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Title: Siam: Its Government, Manners, Customs, &c.
Author: McDonald, N. Abraham
Language: English
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                   GOVERNMENT, MANNERS, CUSTOMS, &c.

                         Rev. N. A. McDONALD,
              For ten years a Missionary in that country.

                            ALFRED MARTIEN,
                         1214 CHESTNUT STREET.

      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by
                            ALFRED MARTIEN,
      In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

                             To the Memory
                  Of the Founder of Milnwood Academy,
                         REV. J. Y. McGINNES,

       Who had the cause of Foreign Missions very much at heart;

                       AND TO ALL WHO HAVE BEEN
                      PUPILS OF THAT INSTITUTION,
                          THIS LITTLE VOLUME

           Is respectfully dedicated, by one of the earliest
                     Students of the Institution,

                                        The Author.

  [Illustration: The present King of Siam.]














In giving these pages to the public the author has no ambition to make
a book. Having been invited by the Principal of Milnwood Academy, at
Shade Gap, Pa., to deliver in that Institution a series of lectures,
or talks, on Siam, its government, manners, customs, &c., a few
friends have requested that they be reduced to paper and published,
which is his only apology for giving them to the public in book form.
A few additions have been made, and the facts are narrated as seen and
understood by the author. In a few instances, to refresh his memory,
he has referred to articles on Siam, published in the _Bangkok
Calendar_ and elsewhere. The work is intended chiefly for a class of
readers who may not have access to the more pretending works recently
published on that country.

                                                 N. A. M.

Shade Gap, Pa., April, 1871.




On my "overland" journey from Siam to the United States, through
France and England, many persons were accustomed to accost me saying,
"Pardon me, Sir, but what nationality is that young man who is with
you?" referring to my Siamese boy. That boy, Sir, is a Siamese. "A
Siamese! Well, I must confess my geography is a little shaky,--I
scarcely know where Siam is,--but I remember now that is where the
Siamese twins came from." Referring, of course, to those unfortunate
beings who by some "lusus naturæ" are inseparably connected together,
and have been obliged to spend a long life in that condition, and who
have consequently become almost the only means by which their native
country is known to a vast majority of Europeans. When I, in 1860,
determined to go to Siam, I found it next to impossible to gather from
books any reliable information concerning it, and consequently took
shipping at New York almost as ignorant of the country to which I was
going, as I was of the moon. Fortunately however, some of our party
were returning, and before we arrived at our destination I was pretty
well prepared for what I was to encounter. Geographies are nearly
silent in regard to Siam, from the simple fact that geographers
themselves know nothing about it. It is also to be regretted that,
until very recently, chiefly all the books concerning Oriental
countries were written by mere cursory travellers, whose knowledge of
the countries through which they passed, or at which they touched,
must necessarily have been limited, and the chief object of many of
them appears to have been to make a readable book, oftentimes at the
expense of truth.

You will naturally ask, where is Siam? At the extreme point of that
vast continent extending from the snows of Siberia to the Equator, and
terminating in the long narrow Malay peninsula, is the little island
of Singapore, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. The
island is about twenty-five miles long, and about fourteen miles
broad, and commands the entrance of the China sea. The English, who
have ever had an eye to strategic points, and especially in the East,
took possession of it in 1819, being then little more than a Malay
fishing village, and a nest for pirates. The present town of
Singapore, well laid out and neatly built, and situated on the
southern extremity of the island commanding the anchorage, contains
perhaps one hundred thousand inhabitants, whilst the principal English
merchants live in palatial residences on the hills in the rear of the
town. The government of the island, together with Malacca, Penang, and
Province Wellesley, has lately teen transferred from the Indian
Government directly to the Crown. It is a beautiful little island,
with a genial climate, and I know of no place in the East where I
would rather live.

Leaving Singapore, and passing through the strait, up the peninsula,
over the lower part of the China sea, and up the gulf of Siam about
eight hundred miles, you come to the kingdom of Siam, sandwitched
between Cambodia on the east and Burmah on the west, extending from
about latitude 4° to 22° north, and from longitude about 98° to
104° east; consequently there is neither frost or snow, but perpetual
summer reigns. The leaves fall and are replaced by new ones, whilst
those who are daily witnesses to it scarcely notice the change.

The climate of Siam is genial and healthy, but the constant heat is
trying to the constitutions of Europeans, who require a change at
least once in ten years. The seasons are two, the wet and the dry.
From November to May scarcely a cloud obscures the sky, and no rain
falls except perhaps a shower in January. The Siamese look for a
shower in that month, and are disappointed if it does not come. They
think it necessary for certain kinds of fruit which is just then
forming, and they also think it indicative of a good rice season. I
have, however, in ten years, seen January pass several times without
the expected shower. From November to February the weather is
delightful, being the cool season, but the thermometer is seldom lower
than 64°. March and April are the hottest months, but the thermometer
does not rise as high as might be expected in such a climate. I have
never seen it over 98°, but on account of the long absence of rain,
the ground in most places becomes dry and parched, and the rays of the
sun, reflected from the heated earth, give the atmosphere a kind of
bake-oven feeling, which is oftentimes hard to endure. From November
to May the wind blows constantly from the northeast, and is called the
"northeast monsoon." From May till November again, is the wet season,
the wind blowing constantly from the southwest, and is called the
"southwest monsoon," the rain falling in copious showers almost every
day. The showers come in a kind of rotation. If there is one to-day at
a certain hour, there will be one to-morrow an hour later. The showers
are copious indeed, and sometimes one would think the "windows of
heaven were opened." The lightning is vivid, and the thunder
oftentimes terrific.

