1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Siam
SIAM (known to its inhabitants as Muang Thai), an independent kingdom of the Indo-Chinese peninsula or Further India. It lies between 4° 20′ and 20° 15′ N. and between 96° 30′ and 106° E., and is bounded N. by the British Shan States and by the French Laos country, E. by the French Laos country and by Cambodia, S. by Cambodia and by the Gulf of Siam, and W. by the Tenasserim and Pegu divisions of Burma. A part of Siam which extends down the Malay Peninsula is bounded E. by the Gulf of Siam and by the South China Sea, S. by British Malaya and W. by the lower part of the Bay of Bengal. The total area is about 220,000 sq. m. (For map, see Indo-China.)
The country may be best considered geographically in four parts: the northern, including the drainage area of the four rivers which unite near Pak-Nam Po to form the Menam Chao Phaya; the eastern, including the drainage area of the Nam Mun river and its tributaries; the central, including the drainage area of the Meklong, the Menam Chao Phaya and the Bang Pakong rivers; and the southern, including that part of the country which is situated in the Malay Peninsula. Northern Siam is about 60,000 sq. m. in area. In general appearance it is a series of parallel ranges of hills, lying N. and S., merely gently sloping acclivities in the S., but rising into precipitous mountain masses in the N. Between these ranges flow the rivers Meping, Mewang, Meyom and Menam, turbulent shallow streams in their upper reaches, but slow-moving and deep where they near the points of junction. The longest of them is over 250 m. from its source to its mouth. The Meping and Mewang on the W., rising among the loftiest ranges, are rapid and navigable only for small boats, while the Meyom and Menam, the eastern pair, afford passage for large boats at all seasons and for deep draught river-steamers during the flood-time. The Menam is the largest, deepest and most sluggish of the four, and in many ways resembles its continuation, the Menam Chao-Phaya lower down. On the W. the river Salween and its tributary the Thoung Yin form the frontier between the Siam and Burma for some distance, draining a part of northern Siam, while in the far north-east, for a few miles below Chieng Sen, the Mekong does the same. The districts watered by the lower reaches of the four rivers are fertile and are inhabited by a considerable population of Siamese. Farther north the country is peopled by Laos, scattered in villages along all the river banks, and by numerous communities of Shan, Karen, Kamoo and other tribes living in the uplands and on the hilltops.
Eastern Siam, some 70,000 sq. m. in area, is encircled by well-defined boundaries, the great river Mekong dividing it clearly from French Laos on the N. and E., the Pnom Dang Rek hill range from Cambodia on the S. and the Dom Pia Fai range from central Siam on the W. The right bank of the Mekong being closely flanked by an almost continuous hill range, the whole of this part of Siam is practically a huge basin, the bottom of which is a plain lying from 200 to 300 ft. above sea-level, and the sides hill ranges of between 1000 and 2000 ft. elevation. The plain is for the most part sandy and almost barren, subject to heavy floods in the rainy season, and to severe drought in the dry weather. The hills are clothed with a thin shadeless growth of stunted forest, which only here and there assumes the characteristics of ordinary jungle. The river Nam Mun, which is perhaps 200 m. long, has a large number of tributaries, chief of which is the Nam Si. The river flows eastward and falls into the Mekong at 15° 20′ N. and 105° 40′ E. A good way farther north two small rivers, the Nam Kum and the Nam Song Kram, also tributaries of the Mekong, drain a small part of eastern Siam. Nearly two million people, mixed Siamese, Lao and Cambodian, probably among the poorest peasantry in the world, support existence in this inhospitable region.
Central Siam, estimated at 50,000 sq. m. in area, is the heart of the kingdom, the home of the greater part of its population, and the source of nine-tenths of its wealth. In general appearance it is a great plain flanked by high mountains on its western border, inclining gently to the sea in the S. and round the inner Gulf of Siam, and with a long strip of mountainous sea-board stretching out to the S.E. The mountain range on the W. is a continuation of one of the ranges of northern Siam, which, extending still farther southward, ultimately forms the backbone of the Malay Peninsula. Its ridge is the boundary between central Siam and Burma. The highest peak hereabouts is Mogadok, 5000 ft., close to the border. On the E. the Dom Pia Fai throws up a point over 4000 ft., and the south-eastern range which divides the narrow, littoral, Chantabun and Krat districts from Cambodia, has the Chemao, Saidao and Kmoch heights, between 3000 and 5000 ft. The Meklong river, which drains the western parts of central Siam, rises in the western border range, follows a course a little E. of S., and runs into the sea at the western corner of the inner gulf, some 200 m. distant from its source. It is a rapid, shallow stream, subject to sudden rises, and navigable for small boats only. The Bang Pakong river rises among the Wattana hills on the eastern border, between the Battambong province of Cambodia and Siam. It flows N., then W., then S., describing a semicircle through the fertile district of Pachim, and falls into the sea at the north-east corner of the inner gulf. The whole course of this river is about 100 m. long; its current is sluggish, but that of its chief tributary, the Nakhon Nayok river, is rapid. The Bang Pakong is navigable for steamers of small draught for about 30 m. The Menam Chao Phaya, the principal river of Siam, flows from the point where it is formed by the junction of the rivers of northern Siam almost due S. for 154 m., when it empties itself into the inner gulf about midway between the Meklong and Bang Pakong mouths. In the neighbourhood of Chainat, 40 m. below Paknam Poh, it throws off three branches, the Suphan river and the Menam Noi on the right, and the Lopburi river on the left bank. The latter two rejoin the parent stream at points considerably lower down, but the Suphan river remains distinct, and has an outlet of its own to the sea. At a point a little more than half-way down its course, the Menam Chao Phaya receives the waters of its only tributary, the Nam Sak, a good-sized stream which rises in the east of northern Siam and waters the most easterly part (the Pechabun valley) of that section of the country. The whole course of the Menam Chao Phaya lies through a perfectly flat country. It is deep, fairly rapid, subject to a regular rise and flood every autumn, but not to sudden freshets, and is affected by the tide 50 m. inland. For 20 m. it is navigable for vessels of over 1000 tons, and were it not for the enormous sand bar which lies across the mouth, ships of almost any size could he at the port of Bangkok about that distance from the sea (see Bangkok). Vessels up to 300 tons and 12 ft. draught can ascend the river 50 m. and more, and beyond that point large river-boats and deep-draught launches can navigate for many miles. The river is always charged with a great quantity of silt which during flood season is deposited over the surrounding plain to the great enhancement of its fertility. There is practically no forest growth in central Siam, except on the slopes of the hills which bound this section. The rest is open rice-land, alternating with great stretches of grass, reed jungle and bamboo scrub, much of which is under water for quite three months of the year.
Southern Siam, which has an area of about 20,000 sq. m., consists of that part of the Malay Peninsula which belongs to the Siamese kingdom. It extends from 10° N. southwards to 6° 35′ N. on the west coast of the peninsula, and to 6° 25′ N. on the east coast, between which points stretches the frontier of British Malaya. It is a strip of land narrow at the north end and widening out towards the south, consisting roughly of the continuation of the mountain range which bounds central Siam on the W., though the range appears in certain parts as no more than a chain of hillocks. The inhabitable part of the land consists of the lower slopes of the range with the valleys and small alluvial plains which lie between its spurs. The remainder is covered for the most part with dense forest containing several kinds of valuable timber. The coast both east and west is much indented, and is studded with islands. The rivers are small and shallow. The highest mountain is Kao Luang, an almost isolated projection over 5000 ft. high, round the base of which lie the most fertile lands of this section, and near which are situated the towns of Bandon, Nakhon Sri Tammarat (Lakhon) and Patalung, as well as many villages.
Geology.—Very little is known of the geology of Siam. It appears to be composed chiefly of Palaeozoic rocks, concealed, in the plains, by Quaternary, and possibly Tertiary, deposits. Near Luang Prabang, just beyond the border, in French territory, limestones with Productus and Schwagerina, like the Productus limestone of the Indian Salt Range, have been found; also red clays and grauwacke with plants similar to those of the Raniganj beds; and violet clays with Dicynodon, supposed to be the equivalents of the Panche series of India. All these beds strike from north-east to south-west and must enter the northern part of Siam. Farther south, at Vien-Tiane, the Mekong passes through a gorge cut in sandstone, arkose and schists with a similar strike; while at Lakhon there are steeply inclined limestones which strike north-west.
