resident temple of Somdet Phra Sangkharat, the Supreme Patriarch. To the other temples under royal patronage throughout the country, the King would graciously delegate the responsibility for Thot Kathin to government agencies and the private sector. This is known as Kathin Phra Ratchathan, the Royally Conferred Kathin. This ceremony is conducted as prescribed by rules and regulations and supervised by the Department of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Royal Thai Government.

THAILAND : TRAITS and TREASURES

35