Whither the name Siam came, or whence it is derived, it is now
impossible to tell. The Siamese themselves know nothing of it, only as
it is applied to their country by Europeans. The name they apply to
their country is "Muang Thai," the free country, in distinction from
those countries which are tributary. The name Siam, however, is now
coming into common use, and is sometimes inserted in public documents.

The geology of Siam is simple, the lower portion near the gulf being
an alluvial deposit, the result of the annual overflowing of the
rivers, which takes place at the close of every rainy season. The
water from the copious rains rushes down from the mountains up the
country, and overflows the lowlands, enriching them and causing them
to produce abundant crops of rice. The mountains are volcanic, and
some of them have the appearance of having been thrown from a distance
and set down in their present positions.

Many of them are barren of almost everything green, presenting to the
eye but little that is attractive, but others, especially in the North
Laos country, present scenery indescribably grand. In many places,
especially along the seacoast, the old granite, the foundation of all
things, geologically speaking, comes to the surface, and even projects
out in bold bluffs and headlands. The rocks on many of the mountains
present the appearance of having at one time been lashed by the waves
of the sea, and there is abundant evidence that much of the lower
country has been redeemed from the sea at no very remote period.

The country is drained by three streams of considerable size, which
empty into the gulf. The principal one is put down on our maps as the
Menam, but called by the Siamese Menam Chow Phya, Menam being the
generic name for river, meaning mother of water, and Chow Phya being
the specific name for that particular river. Were it not for a sandbar
at its mouth, it would be navigable for the largest class of vessels
to Bangkok, but on that account the largest vessels are obliged to
anchor in the roadstead outside. The Bampakong on the east, and
Tacheen on the west, are also streams of some importance. Besides
these, there are also a number of smaller streams.

Bangkok, the capital of the kingdom, is situated on both sides of the
Menam Chow Phya, about twenty-five miles from its mouth. It contains
about four hundred thousand inhabitants, and has been called the
Venice of the East, from the fact that much of the city is floating on
the river in the form of floating houses. These floating houses are a
kind of nondescript affair, and it is impossible to give one who has
never seen them any idea of them. The following description, by the
oldest missionary in Siam, and published in the _Bangkok Calendar_ of
1866, though quite too elaborate for easy reading, is as good as
anything that can be given, and I shall insert it "in toto."

"Our friends in the western world have heard a good deal about the
floating houses of Bangkok, but they universally speak of being unable
to understand, after all that has been written, what kind of things
they are. If the descriptions that have been given of them could have
always been accompanied by good photographic pictures of the same, our
friends would have had much less difficulty in understanding them. But
such pictures are too expensive to procure for illustrating 'The
Bangkok Calendar,' which never pays for its cost, and hence we must do
the next best thing, and that is to descend into quite minute detail,
if we would make our friends who have never visited Bangkok understand
such unique structures as the floating houses of the city. And as
these houses form a large part of the dwellings and mercantile shops
of this great metropolis, being the most conspicuous of all buildings
(the temples only excepted) as you pass up and down the Menam Chow
Phya, the 'Broadway' of Bangkok, they seem to demand a minute
description in 'The Calendar.' These floating houses are moored on
both sides of the river for a distance of nearly three miles. Their
size, on an average, is about forty by thirty feet on the base; in
height, eight feet to the eves, and fifteen feet to the ridge of the
roof. As this base could not be covered by a roof of only two sides,
and make it sufficiently steep to shed rain well, without being too
high for safety on the river in time of a squall, the natives divide
the area to be covered into two nearly equal parts, and put a
two-sided roof over each division, thatched with the attap palm leaf,
(_cocos nipa_.) The two eves that thus meet in the middle of the house
have an eve-trough common to both of them, which is always seen in the
house about eight feet from the floor, passing uniformly in the
direction of the river. Hence nearly all these floating houses appear
to be double, standing sidewise to the river, the ridge of the front
being a little lower than the one behind it. There is always a narrow
verandah four or five feet wide attached to the front division, which
is covered with an extra roof of attap leaves, extending from under
the main point roof, with a more gentle slope than the front roof, and
then, in front of these, there is usually a small bamboo float from
three to five feet wide. This is sometimes extended the whole length
of the house, and sometimes only from three to ten feet. The eve of
the verandah is not more than six feet above the floor. From this
there is often suspended a bamboo mat, or some other material more
tasty, for a screen from the glare of the river. The ends of the two
double roofs are all furnished precisely alike with a peculiar kind of
moulding made of a thin plank tastefully curved at the bottom, like
the written capital A, and put up edgewise at the extreme end, to
constitute a neat finish for the thatching. The triangular area made
by each double roof at the ends is generally closed with attap
thatching; sometimes with bamboo matting, sometimes with wooden
pannelled work, sometimes with a regular clap-boarding, and rarely
with woodwork radiating from the lower side of the triangle upwards.

"These floating houses are always divided into two main rooms--the
front and inner one. The floor of the latter is about one foot higher
than the front. There are narrow passages five feet wide at the right
and left of these rooms, which are simply enclosed verandahs, with
each an attap roof, leading to a narrow room of the same width and
kind in the extreme rear. The front room is used for the purpose of a
variety-store, and the inner one for a bed-room.