Climate.—Although enervating, the climate of Siam, as is natural from the position of the country, is not one of extremes. The wet season—May to October—corresponds with the prevalence of the south-west monsoon in the Bay of Bengal. The full force of the monsoon is, however, broken by the western frontier hills; and while the rainfall at Mergui is over 180, and at Moulmein 240 in., that of Bangkok seldom exceeds 54, and Chiengmai records an average of about 42 in. Puket and Chantabun, being both on a lee shore, in this season experience rough weather and a heavy rainfall; the latter, being farther from the equator, is the worse off in this respect. At this period the temperature is generally moderate, 65° to 75° F. at night and 75° to 85° by day; but breaks in the rains occur which are hot and steamy. The cool season begins with the commencement of the north-east monsoon in the China Sea in November. While Siam enjoys a dry climate with cool nights (the thermometer at night often falling to 40°–50° F., and seldom being over 90° in the shade by day), the eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula receives the full force of the north-easterly gales from the sea. This lasts into February, when the northerly current begins to lose strength, and the gradual heating of the land produces local sea breezes from the gulf along the coast-line. Inland, the thermometer rises during the day to over 100° F., but the extreme continental heats of India are not known. The comparative humidity of the atmosphere, however, makes the climate trying for Europeans.
Flora.—In its flora and fauna Siam combines the forms of Burma and the Shan States with those of Malaya, farther south, and of Cambodia to the south-east. The coast region is characterized by mangroves, Pandanus, rattans, and similar palms with long flexible stems, and the middle region by the great rice-fields, the coco-nut and areca palms, and the usual tropical plants of culture. In the temperate uplands of the interior, as about Luang Prabang, Himalayan and Japanese species occur—oaks, pines, chestnuts, peach and great apple trees, raspberries, honeysuckle, vines, saxifrages, Cichoraceae, anemones and Violaceae; there are many valuable timber trees—teak, sappan, eagle-wood, wood-oil (Hopea), and other Dipterocarpaceae, Cedrelaceae, Pterocarpaceae, Xylia, iron-wood and other dye-woods and resinous trees, these last forming in many districts a large proportion of the more open forests, with an undergrowth of bamboo. The teak tree grows all over the hill districts north of latitude 15°, but seems to attain its best development on the west, and on the east does not appear to be found south of 17°. Most of the so-called Burma teak exported from Moulmein is floated down from Siamese territory. Among other valuable forest products are thingan wood (Hopea odorata), largely used for boat-building; damar oil, taken throughout Indo-China from the Dipterccarpus levis; agilla wood, sapan, rosewood, iron-wood, ebony, rattan. Among the chief productions of the plains are rice (the staple export of the country); pepper (chiefly from Chantabun); sirih, sago, sugar-cane, coco-nut and betel, Palmyra or sugar and attap palms; many forms cf banana and other fruit, such as durian, orange-pommelo, guava, bread-fruit, mango, jack fruit, pine-apple, custard-apple and mangosteen.
Fauna.—Few countries are so well stocked with big game as is Siam. Chief of animals is the elephant, which roams wild in large numbers, and is extensively caught and tamed by the people for transport. The tiger, leopard, fishing-cat, leopard-cat, and other species of wild-cat, as well as the honey-bear, large sloth-bear, and one- and two-horned rhinoceros, occur. Among the great wild cattle are the formidable gaur, or seladang, the banting, and the water-buffalo. The goat antelope is found, and several varieties of deer. Wild pig, several species of rats, and many bats—one of the commonest being the flying-fox, and many species of monkey—especially the gibbon—are also met with. Of snakes, 56 species are known, but only 12 are poisonous, and of these 4 are sea-snakes. The waters of Siam are particularly rich in fish. The crocodile is common in many of the rivers and estuaries of Siam, and there are many lizards. The country is rich in birds, a large number of which appear to be common to Burma and Cambodia.
Inhabitants.—A census of the rural population was taken for the first time in 1905. The first census of Bangkok and its suburbs was taken in 1909. Results show the total population of the country to be about 6,230,000. Of this total about 3,000,000 are Siamese, about 2,000,000 Laos, about 400,000 Chinese, 115,000 Malay, 80,000 Cambodian and the rest Burmese, Indian, Mohn, Karen, Annamite, Kache, Lawa and others. Of Europeans and Americans there are between 1300 and 1500, mostly resident in Bangkok. Englishmen number about 500; Germans, 190; Danes, 160; Americans, 150, and other nationalities are represented in smaller numbers. The Siamese inhabit central Siam principally, but extend into the nearer districts of all the other sections. The Laos predominate in northern and eastern Siam, Malays mingle with the Siamese in southern Siam, and the Chinese are found scattered all over, but keeping mostly to the towns. Bangkok, the capital, with some 650,000 inhabitants, is about one-third Chinese, while in the suburbs are to be found settlements of Mohns, Burmese, Annamites and Cambodians, the descendants of captives taken in ancient wars. The Eurasian population of Siam is very small compared with that of other large cities of the East. Of the tribes which occupy the mountains of Siam some are the remnants of the very ancient inhabitants of the country, probably of the Mohn-Khmer family, who were supplanted by a later influx of more civilized Khmers from the south-east, the forerunners and part-ancestors of the Siamese, and were still farther thrust into the remoter hills when the Lao-Tai descended from the north. Of these the principal are the Lawa, Lamet, Ka Hok, Ka Yuen and Kamoo, the last four collectively known to the Siamese as Ka. Other tribes, whose presence is probably owing to immigration at remote or recent periods, are the Karens of the western frontier range, the Lu, Yao, Yao Yin, Meo and Musur of northern Siam. The Karens of Siam number about 20,000, and are found as far south as 13 N. They are mere offshoots from the main tribes which inhabit the Burma side of the boundary range, and are supposed by some to be of Burmo-Tibetan origin. The Lu, Yao, Yao Yin, Meo and Musur have Yunnanese characteristics, are met with in the Shan States north of Siam and in Yun-nan, and are supposed to have found their way into northern Siam since the beginning of the 19th century. In the mountains behind Chantabun a small tribe called Chong is found, and in southern Siam the Sakei and Semang inhabit the higher ranges. These last three have Negrito characteristics, and probably represent a race far older even than the ancient Ka.
The typical Siamese is of medium height, well formed, with olive complexion, darker than the Chinese, but fairer than the Malays, eyes well shaped though slightly inclined to the oblique, nose broad and flat, lips prominent, the face wide across the cheek-bones and the chin short. A thin moustache is common, the beard, if present, is plucked out, and the hair of the head is black, coarse and cut short. The lips are usually deep red and the teeth stained black from the habit of betel-chewing. The children are pretty but soon lose their charm, and the race, generally speaking, is ugly from the European standpoint. The position of women is good. Polygamy is permitted, but is common only among the upper classes, and when it occurs the first wife is acknowledged head of the household. In disposition the Siamese are mild-mannered, patient, submissive to authority, kindly and hospitable to strangers. They are a light-hearted, apathetic people, little given to quarrelling or to the commission of violent crime. Though able and intelligent cultivators they do not take kindly to any form of labour other than agricultural, with the result that most of the industries and trades of the country are in the hands of Chinese.
The national costume of the Siamese is the panung, a piece of cloth about 1 yd. wide and 3 yds. long. The middle of it is passed round the body, which it covers from the waist to the knees, and is hitched in front so that the two ends hang down in equal length before; these being twisted together are passed back between the legs, drawn up and tucked into the waist at the middle of the back. The panung is common to both sexes, the women supplementing it with a scarf worn round the body under the arms. Among the better classes both sexes wear also a jacket buttoned to the throat, stockings and shoes, and all the men, except servants, wear hats.
The staple food of the Siamese is rice and fish. Meat is eaten, but, as the slaughter of animals is against Buddhist tenets, is not often obtainable, with the exception of pork, killed by Chinese. The men smoke, but the women do not. Everybody chews betel. The principal pastimes are gambling, boat-racing, cock- and fish- fighting and kite-flying, and a kind of football.
