Peeps at Many Lands_ Siam
A TYPICAL CANAL SCENE. Chapter II.
PEEPS AT MANY LANDS
ERNEST YOUNG, B.Sc.
HEAD MASTER OF THE LOWER SCHOOL OF JOHN LYON, HARROW
FORMERLY OF THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, SIAM
AUTHOR OF "THE KINGDOM OF THE YELLOW ROBE," ETC.
WITH TWELVE FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
EDWIN A. NORBURY, R.C.A.
ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
MY CHILD FRIEND,
SYBIL MARJORIE COOPER,
I AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATE THIS, MY FIRST
BOOK FOR CHILDREN
|I.||A PEEP INTO SIAMESE HISTORY||1|
|II.||IN EASTERN VENICE||5|
|III.||DOWN THE RIVER||10|
|VII.||THE STORY OF BUDDHA||27|
|X.||THE SHAVING OF THE TOP-KNOT||44|
|XII.||FOOD AND DRESS||55|
|XV.||A PLOUGHING CEREMONY||65|
|XVIII.||TRIAL BY ORDEAL||79|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
By EDWIN A. NORBURY, R.C.A.
|A TYPICAL CANAL SCENE||frontispiece|
|A CORNER OF THE GRAND PALACE ENCLOSURE, BANGKOK||4|
|THE RIVER MARKET, BANGKOK||9|
|THE GULF OF SIAM—MOONLIGHT||16|
|A BUFFALO CART||25|
|A GROUP OF BUDDHIST MONKS||32|
|THE TEMPLE OF WAT POH||41|
|A FISHING-BOAT NEAR THE ISLAND PAGODA, PAKNAM||57|
|THE ANNUAL RICE-PLOUGHING FESTIVAL||64|
|AN ELEPHANT HUNT AT AYUTHIA||73|
|A RELIGIOUS WATER PROCESSION||80|
SKETCH-MAP OF SIAM.
CHAPTER I A PEEP INTO SIAMESE HISTORY
You have doubtless already learned in your history of England that atone time this island home of ours was peopled by wild, uncivilizedtribes, who were driven away into the hills of the north and the west byinvaders who came to our shores from the lands on the other side of theNorth Sea. At different times, Jutes, Saxons, Danes, and Angles pouredtheir warriors upon our coasts, killed the people, burnt their homes,and stole their cattle. And one of these invading tribes, the Angles,gave its name to a part of our island, which is to this day known asEngland—that is, Angle-land, the land of the Angles.
Now, in the same way, the people who live in Siam at the present timeare the descendants of invaders who swept into the country and drove theoriginal inhabitants into the hills. No one is quite certain where theSiamese actually came from, but it is likely that their home was uponthe mountain-slopes of Tibet. Their[Pg 2] ancestors were a wild and vigorousrace who tattooed themselves. They descended from the mountains andsettled in China, where they became a peaceable people, living upontheir farms, rearing their crops and tending their herds, and perhapsthinking little of war and bloodshed any more. These people are known asthe Shans. Then, one day, there came down upon them a great horde ofinvaders, who drove most of them away from their homes. Some stayedbehind as slaves; other wanderers travelled to the west and settled inthe country we now call Burma; and, finally, some of the exiles pushedon to the valleys and hill-sides of Northern Siam, and these are thepeople whose descendants we call the Siamese. The word "Siam" is reallythe word "Shan," the name of the earliest settlers in the land. Amongstthe first of the European nations to visit this little-known countrywere the Portuguese; and when they came home to Europe again, and toldtheir story of the people they had found in Further India, they bothspelled and pronounced the word "Shan" as "Siam," and that is how we getthe name. The Siamese never call themselves by this name. The nativename for the people is "Thai," which means "free," and the country ofSiam is to them always "Muang Thai"—that is, "the Land of the Free."