"In it you will generally find the family idol-altar, if the occupant
be a Chinese. It is often used for putting away lots of goods, a few
samples of which are daily exposed for sale in the front room. These
exhibitions are made on a kind of amphitheatre-formed shelving facing
the river, so that every article can be seen at a glance by passers-by
in boats. The whole front is exposed to view in the daytime, not by
opening all the doors and windows, but by taking down much of the
front siding, which consists of boards varying from ten to twelve
inches in width, standing up endwise, and fitted into grooves above
and below. These boards are slid out early every morning, one by one,
and laid away out of sight under the floor, in a place reserved for
them during the day. Early in the evening each board is put in its
place for closing up the front of the shop, leaving not the least door
or window by which one may have direct access to it. But there is a
small door in front of each of the narrow passages in the extreme

"This narrow room is commonly used for the purposes of a cook-room.
The fire place is simply a shallow wooden box filled with clay. There
is no chimney or stovepipe attached to any of them. In the place of
one they make a scuttle hole in the thatched roof only six feet above,
and this has a trap door made of the same material as the roof, which
can be closed in rainy weather. Even in the best weather only a part
of the smoke escapes through the opening, while the remainder finds
its way out in all quarters. Consequently this little cook-room is
always a very smoky place, and is blackened with soot to a greater or
less extent, as are also many other parts of the establishment.

"Some better-to-do occupants of these floating houses have a small
bamboo caboose, moored at one end of the dwelling house. The floating
houses are usually enclosed with teak boards standing up endwise, and
permanently fixed into grooves above and below. Sometimes the siding
is made of bamboo wattling.

"It remains to be shown the mode of buoying up the floating houses
above the water, which being quite unique, deserves a particular
description. In the sills of the house are framed five rows of
scantling, four-by-six inches or larger, which descend into the water
five or six feet. These are so arranged that they divide the whole
area underneath the sills into four equal parts, or, as the Siamese
say, _hawngs_, or sections, for filling with bamboo poles. The first
object of these five rows of _legs_, bounding as they do the four
equal divisions, is to prevent the bamboo poles from rolling out
sideways under the pressure of the superincumbent house; and the other
is to render it quite convenient to exchange every year old and rotten
bamboos for new ones. Now a new set of bamboos will serve well the
purposes of a buoy only about two years; and to save the trouble of
exchanging all under the house at once, the natives manage to exchange
only half of them annually, so that the house is not for a moment left
without enough to keep it well out of the water. This is done by
removing all the bamboos from one or two of the divisions which have
been in use two years, and filling their places with new ones. The
divisions which have bamboos of one year's service remain undisturbed
until next year; when their time has expired, they too are cast out to
give place to others. Thus there are always left two divisions of the
last year's bamboos to serve in conjunction with two divisions of new
ones. The annual cost of new bamboos for a floating house of medium
size is not far from forty _Ticals_, and the number of bamboo poles
required is from five to eight hundred.

"As these floating houses are generally moored close together,
standing end to end, in an even line in the direction of the river, it
becomes necessary that the house which is to be replenished with
bamboos should be moved out a little in front of its neighbor's, thus
making room for sliding out the old bamboos from either end, and
sliding in new ones to fill their places. There are men who follow
this business as their profession, and do it very dextrously. One day
is quite sufficient to accomplish the whole work for any house. The
bamboos, it scarcely need be said, are slender poles, from three to
four inches in diameter at the butt-end, and not more than half that
size at the top. They are from twenty-five to thirty feet in length.
The top ends of the poles are always the ones that are pushed under
the house, and consequently are hidden, while the butt-ends are always
external, forming an even surface at each end of the house. The poles
being about three-fourths the length of the house, the smaller
extremities consequently overlap each other from eight to ten feet,
and make an equal thickness of buoying material beneath the middle of
the house, with that of each end.

"A house newly buoyed up looks quite tidy and dry, its floors being
from three to four feet above water. The houses are kept in their
places, forming a regular line with their fellows, thirty feet or more
from shore, by means of three or four teak posts or piles, driven at
each end into the soft bottom of the river six or eight feet; and
these are made mutual supporters of each other by lashing a bamboo
pole across them all near their tops. The house is then fastened to
these posts by means of bands or hoops encircling very loosely each
post, so that they shall readily slip up and down as the tide raises
the house or causes it to settle down. For this purpose it is
indispensable that there be no notches or knots on the posts that
shall cause the hoops to catch on them. Such a notch would cause the
post to be drawn up out of its place in a flowing tide, and would sink
it deeper in an ebbing one. While sitting in these houses you will
often hear a crack, and consequent sudden sinking of the house, caused
by the sliding of a hoop out of the place where it had been caught on
the posts. Where the water is unusually deep where a floating house is
moored, and the bottom of the river unstable, you will see the tops of
the mooring posts made fast by a cable to something firm on shore.
Sometimes the whole gives way notwithstanding, and then the house is
adrift at the mercy of the tide. The writer was once in a floating
house that had got adrift in the night time, and floated down the
river many miles before it could be made to submit to the power of the
ropes and cables, with which we endeavoured many times in vain to stop
her downward way. She would snap our stoutest ropes, as Samson did all
the instruments with which his enemies bound him. These floating
houses are often moved from place to place, and it is no uncommon
thing to see one floating up or down the river with the family in, and
everything going on as regularly within as if it was snugly moored."

The buildings on shore belonging to the chief princes and nobles, are
built of rough brick and stuccoed inside and out. The style of
architecture is a kind of Siamo-Chinese. The next best kind of house
consists of posts sunk into the ground, which constitute the frame
work, whilst the sides are made of boards wrought into a kind of
pannel work. This is called a _"ruen fa kadan,"_ or weatherboarded
house. These are the houses of the poorer princes and nobles, and the
better class of the common people. The houses of the poorer classes of
the common people are made on the same plan, only the sides are
constructed of bamboo wattling. These are called _"ruen fa tak,"_ or
open-sided house.

The river is the "Broadway" of the city, whilst canals form the
principal cross streets or avenues. Chiefly all travel in the city,
and indeed everywhere in Siam, is done in boats. If a person wishes to
go to church, to market, to call on a friend--in short, any where, he
goes in a boat. The rivers are the great avenues of trade, whilst the
whole country near the Gulf is intersected by a network of canals. But
in those portions distant from the rivers or canals resort must be had
to ox-carts and elephants.