Slavery, once common, has been gradually abolished by a series of laws, the last of which came into force in 1905. No such thing as caste exists, and low birth is no insuperable bar to the attainment of the highest dignities. There are no hereditary titles, those in use being conferred for life only and being attached to some particular office.
Towns.—There are very few towns with a population of over 10,000 inhabitants in Siam, the majority being merely scattered townships or clusters of villages, the capitals of the provinces (muang) being often no more than a few houses gathered round the market-place, the offices and the governor's residence. The more important places of northern Siam include Chieng Mai (q.v.), the capital of the north, Chieng Rai, near the northern frontier; Lampun, also known as Labong (originally Haribunchai), the first Lao settlement in Siam; Lampang, Tern, Nan and Prè, each the seat of a Lao chief and of a Siamese commissioner; Utaradit, Pichai, Pichit, Pechabun and Raheng, the last of importance as a timber station, with Phitsnulok, Sukhotai, Swankalok, Kampeng Pet and Nakhon Sawan, former capitals of Khmer-Siamese kingdoms, and at present the headquarters of provincial governments. In eastern Siam the only towns of importance are Korat and Ubon, capitals of divisions, and Nong Kai, an ancient place on the Mekong river. In central Siam, after Bangkok and Ayuthia, places of importance on the Menam Chao Phaya are Pak-Nam at the river mouth, the seat of a governor, terminus of a railway and site of modern fortifications; Paklat, the seat of a governor, a town of Mohns, descendants of refugees from Pegu; Nontaburi, a few miles above Bangkok, the seat of a governor and possessing a large market; Pratoomtani, Angtong, Prom, Inburi, Chainat and Saraburi, all administrative centres; and Lopburi, the last capital before Ayuthia and the residence of kings during the Ayuthia period, a city of ruins now gradually reawakening as a centre of railway traffic. To the west of the Menam Chao Phaya lie Suphanburi and Ratburi, ancient cities, now government headquarters; Pechaburi (the Piply of early travellers), the terminus of the western railway; and Phrapatoom, with its huge pagoda on the site of the capital of Sri Wichaiya, a kingdom of 2000 years ago, and now a place of military, agricultural and other schools. To the east, in the Bang Pakong river-basin and down the eastern shore of the gulf, are Pachim, a divisional headquarters; Petriou (q.v.); Bang Plasoi, a fishing centre, with Rayong, Chantabun (q.v.) and Krat, producing gems and pepper. In southern Siam the chief towns are Chumpon; Bandon, with a growing timber industry; Nakhon Sri Tammarat (q.v.); Singora (q.v.); Puket (q.v.); Patani.
Communications.—Central Siam is supplied with an exceptionally complete system of water communications; for not only has it the three rivers with their tributaries and much-divided courses, but all three are linked together by a series of canals which, running in parallel lines across the plain from E. to W., make the farthest corners of this section of the kingdom easily accessible from the capital. The level of the land is so low, the soil so soft, and stone suitable for metal so entirely absent, that the making and upkeep of roads would here be ruinously expensive. Former rulers have realized this and have therefore confined themselves to canal making. Some of the canals are very old, others are of comparatively recent construction. In the past they were often allowed to fall into disrepair, but in 1903 a department of government was formed to control their upkeep, with the result that most of them were soon furnished with new locks, deepened, and made thoroughly serviceable. The boat traffic on them is so great that the collection of a small toll more than suffices to pay for all maintenance expenses. In northern and southern Siam, where the conditions are different, roads are being slowly made, but natural difficulties are great, and travelling in those distant parts is still a matter of much discomfort.
In 1909 there were 640 miles of railway open. All but 65 miles was under state management. The main line from Bangkok to the north had reached Pang Tong Phung, some distance north of Utaradit and 10 m. south of Meh Puak, which was selected as the terminus for the time being, the continuation to Chieng Mai, the original objective, being postponed pending the construction of another and more important line. This latter was the continuation through southern Siam of the line already constructed from Bangkok south-west to Petchaburi (110 m.), with funds borrowed, under a recent agreement, from the Federated (British) Malay States government, which work, following upon surveys made in 1907, was begun in 1909 under the direction of a newly constituted southern branch of the Royal Railways department. From Ban Paji on the main line a branch extends north-eastwards 110 m. to Korat. To the east of Bangkok the Bangkok-Petriew line (40 m.) was completed and open for traffic.
The postal service extends to all parts of the country and is fairly efficient. Siam joined the Postal Union in 1885. The inland telegraph is also widely distributed, and foreign lines communicate with Saigon, the Straits Settlements and Moulmein.
Agriculture.—The cultivation of paddi (unhusked rice) forms the occupation of practically the whole population of Siam outside the capital. Primitive methods obtain, but the Siamese are efficient cultivators and secure good harvests nevertheless. The sowing and planting season is from June to August, and the reaping season from December to February. Forty or fifty varieties of paddi are grown, and Siam rice is of the best in the world. Irrigation is rudimentary, for no system exists for raising the water of the innumerable canals on to the fields. Water-supply depends chiefly, therefore, on local rainfall. In 1905 the government started preliminary surveys for a system of irrigation. Tobacco, pepper, coco-nuts and maize are other agricultural products. Tobacco of good quality supplies local requirements but is not exported; pepper, grown chiefly in Chantabun and southern Siam, annually yields about 900 tons for export. From coco-nuts about 10,000 tons of copra are made for export each year, and maize is used for local consumption only. Of horned cattle statistical returns show over two million head in the whole country.
Mining.—The minerals of Siam include gold, silver, rubies, sapphires, tin, copper, iron, zinc and coal. Tin-mining is a flourishing industry near Puket on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, and since 1905 much prospecting and some mining has been done on the east coast. The export of tin in 1908 exceeded 5000 tons, valued at over £600,000. Rubies and sapphires are mined in the Chantabun district in the south-east. The Mining Department of Siam is a well-organized branch of the government, employing several highly-qualified English experts.
Timber.—The extraction of teak from the forests of northern Siam employs a large number of people. The industry is almost entirely in the hands of Europeans, British largely predominating. The number of teak logs brought out via the Salween and Menam Chao Phaya rivers average 160,000 annually, Siam being thus the largest teak-producing country of the world. A Forest Department, in which experienced officers recruited from the Indian Forest Service are employed, has for many years controlled the forests of Siam.
Technology.—The government has since 1903 given attention to sericulture, and steps have been taken to improve Siamese silk with the aid of scientists borrowed from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. Surveying and the administration of the land have for a long time occupied the attention of the government. A Survey Department, inaugurated about 1887, has completed the general survey of the whole country, and has made a cadastral survey of a large part of the thickly inhabited and highly cultivated districts of central Siam. A Settlement Commission, organized in 1901, decided the ownership of lands, and, on completion, handed over its work to a Land Registration Department. Thus a very complete settlement of much of the richest agricultural land in the country has been effected. The education of the youth of Siam in the technology of the industries practised has not been neglected. Pupils are sent to the best foreign agricultural, forestry and mining schools, and, after going through the prescribed course, often with distinction, return to Siam to apply their knowledge with more or less success. Moreover, a college under the control of the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture, which was founded in 1909, provides locally courses of instruction in these subjects and also in irrigation engineering, sericulture and surveying.
Commerce.—Rice-mills, saw-mills and a few distilleries of locally consumed liquor, one or two brick and tile factories, and here and there a shed in which coarse pottery is made, are all Siam has in the way of factories. All manufactured articles of daily use are imported, as is all ironware and machinery. The foreign commerce of Siam is very ancient. Her commerce with India, China and probably Japan dates from the beginning of the Christian era or earlier, while that with Europe began in the 16th century. Trade with her immediate neighbours is now insignificant, the total value of annual imports and exports being about £400,000; but seaborne commerce is in a very flourishing condition. Bangkok, with an annual trade valued at £13,000,000, easily overtops all the rest of the country, the other ports together accounting for a total of imports and exports not exceeding £3,000,000. On both the east and west coasts of southern Siam trade is increasing rapidly, and is almost entirely with the Straits Settlements. The trade of the west coast is carried in British ships exclusively, that on the east coast by British and Siamese.
