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Southeast Asia ‘Inside Out,’ 1300–1800: A Perspective from the Interior

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

David K. Wyatt
Cornell University


Despite the serious studies of the past century, the history of Mainland Southeast Asia is still poorly understood. This is not to say that we do not have numerous studies of particular countries and events in individual countries; but, despite the efforts of Victor Lieberman, Anthony Reid, and others, we still lack a comprehensive sense of the dynamics of the premodern history of long periods on a region-wide basis.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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1 Cf. Wyatt, David K., ‘Chronicle Traditions in Thai Historiography,’ in Southeast Asian History and Historiography, ed. Cowan, C.D. and Wolters, O.W. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976), pp. 107–22;Google Scholarreprinted in the same author's Studies in Thai History: Collected Articles (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1994), pp. 121. For a general survey of the history of Chiang Mai and Lan Na, the reader will find usefulGoogle ScholarPenth, Hans, A Brief History of Lan Na (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1994).Google Scholar

2 Notton, Camille, Chronique de Xieng Mai (Annales du Siam, III; Paris: Geuthner, 1932).Google Scholar

3 Tamnan phün müang Chiang Mai [The Chiang Mai Chronicle] ed. Chotisukkharat, Sanguan (Bangkok: Prime Minister's Office, 1971).Google Scholar

4 Wyatt, David K. and Wichienkeeo, Aroonrut, The Chiang Mai Chronicle [CMC] (Chiang Mai, 1995), is a new edition and translation of this chronicle, based on a palm-leaf manuscript in the collection of Hans Penth. References are to folios of the original manuscript, which are marked in the new English tradition.Google Scholar

5 CMC ff°. 4.01–4.04.

6 ‘Prawat tang milang Nan [History of the Foundation of Nan; PTMN]’ unpubl. Ms. (no. SRI, Social Research Institute, Chiang Mai. This text is described and discussed in Wyatt, David K., The Nan Chronicle (Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 1994), pp. 1423.Google Scholar

7 Hans Penth gives King Mangrai the dates 1261–1311. [Jinakalamali Index: An Annotated Index to the Thailand Part of Ratanapaa's Chronicle Jinakalamali (Oxford, 1994). P.310]Google Scholar

8 CMC, fascicle l. The same period is treated in, for example, Tamnan Mangrai Chiang Mai, Chiang Tung [Chronicle of Mangrai, Chiang Mai, and Keng Tung, TMCMCTJ, ed. Wichaikhatthakha, Thiu and Dòkbuakaeo, Phaithun (Chiang Mai, 1993).Google Scholar

9 Such a mythic base of the chronicle's argument forms the centerpiece of fascicle 8 (ff°. 8.17–8.26). See below.

10 People are said to have come from Keng Tung to argue that ‘As Phò Thao Nam Thuam was born from the flesh of King Cheyyasongkhram, who has great majesty, we should make him our lord,’ and he thereupon became king of Keng Tung. CMC, f°. 3.14.1. (The third numeral is the line number.)

11 CMC, f°. 1.32. I have not found the inscriptions of the period to be of much use in this current enterprise.

12 Curiously, the first such coronation mentioned in the CMC—that of King Cüang—is given with a careful description of the ceremony, but no mention of the specific royal regalia (f°. 1.16), which begin to be mentioned only in connection with the reign of King Mangrai: the Sri Kañjeyya Sword then is mentioned (f°. 2.30) as having been ‘a very ancient sword of [King] Lawacangkarat,’ a distant ancestor of King Cüang. The sword is twice subsequently mentioned by name (ff°. 7.37 and 8.28), but only in the last portion of the CMC.

13 CMC, f°. 1.22.1–4.

14 TMCMCT, p. 1 It is clear that this text is in fact two separate chronicles, joined on f°. 22.

15 That the father was in Chiang Rai is indicated at CMC f°. 3.10.5. There is an explicit statement to this effect at CMC f°. 3.15.1.

16 CMC, ff° 3.13.4–3.14.2.

17 CMC, ff°. 3.15–3.17.

18 CMC, f°. 3.18.1–3.

19 CMC, ff°. 3.19–3.21 mentions warfare with Nan and Phrae.

20 Manpower levies of some sort. Clearly, Notton had no clearer idea of what these might have been than we do, for he also had difficulty translating them (p. 79);

21 CMC, f°. 3.17. The paragraph immediately preceding this one also outlines the structure and staffing of the administration of the domain of Chiang Saen.