Siam is the genial land of the elephant. He roams wild in her forests,
but those which have not at least been partially tamed are now
becoming scarce. He constitutes in the northern provinces the chief
beast of burden, and one of the special uses to which he is put, is
drawing timber from the forest to the bank of the river, where it can
be formed into rafts and floated to market. I have seen a huge
elephant with his tusks and trunk roll a large log up a declivity more
quickly and dextrously than a dozen men would have done it.

Siam has also been denominated the land of the "white elephant," from
the peculiar reverence shown for that animal. There is, however, no
such thing as a white elephant. The standing color is black, but
occasionally one is found which by some freak in nature is a kind of
Albino, or flesh color. He comes as near the color of a badly burned
brick as anything else. The Siamese do not call him a white elephant,
but a _"chang puak,"_ a strange colored elephant. From time immemorial
the Siamese have considered this strange colored animal the emblem of
good luck, and the king, who has had the greatest number of them, is
handed down in history as the most fortunate monarch. A certain king
had at one time three of them. The king of Burmah sent an embassy,
asking one as a special favor, which was emphatically denied. At this
the king of Burmah took umbrage, and sent an army and took the whole
of them. When one is found in the forest, word is sent immediately to
the capital, and preparations are made for conducting him to the
palace with the greatest honors and religious ceremonies. He is
enthroned in a palace within the walls of the king's palace, and is
henceforth fed on the luxuries of the land. He seldom, however, lives
long, being killed with kindness. He would be much happier and his
life would be considerably prolonged by allowing him to roam in his
native forest. The finder of such an elephant too, is generally
handsomely rewarded. Some travellers have stated that the white
elephant is worshipped, but I have never seen anything of the kind,
nor do I believe it. He is, however, held in peculiar reverence,
because he is considered the emblem of good luck. The flag of the
country is the flag of the white elephant. I am told that some
Frenchman has lately written a book, in which he states that he has in
his possession a hair from the tail of the white elephant of Siam,
which he obtained at great sacrifice, and even risk of his life. The
hair he may have, but the rest is imaginary.

The present population of Siam cannot be much short of eight millions.
The Siamese proper are evidently an off-shoot from the Mongolian race,
but by what admixtures they have arrived at their present status it
would be difficult to ascertain. Some one has given the following
description of them, which is substantially correct. "The average
height is five feet three inches, arms long, limbs large, and bodies
inclined to obesity. The face is broad and flat, the cheek bones high,
and the whole face assumes a lozenge shape. The nose is small, mouth
wide, and lips thick, but not protruding. The eyes are small and
black, and the forehead low. The complexion rather inclined to a
yellowish hue. The whole physiognomy has a sullen aspect, and the gait
sluggish." The Siamese, as a general thing, do not tattoo their bodies
as many eastern nations do.



Siam proper is divided into fifty-eight provinces, which are each
presided over by a Governor appointed by the Central Government at
Bangkok. There are also several Malay states down the peninsula, and
six or eight petty Laos kingdoms north of Siam proper which are
tributary to the king of Siam. These Laos kingdoms pay a small annual
tribute, and the King of Siam claims the prerogative of nominating a
successor to the throne, when a vacancy occurs. This successor is
taken of course from their own princes, but receives his insignia of
office from the King of Siam. Aside from this, each of those kings is
absolute in his own dominions. All the tributary states, however, are
virtually under the Protectorate of the King of Siam, he being _Lord_
paramount, or Suzerain.

The civil government is divided amongst the three principal ministers
of state, _Chow Phya Pra Kalehome_, _Chow Phya Puterapei_, and _Chow
Phya Praklang_. The _Kalehome_ has special charge of the provinces to
the west and southwest, and is _Prime Minister_, having charge of
everything pertaining to army and navy. _Puterapei_ has charge of the
provinces to the north, and is over everything that pertains to
habitations and dwellings of the people. The _Praklang_ has charge of
the provinces to the southeast, and is over all foreign interests, all
vessels of trade foreign and domestic, and has charge to a certain
extent of the treasury, hence the name _Praklang_. This was the
arrangement under the late reign, and I presume it is very little
changed, if any, as yet under the present.

The king is an absolute despot. No hereditary aristocracy or
legislative assemblies control his will. There is an aristocracy or
nobility, it is true, but their power is not felt only as instruments
in carrying out the will of the king. The people exist for the
monarch, and not the monarch for the people. The laws, as a general
thing, are laws of the king and not of the country. The old adage,
"New kings make new laws," is often literally true in Siam, providing
the new sovereign is so disposed. He is absolute master of the
persons, property, liberty and lives of his subjects. In speaking of
him they do not say he rules or governs, but he "eats the kingdom,"
which is too often literally true. Almost any man in the kingdom is
liable to be drafted at any time to do king's work, and the
descendants of captives of war, such as Cambodians, Peguins, Burmese,
&c., are obliged to render three months service, or its equivalent, to
the government annually. The person of the king is held in extreme
sacredness and reverence, and in addressing him the same titles and
attributes are applied to him which are applied to _Budha_. For one of
his subjects to inquire after the king's health would be an almost
unpardonable offence, as it is presumed that the king never takes
sick, or dies, as common people do. Some of these absurd ideas
appeared in the late reign to have become obsolete, but are evidently
being renewed again in the present. Formerly the king was both a
monopolist and a trader, claiming exclusive right over such
commodities as tin, ivory, cardamums, eagle-wood, Sapan-wood, gamboge,
&c., but when the late king entered into treaty relations with the
western powers, this monopoly was in a great measure yielded.