Art.—The Siamese are an artistic nation. Their architecture, drawing, goldsmith's work, carving, music and dancing are all highly developed in strict accordance with the traditions of Indo-Chinese art. Architecture, chiefly exercised in connexion with religious buildings, is clearly a decadent form of that practised by the ancient Khmers, whose architectural remains are among the finest in the world. The system of music is elaborate but is not written, vocalists and instrumentalists performing entirely by ear. The interval corresponding to the octave being divided into seven equal parts, each about 1¾ semitone, it follows that Siamese music sounds strange in Western ears. Harmony is unknown, and orchestras, which include fiddles, flutes, drums and harmonicons, perform in unison. The goldsmith's work of Siam is justly celebrated. Repoussé work in silver, which is still practised, dates from the most ancient times. Almost every province has its special patterns and processes, the most elaborate being those of Nakhon Sri Tammarat (Ligore), Chantabun and the Laos country. In the Ligore ware the hammered ground-work is inlaid with a black composition of sulphides of baser metals which throws up the pattern with distinctness.
Government.—The government of Siam is an absolute monarchy. The heir to the throne is appointed by the king, and was formerly chosen from among all the members of his family, collateral as well as descendants. The choice was sometimes made early in the reign when the heir held the title of "Chao Uparach" or "Wang Na," miscalled "Second King" in English, and sometimes was left until the death of the king was imminent. The arrangement was fraught with danger to the public tranquillity, and one of the reforms of the last sovereign was the abolition of the office of "Chao Uparach" and a decree that the throne should in future descend from the king to one of his sons born of a queen, which decree was immediately followed by the appointment of a crown prince. There is a council consisting of the ten ministers of state— for foreign affairs, war, interior, finance, household, justice, metropolitan government, public works, public instruction and for agriculture—together with the general adviser. There is also a legislative council, of which the above are ex officio members, consisting of forty-five persons appointed by the king. The council meets once a week for the transaction of the business of government. The king is an autocrat in practice as well as in theory, he has an absolute power of veto, and the initiative of measures rests largely with him. Most departments have the benefit of European advisers. The government offices are conducted much on European lines. The Christian Sunday is observed as a holiday and regular hours are prescribed for attendance. The numerous palace and other functions make some demand upon ministers' time, and, as the king transacts most of his affairs at night, high officials usually keep late office hours. The Ministry of Interior and certain technical departments are recruited from the civil service schools, but many appointments in government service go by patronage. For administrative purposes the country is divided into seventeen montons (or divisions) each in charge of a high commissioner, and an eighteenth, including Bangkok and the surrounding suburban provinces, under the direct control of the minister for metropolitan government (see Bangkok). The high commissioners are responsible to the minister of interior, and the montons are furnished with a very complete staff for the various branches of the administration. The montons consist of groups of the old rural provinces (muang), the hereditary chiefs of which, except in the Lao country in the north and in the Malay States, have been replaced by governors trained in administrative work and subordinate to the high commissioner. Each muang is subdivided into ampurs under assistant commissioners, and these again are divided into village circles under headmen (kamnans), which circles comprise villages under the control of elders. The suburban provinces of the metropolitan monton are also divided as above. The policing of the seventeen montons is provided for by a gendarmerie of over 7000 men and officers (many of the latter Danes), a well-equipped and well-disciplined force. That of the suburban provinces is effected by branches of the Bangkok civil police.
Finance.—The revenue administration is controlled by the ministers of the interior, of metropolitan government and of finance, by means of well-organized departments and with expert European assistance. The total revenue of the country for 1908-1909 amounted to 58,000,000 ticals, or, at the prevailing rate of exchange, about £4,300,000, made up as follows:—
|Farms and monopolies (spirits, gambling, &c.)||£783,000|
|Lands, forests, mines, capitation||1,330,000|
|Customs and octroi||653,000|
|Posts, telegraphs and railways||331,000|
|Judicial and other fees||270,000|
The unit of Siamese currency is the tical, a silver coin about equal in weight and fineness to the Indian rupee. In 1902, owing to the serious depreciation of the value of silver, the Siamese mint was closed to free coinage, and an arrangement was made providing for the gradual enhancement of the value of the tical until a suitable value should be attained at which it might be fixed. This measure was successful, the value of the tical having thereby been increased from 111d. in 1902 to 1s. 515d. in 1909, to the improvement of the national credit and of the value of the revenues. A paper currency was established in 1902, and proved a financial success. In 1905 Siam contracted her first public loan, £1,000,000 being raised in London and Paris at 951 and bearing 41% interest. This sum was employed chiefly in railway construction, and in 1907 a second loan of £3,000,000 was issued in London, Paris and Berlin at 931 for the same purpose and for extension of irrigation works. A further sum of £4,000,000 was borrowed in 1909 from the government of the Federated (British) Malay States at par and bearing interest at 4%, also for railway construction.
Weights and Measures.—In accordance with the custom formerly prevalent in all the kingdoms of Further India, the coinage of Siam furnishes the standard of weight. The tical (baht) is the unit of currency and also the unit of weight. Eighty ticals equal one chang and fifty chang equal one haph, equivalent to the Chinese picul, or 133½℔ avoirdupois. For the weighing of gold, gems, opium, &c, the fuang, equal to ⅛ tical, and the 'salung, equal to ¼ tical, are used. The unit of linear measure is the 'wah, which is subdivided into ¼ wah or sauk, ⅛ wah or kup, and into 1/96 wah or niew. Twenty wah equal one sen and 400 sen equal one yote. The length of the wah has been fixed at two metres. The unit of land measure is the rai, which is equal to 400 square wah, and is subdivided into four equal ngan. Measures of capacity are the tang or bucket, and the sat or basket. Twenty tanan, originally a half coco-nut shell, equal one tang, and twenty-five of the same measure equal one sat. The tang is used for measuring rice and the sat for paddi and other grain. One sat of paddi weighs 42½ ℔ avoirdupois.
Army and Navy.—By a law passed in 1903, the ancient system of recruiting the army and navy from the descendants of former prisoners of war was abolished in favour of compulsory service by all able-bodied men. The new arrangement, which is strictly territorial, was enforced in eight montons by the year 1909, resulting in a standing peace army of 20,000 of all ranks, in a marine service of about 10,000, and in the beginnings of first and second reserves. The navy, many of the officers of which are Danes and Norwegians, comprises a steel twin-screw cruiser of 2500 tons which serves as the royal yacht, four steel gunboats of between 500 and 700 tons all armed with modern quick-firing guns, two torpedo-boat destroyers and three torpedo boats, with other craft for river and coast work.
Justice.—Since the institution of the Ministry of Justice in 1892 very great improvements have been effected in this branch of the administration. The old tribunals where customary law was administered by ignorant satellites of the great, amid unspeakable corruption, have all been replaced by organized courts with qualified judges appointed from the Bangkok law school, and under the direct control of the ministry in all except the most outlying parts. The ministry is well organized, and with the assistance of European and Japanese officers of experience has drafted a large number of laws and regulations, most of which have been brought into force. Extra-territorial jurisdiction was for long secured by treaty for the subjects of all foreign powers, who could therefore only be sued in the courts maintained in Siam by their own governments, while European assessors were employed in cases where foreigners sued Siamese. An indication, however, foreshadowing the disappearance of extra-territorial rights, appeared in the treaty of 1907 between France and Siam, the former power therein surrendering all such rights where Asiatics are concerned so soon as the Siamese penal and procedure codes should have become law, and this was followed by a much greater innovation in 1909 when Great Britain closed her courts in Siam and surrendered her subjects under certain temporary conditions to the jurisdiction of the Siamese courts. When it is understood that there are over 30,000 Chinese, Annamese, Burmese and other Asiatic foreign subjects living in Siam, the importance to the country of this change will be to some extent realized.