We shall not stay here to tell the long story of how the Siamese, in thecourse of many hundreds of years, have fought all the people upon theirborders—those who live in Cambodia, Pegu, Annam, and Burma. Thishistory is full of curious stories of brave and cruel men, two of whomdeserve just a word or two here.
About the time when Charles II. was reigning in England, a Greek namedConstantine Phaulkon arrived in Siam. He had been wrecked, together witha number of Siamese officials, upon the coast of India, and they hadinvited him to visit their country. He accepted the invitation, and theyintroduced him to the King. Phaulkon was a very clever man, and hebecame the chief friend and adviser of the Sovereign. He built a fortand a palace, and round the town that was then the capital he erected awall, which was strengthened at intervals by small towers. The ruins ofthe palace built by this Greek are still to be seen in the old city.Phaulkon grew so powerful that the Siamese princes and nobles gotjealous, and when the King became sick, so that he could no longer holdthe reins of power, the angry princes and their friends made up theirminds to get rid of the King's foreign favourite. One dark nightPhaulkon was summoned to attend a meeting of the chief men of thecountry. He hurried to the palace, little thinking what was in store forhim. On his arrival he was seized and thrown into prison, and finally hewas tortured to death.
Now, about a hundred years later, at a time when George III. was on thethrone of England, and when we were fighting the American colonistsbecause they would not pay the taxes we tried to impose upon them,another foreigner rose to great power in Siam. This foreigner was aChinaman, named Phya Tak. The Burmese had invaded Siam, and had done agreat deal of damage. So Phya Tak got together an army, composed chieflyof robbers and outlaws, and with these fierce soldiers he[Pg 4] drove all theBurmese away. When he had achieved this great victory, he came toBangkok, and caused himself to be crowned King of the country; and eversince his day Bangkok has been the capital of Siam. Phya Tak did notreign very long, for after a time he became mad. He fled to a monasteryand donned the robes of a priest. But this did not help him very much,for the man who had been his chief friend and general murdered the madKing and reigned in his stead. The usurper assumed the crown in 1782,and the Sovereign who now rules over the country is his great-grandson.The present King's full name and title is His Majesty Phrabat SomdetchPhra Paramindr Maha Chula Lon Kawn Phra Chula Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua. Hebecame King when he was not quite seventeen years of age, and his healthat that time was so delicate that at first it was feared he would notlive. However, on the day that he was crowned it rained very heavily,and then all his subjects felt very happy indeed; for if it rains whenthe King is crowned, then will he certainly live for many years. And soit has happened, for he is still alive, having reigned now abouttwenty-nine years.
A CORNER OF THE GRAND PALACE ENCLOSURE, BANGKOK.
CHAPTER II IN EASTERN VENICE
Bangkok, the present capital of Siam, has been called "the Venice of theEast," on account of its innumerable waterways. The whole place isthreaded with canals of every possible size and description. There arecanals that are like great broad thoroughfares, where huge boats may beseen carrying to and fro rice, fruit, and other products of the fieldsand orchards; and tiny little water-lanes, where the broad fronds of thegraceful coco-nut palm sweep down over the sluggish stream, where greenparrots scream at you from amongst green branches, and ugly darkcrocodiles lie asleep in the thick and sticky mud.
Along the sides of the "streets" there are long lines of floating housesin which the people live. Each house floats on a big raft, made ofseparate bundles of bamboo. Thus, when the floating foundation begins torot, the bundles can be replaced one by one without disturbing thepeople on the raft. The raft is loosely moored to big wooden stakes,which are driven deep in the bed of the river, so that the houses riseand fall with the tide. In front of the house there is always a littleplatform or veranda, on which the people pass most of their time, andwhere, if they pretend to keep a shop, they display the goods which theywish to sell. It is on this platform that all the members of the[Pg 6] familytake their bath. They dip a bucket or can into the water, draw it up,and then pour the contents over their heads.
When the occupant of one of these floating dwellings wishes to move, hesends for no furniture van or cart; but he simply shifts his house, hisfurniture,