It is strange to say that this monarchy is not hereditary--that is,
not in the sense that that term is understood in Europe. There is what
is called the _Senabodee_, or Royal Counsellors, consisting of the
chief ministers of state, who during the life of the king are merely
silent counsellors, but upon his death their power becomes manifest,
and upon them devolves the responsibility of selecting a successor,
and governing the kingdom until such successor is chosen. The
successor must be a prince of the realm, but not necessarily the
eldest son of the late king--indeed, not necessarily a son of his at

The death of the late king occurred about nine o'clock, P. M. The
Prime Minister was immediately summoned to the palace, who convened
the _Senabodee_, and before midnight the succession was determined,
and everything going on smoothly. They chose in this instance the
eldest son of the late king, _Somdetch Chowfa Chulalangkorn_, a boy
about sixteen years old.

His coronation took place on Wednesday, November 11, 1868, being the
day decided upon by the Brahmin astrologers as the one most
propitious. At this coronation there was a slight innovation upon the
usual Siamese custom. No European had ever before witnessed the
coronation ceremonies of any king of Siam. The late king, after his
coronation, wrote a private note to some of his European friends,
stating that he would have been glad to have had them present, but
"state reasons forbade it." The number of Europeans present at the
coronation proper of the present king were few, consisting of the
consuls of the different treaty powers, with their suites; the
officers of H. B. M.'s gunboat Avon, and a few others. The writer held
at the time the seals of the United States Consulate, and was the only
representative of our government in the kingdom, and consequently
received an invitation, which might not have been accorded to him as a
mere missionary. The company of Siamese present was equally select,
consisting only of the chief princes and nobles of the kingdom.

The hour named was six o'clock, A.M., but owing to some delay it was
nearly eight when we passed into a small triangular court, facing one
of the doors of the inner audience hall. In front of the door of the
hall stood an elevated platform richly gilded, and upon that platform
was placed a very large golden basin. Within that basin was a golden
tripod, or three-legged stool. Over the platform was a quadrangular
canopy, and over the canopy was the nine-storied umbrella, tapering in
the form of a _pagoda_. Over the centre of the canopy was a vessel
containing consecrated water, said to have been prayed over nine
times, and poured through nine different circular vessels before
reaching the top of the canopy. This water is collected from the chief
rivers of Siam, and at a point above tidal influence, and is
constantly kept on hand, in reservoirs near the temples in the
capital. In the vessel was placed a tube or syphon, representing the
pericarp of the lotus flower, after the petals have fallen off. At a
flourish of crooked trumpets, resembling rams' horns, the king elect
descended from the steps of the hall, arrayed in a simple waist-cloth
of white muslin, with a piece of the same material thrown over his
shoulders, and took his seat upon the tripod in the basin. A Brahmin
priest approached him and offered him some water in a golden
lotus-shaped cup, into which he dipped his hand, and rubbed it over
his head. This was the signal for the pulling of a rope, and letting
loose the sacred water above in the form of a shower-bath upon his
person. This shower-bath represents the _Tewadas_, or Budhist angels,
sending blessings upon His Majesty. A Budhist priest then approached
and poured a goblet of water over his person. Next came the Brahmin
priests and did the same. Next came the chief princes, uncles of the
king; next two aged princesses, his aunts. The vessels used by these
princes and princesses were conch-shells, tipped with gold. Then came
the chief nobles, each with a vessel of a different material, such as
gold, silver, pinchbeck, earthenware, &c. Then, last of all, the Prime
Minister with a vessel of iron. This finished the royal bath. He then
descended from the stool in a shivering state, and was divested of his
wet clothes, and was arrayed in regal robes of golden cloth, studded
with diamonds. In the south end of the audience hall was an octagonal
throne, having eight sides, corresponding to the eight points of the
compass. He first seated himself on the side facing the north, passing
around toward the east. In front of each side of the throne was
crouched a Budhist and a Brahmin priest, who presented him with a bowl
of water, of which he drank and rubbed some on his face. At each side
they read to him a prayer, to which he responded. I was too far off to
hear all, but the following is said to be a translation of it.

  _Priest_. "Be thou learned in the laws of nature and of the

  _King_. "Inspire me, O Thou who wert a law unto thyself."

  _P_. "Be thou endowed with all wisdom and all acts of industry."

  _K_. "Inspire me with all knowledge, O Thou, the enlightened."

  _P_. "Let mercy and truth be thy right and left arms of life."

  _K_. "Inspire me, O Thou who hast proved all truth and mercy."

  _P_. "Let the sun, moon, and stars bless thee."

  _K_. "All praise to Thee, through whom all forms are conquered."

  _P_. "Let the earth, air, and water bless thee."

  _K_. "Through the merit of Thee, O Thou conqueror of death."

He was then conducted to the north end of the hall, and was seated
upon another throne. The insignia of Royalty were then presented to
him. They were handed to him by his uncle, Prince _Chowfa Maha Mala_.
First came the sword, then the sceptre, then two massive gold chains
in a casket, which he suspended around his shoulders. Then came the
crown, which he placed on his own head, and at that instant the royal
salute proclaimed him King, under the title of _Prabat Somdetch Pra
Paramendr Maha Chulalang Korn Kate Klou Yu Hua_. Then came the golden
slippers, the fan, the umbrella, two large massive rings set with huge
diamonds, which he placed on each of his forefingers. Then one of each
of the Siamese weapons of war were handed him, which he received and
handed back. The Brahmins then wound up with a short address, to which
he briefly responded. He then distributed a few gold and silver
flowers amongst his friends, and the Europeans then withdrew to
breakfast, which had been prepared for them. It may be asked why the
Brahmins officiate so much when Siam is emphatically a Budhist
country. I have asked several well-informed noblemen for the reason,
but have as yet been unable to ascertain the true reason. No one
appeared able to give any true reason. There are a number of Brahmins
in the country, but their existence is scarcely ever noticed except on
some such occasion as the above.