Religion.—While the pure-blooded Malays of the Peninsula are Mahommedans, the Siamese and Lao profess a form of Buddhism which is tinged by Cingalese and Burmese influences, and, especially in the more remote country districts, by the spirit-worship which is characteristic of the imaginative and timid Ka and other hill peoples of Indo-China. In the capital a curious admixture of early Brahminical influence is still noticeable, and no act of public importance takes place without the assistance of the divinations of the Brahmin priests. The Siamese, as southern Buddhists, pride themselves on their orthodoxy; and since Burma, like Ceylon, has lost its independence, the king is regarded in the light of the sole surviving defender of the faith. There is a close connexion between the laity and priesthood, as the Buddhist rule, which prescribes that every man should enter the priesthood for at least a few months, is almost universally observed, even young princes and noblemen who have been educated in Europe donning the yellow robe on their return to Siam. A certain amount of scepticism prevails among the educated classes, and political motives may contribute to their apparent orthodoxy, but there is no open dissent from Buddhism, and those who discard its dogmas still, as a rule, venerate it as an ethical system. The accounts given by some writers as to the profligacy and immorality in the monasteries are grossly exaggerated. Many of the temples in the capital are under the direct supervision of the king, and in these a stricter rule of life is observed. Some of the priests are learned in the Buddhist scriptures, and most of the Pali scholarship in Siam is to be found in monasteries, but there is no learning of a secular nature. There is little public worship in the Christian sense of the word. On the day set apart for worship (Wan Phra, or "Day of the Lord") the attendance at the temples is small and consists mostly of women. Religious or semi-religious ceremonies, however, play a great part in the life of the Siamese, and few weeks pass without some great function or procession. Among these the cremation ceremonies are especially conspicuous. The more exalted the personage the longer, as a rule, is the body kept before cremation. The cremations of great people, which often last several days, are the occasion of public festivities and are celebrated with processions, theatrical shows, illuminations and fireworks. The missionaries in Siam are entirely French Roman Catholics and American Protestants. They have done much to help on the general work of civilization, and the progress of education has been largely due to their efforts.
Education.—As in Burma, the Buddhist monasteries scattered throughout the country carry on almost the whole of the elementary education in the rural districts. A provincial training college was established in 1903 for the purpose of instructing priests and laymen in the work of teaching, and has turned out many qualified teachers whose subsequent work has proved satisfactory. By these means, and with regular government supervision and control, the monastic schools are being brought into line with the government educational organization. They now contain not far short of 100,000 pupils. In the metropolitan monton there are primary, secondary and special schools for boys and girls, affording instruction to some 10,000 pupils. There are also the medical school, the law school, the civil service school, the military schools and the agricultural college, which are entered by students who have passed through the secondary grade for the purpose of receiving professional instruction. Many of the special schools use the English language for conveying instruction, and there are three special schools where the whole curriculum is conducted in English by English masters. Two scholarships of £300 a year each for four years are annually competed for by the scholars of these schools, the winners of which proceed to Europe to study a subject of their own selection which shall fit them for the future service of their country. Most of the special schools also give scholarships to enable the best of their pupils to complete their studies abroad. The result of the widespread monastic school system is that almost all men can read and write a little, though the women are altogether illiterate.
Concerning the origin of the name "Siam" many theories have been advanced. The early European visitors to the country noticed that it was not officially referred to by any such name, and therefore apparently conceived that the term must have been applied from outside. Hence the first written accounts give Portuguese, Malay and other derivations, some of which have continued to find credence among quite recent writers. It is now known, however, that "Siam" or "Sayam" is one of the most ancient names of the country, and that at least a thousand years ago it was in common use, such titles as Swankalok-Sukhotai, Shahr-i-nao, Dwarapuri, Ayuthia, the last sometimes corrupted to "Judea," by which the kingdom has been known at various periods of its history, being no more than the names of the different capital cities whose rulers in turn brought the land under their sway. The Siamese (Thai) call their country Muang Thai, or "the country of the Thai race," but the ancient name Muang Sayam has lately been revived. The gradual evolution of the Siamese (Thai) from the fusion of Lao-Tai and Khmer races has been mentioned above. Their language, the most distinctively Lao-Tai attribute which they have, plainly shows their very close relationship with the latter race and its present branches, the Shans (Tai Lông) and the Ahom of Assam, while their appearance, customs, written character and religion bear strong evidence of their affinity with the Khmers. The southward movement of the Lao-Tai family from their original seats in south-west China is of very ancient date, the Lao states of Luang Prabang and Wieng Chan on the Mekong having been founded at least two thousand years ago. The first incursions of Lao-Tai among the Khmers of northern Siam were probably later, for the town of Lampun (Labong or Haribunchai), the first Lao capital in Siam, was founded about A.D. 575. The fusion of races may be said to have begun then, for it was during the succeeding centuries that the kings of Swankalok-Sukhotai gradually assumed Lao characteristics, and that the Siamese language, written character and other racial peculiarities were in course of formation. But the finishing touches to the new race were supplied by the great expulsion of Lao-Tai from south-west China by Kublai Khan in A.D. 1250, which profoundly affected the whole of Further India. Thereafter the north, the west and the south-west of Siam, comprising the kingdom of Swankalok-Sukhotai, and the states of Suphan and Nakhon Sri Tammarat (Ligore), with their sub-feudatories, were reduced by the Siamese (Thai), who, during their southern progress, moved their capital from Sukhotai to Nakhon Sawan, thence to Kampeng Pet, and thence again to Suvarnabhumi near the present Kanburi. A Sukhotai inscription of about 1284 states that the dominions of King Rama Kamheng extended across the country from the Mekong to Pechaburi, and thence down the Gulf of Siam to Ligore; and the Malay annals say that the Siamese had penetrated to the extremity of the peninsula before the first Malay colony from Menangkabu founded Singapore, i.e. about 1160. Meanwhile the ancient state of Lavo (Lopburi), with its capital at Sano (Sornau or Shahr-i-nao), at one time feudatory to Swankalok-Sukhotai, remained the last stronghold of the Khmer, although even here the race was much modified by Lao-Tai blood; but presently Sano also was attacked, and its fall completed the ascendancy of the Siamese (Thai) throughout the country. The city of Ayuthia which rose in A.D. 1350 upon the ruins of Sano was the capital of the first true Siamese king of all Siam. This king's sway extended to Moulmein, Tavoy, Tenasserim and the whole Malacca peninsula (where among the traders from the west Siam was known as Sornau, i.e. Shahr-i-nau, long after Sano had disappeared—Yule's Marco Polo, ii. 260), and was felt even in Java. This is corroborated by Javan records, which describe a "Cambodian" invasion about 1340; but Cambodia was itself invaded about this time by the Siamese, who took Angkor and held it for a time, carrying off 90,000 captives. The great southward expansion here recorded is confirmed by the Chinese annals of the period. The wars with Cambodia continued with varying success for some 400 years, but Cambodia gradually lost ground and was finally shorn of several provinces, her sovereign falling entirely under Siamese influence. This, however, latterly became displeasing to the French, now in Cochin China, and Siam was ultimately obliged to recognize the protectorate forced on Cambodia by that power. Vigorous attacks were also made during this period on the Lao states to the north- west and north-east, followed by vast deportation of the people, and Siamese supremacy was pretty firmly established in Chieng- mai and its dependencies by the end of the 18th century, and over the great eastern capitals, Luang Prabang and Vien-chang, about 1828. During the 15th and 16th centuries Siam was frequently invaded by the Burmese and Peguans, who, attracted probably by the great wealth of Ayuthia, besieged it more than once without success, the defenders being aided by Portuguese mercenaries, till about 1555, when the city was taken and Siam reduced to dependence. From this condition, however, it was raised a few years later by the great conqueror and national hero Phra Naret, who after subduing Laos and Cambodia invaded Pegu, which was utterly overthrown in the next century by his successors. But after the civil wars of the 18th century the Burmese, having previously taken Chieng-mai, which appealed to Siam for help, entered Tenasserim and took Mergui and Tavoy in 1764, and then advancing simultaneously from the north and the west captured and destroyed Ayuthia after a two years' siege (1767).