22 The most important of these is the famous The Sheaf of Garlands of the Epochs of the Conqueror, Being a Translation Jinakalamalipakaranam of Ratanapaa Thera of Thailand, tr. N.A. Jayawickrama (London, 1968).Google Scholar See also Premchit, Sommai and Swearer, Donald K., ‘A Translation of “Tamnan Mulasasana Wat Pa Daeng”: The Chronicle of the Founding of Buddhism of the Wat Pa Daeng Tradition,’ Journal of the Siam Society 65:2 (07 1977), 73110;Google Scholarand Tamnan Mulasasana Chiang Mai lae Chiang Tung, [The Mulasasana Chronicle of Chiang Mai and Keng Tung] ed. Nagara, Prasert na and Tuikeeo, Puangkam (Bangkok, 1994), a new and very important edition of the Mulasasana text.Google Scholar

23 Cf. CMC, f°. 3.30.1, where he refers the reader to the Chronicle of the Sihinga Buddha.

24 Cf. CMC, ff°. 3.20.1 (which also refers back to such divination in the time of King Mangrai), and 3.27.5. On chicken divination, see Wichasin, Renu, ‘Kanthamnai kraduk kai khòng khon Thai bang klum,’ in Ekkasan prakòp kansammana rüang khon Thai nòk prathet: phromdaen khwamru [Documents for the Seminar on Tai Peoples Outside Thailand: Frontiers of Knowledge] (Bangkok, 1989), pp. 87117. Dr Renu mistakenly writes that such divination is found among other Tai groups but not among the Tai Yuan of Lan Na. Her attention had not been drawn to the CMC.Google Scholar

25 CMC, ff°. 4.03–4.05. Similar references figure prominently in the Tamnan müang Nan [The Nan Chronicle] (unpubl. rns., Lanna Thai Manuscripts from the Richard Davis Collection, Australian National University, no. fl–47).

26 PTMN, ff°. 90–100.

27 A similar argument is made in my ‘Three Sukhothai Oaths of Allegiance,’ Studies in Thai History, pp. 60–9.

28 CMC, ff°. 7.11.5–7.12.2.

29 Perhaps the kula (Indians) and the Lawa?

30 I think this refers to the ‘White Turbans’ of Yunnan.

31 CMC, ff°. 8.03.5–8.05.4. This date is mentioned earlier in the text as being a Tuesday. I have retained that weekday here.

32 We know, for example, that the Siamese learned of Yandabo within a few weeks of the event: see The Bumey Papers, vol. I, pt 2 (Bangkok, 1910; reprinted Farnborough, Hants., 1971), p. 200.Google Scholar

33 CMC, f°. 8.27.3–4.

34 CMC, f°. 8.50.3.

35 CMC, f°. 8.38.5.

36 One tantalizing view of the nineteenth-century economic environment of the area is Bowie, Katherine A., ‘Unraveling the Myth of the Subsistence Economy: Textile Production in Nineteenth-Century Northern ThailandJournal of Asian Studies 51 (1992), 797823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

37 This passage inexplicably is omitted in Sanguan's 1971 edition of the CMC.Google Scholar

38 CMC, f°. 8.26.1.

39 See my ‘The “Subtle Revolution” of King Rama I of Siam,’ in Moral Order and the Question of Change, ed. Wyatt, D.K. and Woodside, A.B. (New Haven, 1982), pp. 953; reprinted in Studies in Thai History, pp. 131–73.Google Scholar

40 CMC, ff°. 8.33–8.41. This episode also is confirmed independently in TMCMCT.

41 CMC, ff° 8.37–8.38.

42 Why should they have turned to animism and brahmanism in an age which was supposedly piously Buddhist? Because, as Kirsch explains (Kirsch, A. Thomas,‘Complexity in the Thai Religious System,’ Journal of Asian Studies 36 (1977), 241–66), Buddhism can provide no certainties in crisis situations, and these must be sought in the surviving syncretic elements of pre-Buddhist Thai religion.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

43 A mistake which my Thailand: A Short History (New Haven, 1984) is not alone in having committed.Google Scholar

44 On which see my ‘Five Voices from Southeast Asia's Past,’ Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 4 (11 1994), 1076–91;Google Scholarand The Nan Chronicle (Ithaca, 1994), which is not to be confused with my 1966 book by the same title.Google Scholar

45 In writing what follows, I have been particularly stimulated by Carr, David, Time, Narrative, and History (Bloomington, Ind., 1986).Google Scholar

46 CMC, f°. 8.42.1.

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