At 11 o'clock, A.M., the new king appeared for the first time before
his whole Court. The outer audience hall was richly decorated and
spread with rich Brussels carpet. When the Foreign Consuls entered in
a body the whole Siamese Court was prostrate on their knees and elbows
on the carpet. Very soon the king entered, arrayed in regal robes, and
wearing his crown, and seated himself upon the throne. The whole Court
simultaneously placed the palms of their hands together, and then
raising them up to the forehead, bowed their heads three times to the
floor. The chief ministers of state then formally delivered over their
several departments to the new monarch, to whom he briefly responded.
Senhor G. F. Vianna, Esq., Consul-General for Portugal, his being the
oldest consulate, then on behalf of the consuls present read a short
congratulatory address, which called forth another brief response, and
the audience retired.

The public audiences of European ambassadors and officials are
extremely ridiculous. I have been present on several such occasions,
both as Vice-Consul and as Interpreter to others. The King is seated
upon his throne, and the whole court resting on their knees and elbows
before him, with their "beam ends" turned up to the gaze. All
communication must be held through the Court Speaker. When I went as
Interpreter, the communication was given me in English, which I
rendered into Siamese to the Speaker. He would then commence by
ascribing to the King a long "rigmarole" of titles and attributes, at
the same time apparently so much afraid that he scarcely knew what he
was doing, and by the time he was ready to deliver my communication he
had forgotten about half of it. When he received the King's reply, he
had to repeat the same nonsense, and by the time he was ready to give
the message to me there was but little of it left. Had I not been able
myself to catch it directly from the King's lips, the interview would
have been most unsatisfactory.

The present King is about sixteen years old, and is apparently a
sprightly, good-looking boy. His father, some time before his death,
had employed an English governess for the palace, and the present
king, in common with all the royal children, received from her some
knowledge of the English language, and probably a smattering of some
of the sciences; but when he ascended the throne, instead of employing
for him a tutor capable of instructing him in the sciences, and the
different forms of government, everything of the kind was abandoned,
and he was allowed to give himself up almost wholly to women, which is
likely to destroy in a great measure any original talent he may have
had. It is now difficult to tell what he will be by the time he
arrives at an age suitable to assume the responsibility of the
government. He is also at present very much secluded from Europeans.
His father, vain of his knowledge of English, and the advancement he
had made in the sciences, which, to say the least, was truly
commendable, was very fond of European society, and was accessible at
almost any time by the better classes of Europeans in Siam, but the
son, for reasons best known to those in authority, is at present cut
off from all such intercourse. I have also been informed that he has
removed from the palace the fine European furniture placed there by
his father, and is replacing it with Chinese furniture, which looks
like a step backwards.

The government at present is in the hands of His Excellency _Chow Phya
Sri Surywongse_, with the title of Regent. He was Prime Minister
during the late reign, and consequently chief of the _Senabodee_. He
is also a man of undoubted ability, coupled with the usual oriental
shrewdness and low cunning, and is with all extremely selfish and
moody. His love for Europeans and western civilization is not very
great, only so far as he can use them to his own advantage; he is
however, too shrewd a man to do anything which would interfere with
the European trade, or violate the existing treaties. The country is
perhaps better governed now than ever it has been before.

His younger half-brother. _Chow Phya Bhanuwongse_, is Minister of
Foreign Affairs. He is a free, affable, gentlemanly man, and is
perhaps more free from that extreme selfishness which constitutes so
large an element in Siamese character, than any man in the kingdom. He
has been to Europe, and has profited much by the trip. His eldest son
is now in King's College, London. The Foreign Minister is, however,
too near the shadow of his greater brother to act out his natural
character, especially in his official capacity.

During the last and present reigns, Siam has been the mildest and best
heathen government on the face of the globe. Oppressions from high
quarters are very rare. Petty officers sometimes take advantage of
their positions to "squeeze" the poor. Redress for such grievances can
always be had by appealing to headquarters, but there are usually so
many unchained lions in the way that such a course is seldom resorted

There is also a Second King, which is merely a nominal title without
any of the responsibility of the government. He is surrounded by his
court, and has nearly all the honors of the First King shown him, but
has nothing to do with government except amongst his own personal
adherents. Even at the death of the First King he does not assume,
even temporally, any authority. He may be chosen First King. A few
instances are on record in which this has been the case. The son of
the late Second King now occupies the second throne, under the title
of _Krom Pra Raja Bowawn Sahthan Mongkoon_. This prince is better
known to Europeans by the name of George Washington, a name given him
when a boy, either by his father, or by some of the American
missionaries who taught him English. His father is said to have
manifested a great love for the memory of Washington. The Second King
is now about thirty-five years old, has a pretty good knowledge of
English, some knowledge of the sciences, western civilization and
governments, is polite and gentlemanly in his manners, and apparently
very friendly to Europeans. He is also well liked by all Europeans.
The commander of one of our United States war vessels, after an
audience with the Second King, remarked to me on retiring from the
palace, "That is the man who should have been First King." The title
of Second King appears to have been originally established to satisfy
the disappointed one of two rival princes.