The intercourse between France and Siam began about 1680 under Phra Narain, who, by the advice of his minister, the Cephalonian adventurer Constantine Phaulcon, sent an embassy to Louis XIV. When the return mission arrived, the eagerness of the ambassador for the king's conversion to Christianity, added to the intrigues of Phaulcon with the Jesuits with the supposed intention of establishing a French supremacy, led to the death of Phaulcon, the persecution of the Christians, and the cessation of all intercourse with France. An interesting episode was the active intercourse, chiefly commercial, between the Siamese and Japanese governments from 1592 to 1632. Many Japanese settled in Siam, where they were much employed. They were dreaded as soldiers, and as individuals commanded a position resembling that of Europeans in most eastern countries. The jealousy of their increasing influence at last led to a massacre, and to the expulsion or absorption of the survivors. Japan was soon after this, in 1636, closed to foreigners; but trade was carried on at all events down to 1745 through Dutch and Chinese and occasional English traders. In 1752 an embassy came from Ceylon, desiring to renew the ancient friendship and to discuss religious matters. After the fall of Ayuthia a great general, Phaya Takh Sin, collected the remains of the army and restored the fortunes of the kingdom, establishing his capital at Bangkok; but, becoming insane, he was put to death, and was succeeded by another successful general, Phaya Chakkri, who founded the present dynasty. Under him Tenasserim was invaded and Tavoy held for the last time by the Siamese in 1792, though in 1825, taking advantage of the Burmese difficulty with England, they bombarded some of the towns on that coast. The supremacy of China is indicated by occasional missions sent, as on the founding of a new dynasty, to Peking, to bring back a seal and a calendar. But the Siamese now repudiate this supremacy, and have sent neither mission nor tribute for sixty years, while no steps have been taken by the Chinese to enforce its recognition. The sovereign, Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut, was a very accomplished man, an enlightened reformer and devoted to science; his death, indeed, was caused by fatigue and exposure while observing an eclipse. Many of his predecessors, too, were men of different fibre from the ordinary Oriental sovereign, while his son Chulalong Korn, who succeeded him in 1868, showed himself an administrator of the highest capacity. He died on the 23rd of October 1910.
Of European nations the Portuguese first established intercourse with Siam. This was in 1511, after the conquest of Malacca by D'Albuquerque, and the intimacy lasted over a century, the tradition of their greatness having hardly yet died out. They were supplanted gradually in the 17th century by the Dutch, whose intercourse also lasted for a similar period; but they have left no traces of their presence, as the Portuguese always did in these countries to a greater extent than any other people. English traders were in Siam very early in the 17th century; there was a friendly interchange of letters between James I. and the king of Siam, who had some Englishmen in his service, and, when the ships visited "Sia" (which was "as great a city as London") or the queen of Patani, they were hospitably received and accorded privileges—the important items of export being, as now, tin, varnish, deer-skins and "precious drugs." Later on, the East India Company's servants, jealous at the employment of Englishmen not in their service, attacked the Siamese, which led to a massacre of the English at Mergui in 1687, and the factory at Ayuthia was abandoned in 1688. A similar attack is said to have been made in 1719 by the governor of Madras. After this the trade was neglected. Pulo Penang, an island belonging to the Siamese dependency of Kedah, was granted on a permanent lease to the East India Company in 1786, and treaties were entered into by the sultan of Kedah with the company. In 1822 John Crawfurd was sent to Bangkok to negotiate a treaty with the suzerain power, but the mission was unsuccessful. In 1824, by treaty with the Dutch, British interests became paramount in the Malay Peninsula and in Siam, and, two years later, Captain Burney signed the first treaty of friendship and commerce between England and Siam. A similar treaty was effected with America in 1833. Subsequently trade with British possessions revived, and in time a more elaborate treaty with England became desirable. Sir J. Brooke opened negotiations in 1850 which came to nothing, but in 1855 Sir J. Bowring signed a new treaty whereby Siam agreed to the appointment of a British consul in Bangkok, and to the exercise by that official of full extra-territorial powers. Englishmen were permitted to own land in certain defined districts, customs and port dues and land revenues were fixed, and many new trade facilities were granted. This important arrangement was followed at intervals by similar treaties with the other powers, the last two being those with Japan in 1898 and Russia in 1899. A further convention afterwards provided for a second British consular district in northern Siam, while England and France have both appointed vice-consuls in different parts of the country. Thus foreigners in Siam, except Chinese who have no consul, could only be tried for criminal offences, or sued in civil cases, in their own consular courts. A large portion of the work of the foreign consuls, especially the British, was consequently judicial, and in 1901 the office of judge was created by the British government, a special judge with an assistant judge being appointed to this post. Meanwhile, trade steadily increased, especially with Great Britain and the British colonies of Hong Kong and Singapore.
The peaceful internal development of Siam seemed also likely to be favoured by the events that were taking place outside her frontiers. For centuries she had been distracted by wars with Cambodians, Peguans and Burmans, but the incorporation of Lower Cochin China, Annam and Tongking by the French, and the annexation of Lower and Upper Burma successively by the British, freed her from all further danger on the part of her old rivals. Unfortunately, she was not destined to escape trouble. The frontiers cf Siam, both to the east and the west, had always, been vague and ill-defined, as was natural in wild and unexplored regions inhabited by more or less barbarous tribes. The frontier between Siam and the new British possessions in Burma was settled amicably and without difficulty, but the boundary question on the east was a much more intricate one and was still outstanding. Disputes with frontier tribes led to complications with France, who asserted that the Siamese were occupying territory that rightfully belonged to Annam, which was now under French protection. France, while assuring the British Government that she laid no claim to the province of Luang Prabang, which was situated on both banks of the upper Mekong, roughly between the 18th and 20th parallels, claimed that farther south the Mekong formed the true boundary between iam and Annam, and demanded the evacuation of certain Siamese posts east of the river. The Siamese refused to yield, and early in 1893 encounters took place in the disputed area, in which a French officer was captured and French soldiers were killed. The French then despatched gunboats from Saigon to enforce their demands at Bangkok, and these made their way up to the capital in spite of an attempt on the part of the Siamese naval forces to bar their way. In consequence of the resistance with which they had met, the French now greatly increased their demands, insisting on the Siamese giving up all territory east of the Mekong, including about half of Luang Prabang, on the payment of an indemnity and on the permanent withdrawal of all troops and police to a distance of 25 kilometres from the right bank of the Mekong. Ten days' blockade of the port caused the Siamese government to accede to these demands, and a treaty was made, the French sending troops to occupy Chantabun until its provisions should have been carried out.
In 1895 lengthy negotiations took place between France and England concerning their respective eastern and western frontiers in Farther India. These negotiations bore important fruit in the Anglo-French convention of 1896, the chief provision of which was the neutralization by the contracting parties of the central portion of Siam, consisting of the basin of the river Menam, with its rich and fertile land, which contains most of the population and the wealth of the country. Neither eastern nor southern Siam was included in this agreement, but nothing was said to impair or lessen in any way the full sovereign rights of the king of Siam over those parts of the country. Siam thus has its independence guaranteed by the two European powers who alone have interests in Indo-China, England on the west and France on the east, and has therefore a considerable political interest similar to that of Afghanistan, which forms a buffer state between the Russian and British possessions on the north of India. Encouraged by the assurance of the Anglo-French convention, Siam now turned her whole attention to internal reform, and to such good purpose that, in a few years, improved government and expansion of trade aroused a general interest in her welfare, and gave her a stability which had before been lacking. With the growth of confidence negotiations with France were reopened, and, after long discussion, the treaty of 1893 was set aside and Chantabun evacuated in return for the cession of the provinces of Bassac, Melupré, and the remainder of Luang Prabang, all on the right bank of the Mekong, and of the maritime district of Krat. These results were embodied in a new treaty signed and ratified in 1904.
Meanwhile, in 1899, negotiations with the British government led to agreements defining the status of British subjects in Siam, and fixing the frontier between southern Siam and the British Malay States, while in 1900 the provisions of Sir J. Bowring's treaty of 1855, fixing the rates of land revenue, were abrogated in order to facilitate Siamese financial reform.
In 1907 a further convention was made with France, Siam returning to the French protectorate of Cambodia the province of Battambang conquered in 1811, and in compensation receiving back from France the maritime province of Krat and the district of Dansai, which had been ceded in 1904. This convention also modified the extra-territorial rights enjoyed by France in Siam, and disclosed an inclination to recognize the material improvements of the preceding years. In 1907 also negotiations were opened with Great Britain, the objects of which were to modify the extra-territorial rights conceded to that power by the treaty of 1855, and to remove various restrictions regarding taxation and general administration, which, though diminished from time to time by agreement, still continued to hamper the government very much. These negotiations continued all through 1908 and resulted in a treaty, signed and ratified in 1909, by which Siam ceded to Great Britain her suzerain rights over the dependencies of Kedah, Kelantan, Trengganu and Perlis, Malay states situated in southern Siam just north of British Malaya, containing in all about a million inhabitants and for the most part flourishing and wealthy, and obtained the practical abolition of British jurisdiction in Siam proper as well as relief from any obligations which, though probably very necessary when they were incurred, had long since become mere useless and vexatious obstacles to progress towards efficient government. This treaty, a costly one to Siam, is important as opening up a prospect of ultimate abandonment of extra- territorial rights by all the powers. Administrative reform and an advanced railway policy have made of Siam a market for the trade of Europe, which has become an object of keen competition. In 1908 the British empire retained the lead, but other nations, notably Germany, Denmark, Italy and Belgium, had recently acquired large interests in the commerce of the country. Japan also, after an interruption of more than two hundred years, had resumed active commercial relations with Siam.
