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ART. I.—1. Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China
(Siam), Cambodia, and Laos, during the Years 1858, 1859 and 1860. By the late M. HENRI Mounat, French
Naturalist. 2 vols., with Illustrations. London. 1864. 2. The Modern Buddhist; being the Views of a Sramese
Minister of State, on his own and other Religions. Translated, with remarks, by HENRY ALABASTER, Interpreter of H. B. M., Consulate-General in Siam. London. 1870.
3. The English Governess at the Siamese Court; being Re
collections of Six Years in the Royal Palace at Bangkok.
The word “ Siam ”is Malay, from which language this name, as well as many other of Indian places, has been borrowed by Europeans. The Siamese are not acquainted with it; they call their country Thaï, or Monang-Thaï, which means “Free” or “the Kingdom of the Free.” I. Baptiste Pallegoix, bishop of Mallos, and head of the Roman Catholic Church in Siam, who resided there more than thirty years, and is, therefore, a
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great authority in these matters, maintains that the modern
“Siam” is derived from “ Sajam," a Malay word signifying “the brown race."* It was first known in Europe in the year 1502, through the medium of the Portuguese, who opened intercourse with the Siamese nine years after the conquest of the peninsula of Malacca by Alphonso de Albuquerque. This intercourse, however, was not maintained, owing to the continual wars between Burmah and Siam, and little was known of the country until 1632, when an English vessel touched at the ancient capital, Ayuthia. Shortly after this the Portuguese at Goa sent a party of Dominican and Franciscan missionaries to Siam, and the communication between the two nations became more frequent. The king engaged in his service three hundred Portuguese soldiers; these were distributed over the country, having lands allotted to them for cultivation, and they married native
The missionaries built two churches and established a school.
Siam was visited in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, and by the German traveller, Mandelslohe, who designates its capital, Ayuthia, “ the Venice of the East.” Siam appears to have been originally a great fief of China, and the king of Siam at this day receives from that empire a special confirmation of his authority, much resembling the patronage accorded by the sultan to the Barbary States.t Dr. Charles Pickering, of Boston, thinks that the Siamese are Malay,but upon very insufficient grounds, for he admits that the Siamese twins were the only persons of that nation he ever saw, but adds that they were of the Malay race. Mrs. Leonowens, who resided nearly six years in Siam, thinks that the Siamese are mainly Mongolian. Their plıy. siognomy certainly resembles that of the Tartars more than that of any other race. Their faces are broad and flat, with round, prominent cheek-bones, a small nose obtusely pointed, a large
* Mouhat, Travels, vol. 1, p. 60.
+ Ibid. | Physical History of Man, p. 135.
$ English Governess, p. 25. See also Finlayson, Mission to Siam and Hué, chap. vi., edited by Sir T. S. Raflles, F.R.S.
mouth with rather thick lips, black eyes, a low forehead, and very scanty beard, and their hair is always black, thick, coarse and lank. They have a lighter colored skin than the western Asiatics, but darker than the Chinese.
The Malay mixture, however, is considerable.
The population of Siam has been variously estimated. In 1822 Mr. Crawford set it down at 2,790,000, including foreigners and emigrants of all nations. In 1832, Mr. Roberts, United States minister at Bangkok, calculated that it amounted to 3,620,000. Bishop Pallegoix estimated it at 6,000,000 in 1850; but the translator of The Modern Buddhist, a work composed by the Siamese minister of state, Chao Phya Thipahon, better known to foreigners as Chao Phya Praklang, writing in 1870, gives the number of people at 4,000,000 only. The difference arises probably from the latter not including the Chinese, who are found in Siam in great numbers, there being 300,000 of them in Bangkok alone.
The Siamese are rigid Buddhists; they are excelled by none in the sincerity of their belief, and the liberality with which they support their religion. No other Buddhist country, of similar extent, can show so many splendid temples and monasteries. In Bangkok alone there are more than one hundred monasteries, and, it is said, ten thousand monks and novices.
More than this, every male Siamese, sometime during his life, and generally in the prime of it, takes orders as a monk, and retires for some months or years to practise abstinence and meditation in a monastery.*
The late king of Siam followed this custom, and, while he was a monk, made himself eminent for his knowledge of the Buddhist Scriptures. In fact, he founded a new school of Buddhist thought, and boldly preached against the canonicity of those of them whose relations were opposed to his reason and his knowledge of modern science. His majesty was a man of remarkable genius and acquirements. His powers as linguist were considerable, and they enabled him to use an English library with facility.+ During the twenty-five years
* Modern Buddhist, p. 1.
Ibid. p. 3.