The Siamese have an excellent code of civil and criminal laws, if they
were properly enforced, but, unfortunately, the Judiciary are so
corrupt that justice is seldom meted out, the one paying the largest
bribe generally gets the case. The Lord Mayor's and Sub-Mayor's Courts
are the chief criminal courts in the city. There are also within the
palace walls several other courts, chiefly for civil cases, and
presided over by the chief Ministers of State. There is also an
International Court, established by the late King, for the
investigation of those cases in which both Siamese and the subjects of
treaty powers are involved. Besides these, every prince of rank is
vested with judicial powers, and can hold court at his own palace. The
courts in the provinces are presided over by the provincial governors,
but those governors have not the power of life and death unless
delegated to them, in a special emergency, by the King. The judge of
any court is vested with full powers to investigate and decide any
case, subject, however, to an appeal to the King. There is, however,
seldom such an appeal, as, in other instances of oppression, the
unchained lions in the way are numerous. There are associate or
assistant judges, but they are simply for the investigation of minor
cases. The judge places his mat down on the floor in one end of the
court-room, upon which he places a three-cornered pillow, and then
places himself in a reclining position. The litigants are crouching
around him, presenting their cases, and the whole thing frequently
turns into a general conversation and brow-beating. There is nothing
like a jury. The witnesses are taken out to a Budhist temple, where
the following ironclad oath is administered to them. "I, who have been
brought here as a witness in this matter, do now, in the presence of
the sacred image of Budha, declare that I am wholly unprejudiced
against either party, and uninfluenced in any way by the opinions or
advice of others; that no prospects of pecuniary advantage or
advancement to office have been held out to me. I also declare that I
have not received any bribe on this occasion. If what I have now to
say be false, or if in my further averments I shall color or pervert
the truth so as to lead the judgment of others astray, may the Three
Holy Existences before whom I now stand, together with the glorious
_Tewadas_ of the twenty-two firmaments, punish me. If I have not seen,
and yet shall say I have seen; if I shall say I know that which I do
not know, then may I be thus punished. Should innumerable descents of
Deity happen for the regeneration and salvation of mankind, may my
erring and migratory soul be found beyond the pale of their mercy.
Wherever I go may I be compassed with dangers, and not escape from
them, whether murderers, robbers, spirits of the earth, woods, or
water, or air, or all the divinities who adore Budha; or from the gods
of the four elements, and all other spirits. May blood flow out of
every pore of my skin, that my crime may be made manifest to the
world. May all or any of these evils overtake me within three days, or
may I never stir from the spot on which I now stand; or may the
lightning cut me in two, so that I may be exposed to the derision of
the people; or if I should be walking abroad, may I be torn in pieces
by either of the supernaturally endowed lions, or destroyed by
poisonous serpents. If on the water of the river or ocean, may
supernatural crocodiles or great fish devour me; or may the winds and
waves overwhelm me, or may the dread of such evils keep me a prisoner
during life at home, estranged from every pleasure. May I be afflicted
with intolerable oppression of my superiors, or may a plague cause my
death; after which may I be precipitated into hell, there to go
through innumerable stages of torture, amongst which may I be
condemned to carry water over the flaming regions in wicker baskets,
to assuage the heat of _Than Tretonwan_, when he enters the infernal
hell of justice, and thereafter may I fall into the lowest pit of
hell; or if these miseries should not ensue, may I after death migrate
into the body of a slave, and suffer all the pain and hardship
attending the worst state of such a being, during the period measured
by the sand of the sea; or may I animate the body of an animal or
beast during five hundred generations, or be born a hermaphrodite five
hundred times, or endure in the body of a deaf, dumb, blind, and
houseless beggar every species of disease, during the same number of
generations; and then may I be buried to narok, and there be crucified
by Phya Yam."

They have also a way of extorting confessions from criminals, which is
terribly severe. The first way is by the use of the lash or ratan. He
first receives ninety stripes, and then, if he don't confess, he is
allowed a respite of a few days and receives ninety more; and if he
stills holds out, he is allowed another respite, and receives ninety
the third time. Any one who can endure three times ninety without
confessing is presumed to be innocent. They have also other modes, by
putting split _bamboos_ on their fingers, something like the thumb
screw of old. Persons often confess when they are innocent, from fear
of the torture.

They punish with death murder, highway-robbery, and treason. Their
mode of execution is decapitation. The criminals are brought out in
chains, and a clamp consisting of two bamboo poles is placed on the
neck. He is then made to sit down on the ground, the one end of the
clamp resting on the ground. They then most generally drug the
criminal, so as to produce stupor, amounting oftentimes to
unconsciousness, and also stop up their ears with soft mud. At a
signal the executioner runs out with a sword and cuts off the head. He
generally does it very neatly with one stroke, but I have known one or
two instances in which the executioner, to give him nerve, took quite
too much liquor, and made wonderful hacking of it.

Corporal punishment with the ratan is very common--so common that
there is little or no stigma attached to it. I have known high
officers to be severely thrashed. On public occasions I have seen
those in charge of certain things, who displeased the King, taken out
and thrashed. They were made to lie down on their face on the
pavement, and a man stood over with a ratan and put it down in no
light manner, the victim crying, "Ooey! ooey!" at every stroke. So you
perceive that it may in some respects be called a _ratan_ government.

The revenue of the country is derived from various sources. Certain
things are sold out by the government to the highest bidder, who, when
he receives it, has full control of the whole matter. He sub-lets
again to other minor parties and retailers, and has full powers to
punish all those who violate the right which he has so dearly
purchased. These are called _farms_. The most lucrative is the opium
farm. There is also the spirit farm, that is liquor distilled from
rice; the gambling farm; the rice farm; the cocoanut-oil farm, and
some others. There is also a tax on fisheries, on trading-boats, on
fruit orchards, on shops and stores; an export duty on rice, and an
import duty of three per cent, on all goods imported. There is also a
triennial poll tax of about two dollars on every Chinaman in the
kingdom, which amounts to a large sum every three years.