Authorities.—H. Alabaster, Wheel of the Law (London, 1871); Dr Anderson, English Intercourse with Siam in the 17th Century (London, 1890); W. J. Archer, Journey in the Mekong Valley (1892); C. Bock, Temples and Elephants; Sir John Bowring, The Kingdom and People of Siam (London, 1857); J. G. D. Campbell, Siam in the Twentieth Century (London, 1902); A. C. Carter, The Kingdom of Siam (New York, 1904); A. R. Colquhoun, Amongst the Shans (London, 1885); J. Crawfurd, Journal of an Embassy to Siam (London, 1829); Lord Curzon, Nineteenth Century (July, 1893); H.R.H. Prince Damrong, "The Foundation of Ayuthia," Siam Society Journal (1905); Diplomatic and Consular Reports for Bangkok and Chien Mai (1888-1907); Directory for Bangkok and Siam (Bangkok Times Office Annual); Francis Garnier, Voyage d'exploration en Indo-Chine (Paris, 1873); Geographical Journal, papers by J. S. Black, Lord Curzon, Lord Lamington, Professor H. Louis, J. M'Carthy, W. H. Smythe; Colonel G. E. Gerini, "The Tonsure Ceremony," "The Art of War in Indo-China"; "Siam's Intercourse with China," Asiatic Quarterly Review (1906); "Historical Retrospect of Junkceylon Island," Siam Society's Journal (1905); W. A. Graham, "Brief History of the R.C. Mission in Siam," Asiatic Quarterly Review (1901); Mrs Grindrod, Siam: a Geographical Summary; H. Hallet, A Thousand Miles on an Elephant (London, 1890); Captain Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indies (1688-1723); Prince Henri d'Orleans, Around Tonquin and Siam (London, 1894); Professor A. H. Keane, Eastern Geography: Asia; Dr Keith, Journal Royal Asiatic Society (1892); C. S. Leckie, Journal Society of Arts (1894), vol. xlii. ; M. de la Loubere, Description du royaume de Siam (Amsterdam, 1714); Captain Low, Journal Asiatic Society, vol. vii.; J. M'Carthy, Surveying and Exploring in Siam (London, 1900); Henri Mouhot, Travels in Indo-China (London, 1844); F. A. Neale, Narrative of a Residence in Siam (London, 1852); Sir H. Norman, The Far East (London, 1904); Bishop Pallegoix, Description du royaume Thai ou Siam (Paris, 1854); H. W. Smythe, Five Years in Siam (London, 1898); J. Thomson, Antiquities of Cambodia, Malacca, Indo-China and China (London, 1875); P. A. Thompson, Lotus Land (London, 1906); Turpin, Histoire de Siam (Paris, 1719); F. Vincent, Land of the White Elephant; E. Young, The Kingdom of the Yellow Robe (London, 1898).
Language and Literature.
Siamese belongs to the well-defined Tai group of the Siamese- Chinese family of languages. Its connexion with Chinese is clear though evidently distant, but its relationship with the other languages of the Tai group is very close. It is spoken throughout central Siam, in all parts of southern Siam except Patani Monton, in northern Siam along the river-banks as far up as Utaradit and Raheng, and in eastern Siam as far as the confines of the Korat Monton. In Patani the common language is still Malay, while in the upper parts of northern, and the outlying parts of eastern, Siam the prevailing language is Lao, though the many hill tribes which occupy the ranges of these parts have distinct languages of their own.
Originally Siamese was purely monosyllabic, that is, each true word consisted of a single vowel sound preceded by, or followed by, a consonant. Of such monosyllables there are less than two thousand, and therefore many syllables have to do duty for the expression of more than one idea, confusion being avoided by the tone in which they are spoken, whence the term "tonal," which is applied to all the languages of this family. The language now consists of about 15,000 words, of which compounds of two monosyllabic words and appropriations from foreign sources form a very large part. Bali, the ancient language of the kingdom of Magadha, in which the sacred writings of Buddhism were made, was largely instrumental in forming all the languages of Further India, including Siamese— a fact which accounts for the numerous connecting links between the Môn, Burmese and Siamese languages of the present time, though these are of quite separate origin. When intercourse with the West began, and more especially when Western methods of government and education were first adopted in Siam, the tendency to utilize European words was very marked, but recently there has been an effort to avoid this by the coining of Siamese or Bali compound words.
The current Siamese characters are derived from the more monumental Cambodian alphabet, which again owes its origin to the alphabet of the inscriptions, an offshoot of the character found on the stone monuments of southern India in the 6th and 8th centuries. The sacred books of Siam are still written in the Cambodian character.
The Siamese alphabet consists of 44 consonants, in each of which the vowel sound "aw" is inherent, and of 32 vowels all marked not by individual letters, but by signs written above, below, before or after the consonant in connexion with which they are to be pronounced. It may seem at first that so many as 44 consonants can scarcely be necessary, but the explanation is that several of them express each a slightly different intonation of what is practically the same consonant, the sound of "kh," for instance, being represented by six different letters and the sound of "t" by eight. Moreover, other letters are present only for use in certain words imported from Bali or Sanskrit. The vowel signs have no sound by themselves, but act upon the vowel sound "aw" inherent in the consonants, converting it into "a," "i," "o," "ee," "ow," &c. Each of the signs has a name, and some of them produce modulations so closely resembling those made by another that at the present day they are scarcely to be distinguished apart. A hard-and-fast rule of pronunciation is that only vowel or diphthong sounds, or the letters "m," "n," "ng," "k," "t" and "p" are permissible at the end of words, and hence the final letter of all words ending in anything else is simply suppressed or is pronounced as though it were a letter naturally producing one or other of those sounds. Thus many of the words procured from foreign sources, not excluding Bali and Sanskrit, are more or less mutilated in pronunciation, though the entirely suppressed or altered letter is still retained in writing.
Siamese is written from left to right. In manuscript there is usually no space between words, but punctuation is expressed by intervals isolating phrases and sentences.
The greatest difficulty with the Siamese language lies in the tonal system. Of the simple tones there are five—the even, the circumflex, the descending, the grave and the high—any one of which when applied to a word may give it a quite distinct meaning. Four of the simple tones are marked in the written character by signs placed over the consonant affected, and the absence of a mark implies that the one remaining tone is to be used. A complication is caused by the fact that the consonants are grouped into three classes, to each of which a special tone applies, and consequently the application of a tonal sign to a letter has a different effect, according to the class to which such letter belongs. Though many syllables have to do duty for the expression of more than one idea, the majority have only one or at most two meanings, but there are some which are used with quite a number of different inflections, each of which gives the word a new meaning. Thus, for example, the syllable khao may mean "they," "badly," "rice," "white," "old," or "news," simply according to the tone in which the word is spoken. Words are unchangeable and incapable of inflection. There is no article, and no distinction of gender, number or case. These, when it is necessary to denote them, are expressed by explanatory words after the respective nouns; only the dative and ablative are denoted by subsidiary words, which precede the nouns, the nominative being marked by its position before, the objective by its position after, the verb, and the genitive (and also the adjective) by its place after the noun it qualifies. Occasionally, however, auxiliary nouns serve that purpose. Words like "mother," "son," "water" are often employed in forming compounds to express ideas for which the Siamese have no single words, e.g. lûk cân, "the son of hire," a labourer; mê mū, "the mother of the hand," the thumb. The use of class words with numerals obtains in Siamese as it does in Chinese, Burmese, Anamese, Malay and many other Eastern languages. As in these, so in Siamese the personal pronouns are mostly represented by nouns expressive of the various shades of superior or lower rank according to Eastern etiquette. The verb is, like the noun, perfectly colourless— person, number, tense and mood being indicated by auxiliary words only when they cannot be inferred from the context. Such auxiliary words are yû, "to be," "to dwell" (present); dai, "to have," leas, "end" (past); cǎ, "also" (future); the first and third follow, the second and fourth precede, the verb. Hài, "to give" (prefixed), often indicates the subjunctive. As there are compound nouns, so there are compound verbs; thus, e.g. pai, "to go," is joined to a transitive verb to convert it into an intransitive or neuter; and thûk, "to touch," and tòng, "to be compelled," serve to form a sort of passive voice. The number of adverbs, single and compound, is very large. The prepositions mostly consist of nouns.
