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Chinese Temples and Philanthropic Associations in Thailand

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2011

Bernard Formoso
Affiliation:
Université de Paris X

Abstract

Among the Chinese associations in Thailand which who have shown the highest rate of expansion the last decades have a philanthropic aim. This paper places such associations in their social, historical, and religious context, and describes their multifarious activities, showing that they play an important role in the persistence of Chinese identity in Thailand.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The National University of Singapore 1996

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References

1 Thus, in 1974, while counting for 8.5 per cent of the total population, the Thai of Chinese origin owned 90 per cent of the commercial and manufacturing investments as well as 50 per cent of the financial and banking assets of the country (Yuan-Li, Wu and Chun-Hsi, Wu, Economic Development in South-East Asia, the Chinese Dimension [Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978], p. 133Google Scholar). Moreover, J. Girling notes in Thailand, Society and Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981, p. 78Google Scholar) that in the early 1980s, 23 of the 25 most influential businessmen in the country were of Chinese origin.

2 In fact, as suggested by Skinner, W. in “A Study of Chinese Community Leadership in Bangkok, Together with an Historical Survey of Chinese Society in Thailand” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 1954), p. 311Google Scholar, the development of this kind of associations began in Bangkok during the two decades following the First World War. But it only increased in scale from 1970 onward, as demonstrated by Tiaorakitsakun, Phonphan. See “The Development of the Chinese Associations in Bangkok Metropolis, 1942–92” (M.A. diss., Thammasat University), p. 51Google Scholar.

3 The Chinese concepts and expressions in this paper have been romanized according to a version of the Wade-Giles system adapted to the specificity of the Teochiu language, which is used as a lingua franca by the Chinese of Thailand.

4 Ibid., p. 174.

5 Thus, the Cantonese Association opened a temple of its own in 1878, a cemetery in 1884, and a clinic as well as a primary and a secondary school in 1903. For its part, the Hakka Association in the 1930s managed a cemetery, two primary schools, a clinic and a hospital, while the Hainanese owned three temples, a cemetery and a primary school. See Coughlin, R., Double Identity, the Chinese in Modern Thailand (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1960), pp. 4243Google Scholar.

6 Ibid., p. 57.

7 From 1947 onward, the Thai government imposed a restrictive quota of 10,000 immigrants per year, which was again reduced by 1949, falling to only 200 immigrants per year (see G.W. Skinner, “A Study of Chinese Community Leadership”, p. 219).

8 Ibid., p. 227.

9 Ibid., p. 311.

10 R. Coughlin, Double Identity, p. 6.

11 G.W. Skinner, “A Study of Chinese Community Leadership”, pp. 246–48.

12 See Schipper, K.M., Le corps taoïste (Paris: Fayard, 1982), pp. 215–16Google Scholar.

13 The temple of which Lin was vice-president is named Tsi-Hsiong-Kê. It is located in Chen-Hua village, in the suburbs of Swatow.

14 See Groot, J.J.M. De, The Religious System of China, Book II, Vol. VI (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1910), pp. 12951309Google Scholar; and D. Overmyer, “Spirit-writing (fu-chi) Texts, Values and Sectarian Literature, Mid-Ming to the Twentieth Century, Part II” (Paper delivered at The Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, Toronto, 13 Mar. 1981), p. 3.

15 See Inge-Heinze, R., Trance and Healing in South-East Asia Today (Bangkok: White Lotus, 1988), pp. 206214Google Scholar.

16 Watson, J.L., “Funeral Specialists in Cantonese Society: Pollution, Performance and Social Hierarchy”, in Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, ed. Watson, J.L. and Rawski, E.S. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 109134Google Scholar.

17 K. Schipper, Le corps taoïste, pp. 36–37, 126.

18 For an excellent biographical study of Tan Kah-Kee, see Yong, C.F., Tan Kah-Kee, The Making of an Overseas Chinese Legend (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1987)Google Scholar.

19 In 1993, on the occasion of the second Hsiu-Kou-Ku organized by the Têk-K'a foundation of Chumpae, the most influential businessman of the town was appointed honorary president of the festival, and made a donation of 300,000 baht. For the Hsiu-Kou-Ku planned by the Chip-T'ua foundation of Khon Kaen for 1995, the chairman promised a gift of 1.5 million baht.

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