The construction of the sentence in Siamese is straightforward and simple. The subject of the sentence precedes the verb and the object follows it. The possessive pronoun follows the object. The adverb usually follows the verb. In compound sentences the verbs are placed together as in English, not separated by the object as in German. When an action is expressed in the past the word which forms with the verb the past tense is divided from the verb itself by the object. Examples are:—
Rao (We) dekchai (boy) sam (three) kon (persons) cha (will) pai (go) chap (catch) pla (fish) samrap (for) hai (give) paw (father) kin (eat).
Mè (Mother) tan (you) yu (live) ti (place) nai (where), or "Where is your mother?"
Mè (Mother) pai (go) talat (bazaar) leao (finish), or "(My) mother has gone to the bazaar."
The difficulties of the Siamese language are increased by the fact that in addition to the ordinary language of the people there is a completely different set of words ordained for the use of royalty. This "Palace language" appears to have come into existence from a desire to avoid the employment in the presence of royalty of downright expressions of vulgarity or of words which might be capable of conveying an unpleasant or indelicate idea other than the meaning intended. In the effort to escape from the vulgar, words of Sanskrit origin have been freely adopted and many Cam- bodian words are also used. The language is so complete that the dog, pig, crow and other common or unclean animals are all expressed by special words, while the actions of royalty, such as eating, sleeping, walking, speaking, bathing, dying, are spoken of in words quite distinct from those used to describe similar actions of ordinary people.
The prose literature of Siam consists largely of mythological and historical fables, almost all of which are of Indian origin, though many of them have come to Siam through Cambodia. Their number is larger than is usually supposed, many of them being known to few beyond the writers who laboriously copy them and the professional "raconteurs" who draw upon them to replenish their stock-in-trade. The best known have all been made into stage-plays, and it is in this form that they usually come before the notice of the general public. Amongst them are Ramakien, taken from the great Hindu epic Ramayana; Wetyasunyin, the tale of a king who became an ascetic after contemplation of a withered tree; Worawongs, the story of a prince who loved a princess and was killed by the thrust of a magic spear which guarded her; Chalaivan, the tale of a princess beloved by a crocodile; Unarud, the life story of Anuruddha, a demigod, the grandson of Krishna; Phumhon, the tale of a princess beloved by an elephant; Prang long, a story of a princess who before birth was promised to a "yak" or giant in return for a certain fruit which her mother desired to eat. Mahasot is an account of the wars of King Mahasot. Nok Khum is one of the theories of the genesis of mankind, the Nok Khum being the sacred goose or "Hansa" from whose eggs the first human beings were supposed to have been hatched. A considerable proportion of the romances are founded upon episodes in the final life, or in one of the innumerable former existences, of the Buddha. The Pattama Sompothiyan is the standard Siamese life of the Buddha. Many of the stories have their scene laid in Himaphan, the Siamese fairyland, probably originally the Himalaya.
A great many works on astrology and the casting of horoscopes, on the ways to secure victory in war, success in love, in business or in gambling, are known, as also works on other branches of magic, to which subject the Siamese have always been partial. On the practice of medicine, which is in close alliance with magic, there are several well-known works.
The Niti literature forms a class apart. The word Niti is from the Bali, and means "old saying," "tradition," "good counsel." The best known of such works are Rules for the Conduct of Kings, translated from the Bali, and The Maxims of Phra Ruang, the national hero-king, on whose wonderful sayings and doings the imagination of Siamese youth is fed.
In works on history the literature of Siam is unfortunately rather poor. There can be little doubt that, as in the case of all the other kingdoms of Further India, complete and detailed chronicles were compiled from reign to reign by order of her kings, but of the more ancient of these, the wars and disturbances which continued with such frequency down to quite recent times have left no trace. The Annals of the North, the Annals of Krung Kao (Ayuthia) and the Book of the Lives of the Four Kings (of the present dynasty) together form the only more or less connected history of the country from remote times down to the beginning of the present reign, and these, at least so far as the earlier parts are concerned, contain much that is inaccurate and a good deal which is altogether untrue. Foreign histories include a work on Pegu, a few tales of Cambodian kings and recently published class-books on European history compiled by the educational department.
The number of works on law is considerable. The Laksana Phra Thamasat, the Phra Tamra, Phra Tamnon, Phra Racha Kamnot and Inthapat are ancient works setting forth the laws of the country in their oldest form, adapted from the Dharmacastra and the Classification of the Law of Manu. These, and also many of the edicts passed by kings of the Ayuthia period which have been preserved, are now of value more as curiosities of literature and history than anything else, since, for all practical purposes, they have long been superseded by laws more in accordance with modern ideas. The laws of the sovereigns who have reigned at Bangkok form the most notable part of this branch of Siamese literature. They include a great number of revenue regulations, laws on civil matters such as mortgage, bankruptcy, rights of way, companies, &c., and laws governing the procedure of courts, all of which adhere to Western principles in the main. The latest addition is the Penal Code, a large and comprehensive work based upon the Indian, Japanese and French codes and issued in 1908.
Poetry is a very ancient art in Siam and has always been held in high honour, some of the best-known poets being, indeed, members of the royal family. There are several quite distinct forms of metre, of which those most commonly used are the Klong, the Kap and the Klon. The Klong is rhythmic, the play being on the inflection of the voice in speaking the words, which inflection is arranged according to fixed schemes; the rhyme, if it can so be called, being sought not in the similarity of syllables but of intonation. The Kap is rhythmical and also has rhyming syllables. The lines contain an equal number of syllables, and are arranged in stanzas of four lines each. The last syllable of the first line rhymes with the third syllable of the second line, the last of the second with the last of the third and also with the first of the fourth line, and the last syllable of the fourth line rhymes with the last of the second line of the next succeeding stanza. The number of poems in one or other of these two metres is very great, and includes verses on almost every theme. In the Nirat poetry, a favourite form of verse, both are often used, a stanza in Klong serving as a sort of argument at the head of a set of verses in Kap. This Nirat poetry takes the form of narrative addressed by a traveller to his lady-love, of a journey in which every object and circumstance serves but to remind the wanderer of some virtue or beauty of his correspondent. In most of such works the journey is of course imaginary, but in some cases it is a true record of travelling or campaigning, and has been found to contain information of value concerning the condition at certain times of outlying parts of the kingdom. Of the little love songs in Klon metre, called Klon pet ton, there are many hundreds. These follow a prescribed form, and consist of eight lines divided into two stanzas of four lines each, every line containing eight syllables. The last syllable of the first line rhymes with the third syllable of the second, and the final of the second line with the final of the third. The songs treat of all the aspects of love. A fourth poetical metre is Chan, which, however, is not so much used as the others.
The introduction of printing in the Siamese character has revolutionized the literature of the country. Reading has become a general accomplishment, a demand for reading matter has arisen, and bookshops stocked with books have appeared to satisfy it. The historical works above referred to have been issued in many editions, and selections from the ancient fables and romances are continually being edited and reissued in narrative form or as plays. The educational department has done good work in compiling volumes of prose and verse which have found much favour with the public. All the laws, edicts and regulations at present in force are to be had in print at popular prices. Printing, in fact, has supplied a great incentive to the development of literature, the output has increased enormously, and will doubtless continue to do so for a long time to come. (W. A. G.)
- See E. Joubert in F. Gamier, Voyage d'exploration en Indo-Chine (Paris, 1873), vol. ii.; Counillon, Documents pour servir à l'étude géologique des environs de Luang Prabang (Cochinchine), Comptes rendus (1896), cxxiii. 1330-1333.