The religion of Siam is Budhism. It would however be impossible on an
occasion of this kind to give any extended outline of Budhism, and
besides this the principal works on that subject in the English
language are dry and uninteresting to the general reader or listener.
Any translations from the Budhist classics must also be necessarily
stiff, and many of the names unintelligible, unless accompanied with
explanations; I shall only, therefore, give as brief an outline as I
can of the Budhist faith, and describe, as nearly as possible, the
manner in which it is practised in Siam.

Budhism arose from a man of royal blood called Gautama, but by the
Siamese, _Somanakodome_. His father ruled a small kingdom in the
province of Oude, near the Himelaya mountains. Gautama died probably
about 534 B.C., and is supposed to have been nearly cotemporary with
the prophet Daniel. Becoming disgusted with the luxuries and pleasures
of courtly life he adopted that of a hermit, and like all hermits
became an enthusiast, and fancied that he had found the only true road
to all good, and thus leaped from the circle of eternal transmigration
into a "sublimation of existence that has no attribute and knows no

The late king of Siam speaks of the founder of the Budhist faith thus:
"Budha was a man who came into being on a certain time, by ordinary
generation; that he was a most extraordinary man, more mysterious and
wonderful than all heavenly beings, because he made vast merit by the
use of his body, his words and his will. He reigned as king
twenty-nine years, (meaning doubtless that he lived in princely state
until twenty-nine years old); that he then practised the most severe
asceticism, and with the greatest assiduity for a period of six years,
when his mind became so sublimated and refined that he habitually
numbered and measured every thought he had, fixing his mind upon that
single object, to the utter exclusion of every other care, and that
consequently he attained to the highest perfection, not knowing
anything alike of happiness or sorrow, being in a middle state between
the two; and as a result of this, he then had power to remember many
of the transmigrations of being through which he had come, and could
see with angelic eyes distinctly all the various and numberless
transmigrations of human, angelic, and animal being throughout the
universe; and thence onward to the time of his death he gave his mind
entirely to the destroying of sin in his own body and soul, and became
the most pure and spotless, not only externally, but also in all the
secret recesses of his life and soul, and thence is worthily
denominated Arahang. He then saw by his own power alone, that all the
forms and bodies which merit and demerit have caused to come into
being, and all other things which exist without any cause, are
altogether illusive, unreal, unsubstantial, and evanescent; without a
maker, proprietor, or lord, and that hence is he also _Samma
Sampootó_. This says he is the sacred Budh, whom others before us
have thus eulogized as having come into the world, and lived in it,
and is commonly called according to his family name, _Gótama_. He
spent forty-five years in publishing the way to holiness and
substantial and eternal peace, and then extinguished his life, and
departed into Nipán."

The pantheism of Brahminism had by long operation produced that
sluggishness of mind--its legitimate fruit--and confounded the Deity
with his works, and making it appear that the aggregate of creation is
itself God. In opposition to this, Budhism produced the doctrine that
all forms are mere illusions, and that will, purpose, action, feeling,
thought, desire, love, hatred, and every other attribute that can be
predicated of the mind, is unstable, and unreal, and therefore cannot
be associated with perfect peace. A state of "sublimation of existence
above all qualities," is the only thing that is real and substantial.
Budha has attained to that state which is called in the Pali
_Nirwana_, but by the Siamese _Nipán_. The literal meaning of the
word is, "absence of all desire," which involves an absence of
thought, and may hence be called a state of dreamless perpetual sleep.
To attain to that state the Budhist dogma, that all things which
appear in creation are illusive, and unreal, and consequently
unsubstantial, must be firmly fixed upon the mind. This lesson,
however, can only be learned by the most studious application of the
mind, and moral discipline by self-denial during a period of at least
100,000 transmigrations. To our mind Nipán is nothing but
annihilation, but Budhists will not admit it to be such, but maintain
that Budha has a perpetual existence there, Nipán is the Budhist's
highest idea of happiness. Omnipotence may be attained by perfect
virtue, abstinence, thought, and meditation.

Fatality is the cause of creation. The universe came into existence by
the inherent force of fixed and invariable laws, which brings the
worlds out of chaos, and conducts them on by gradation to a state of
high perfection, and then downward again by the same gradation to
dissolution, and then back again, upward and downward in a series that
had no beginning, and will have no end. If any Siamese in the kingdom
be asked who made the world, he will invariably answer "pen eng," it
made itself.

The teachings of Budha appear to have been transmitted by tradition
for about four hundred and fifty years after his death, and were then
committed to writing by the authority of a Budhist Council.

The Budhist system of the universe is found in a book called the _Trei
Poom_, or a book settling all questions about the existence of the
three worlds. The Trei Poom of the Siamese was originally translated
from the Pali. The work was doubtless originally written in Ceylon,
and carried thence to all Budhist countries. The Rev. Dr. Bradley, the
oldest missionary in Siam, has prepared an abstract from the Trei
Poom, and published in the _Bangkok Calendar_, from which I shall make
a few extracts on the present occasion.

The universe consists of an infinite number of systems, called by the
Siamese _Chackrawan_. Each Chackrawan has a sun, moon and stars
revolving around the top of a central mountain, called _Kow Pra Men_,
which extends above the surface of the ocean about 840,000 miles, and
the same distance into the ocean. It forms a perfect circle, having a
circumference equal to 2,520,000 miles. Parallel to the circle it
describes, and at a distance of 420,000 miles, is the first of seven
circular mountains, being variously distant from each other. Their
depth in water is the same as their height above it. The names,
height, circumference, &c., of these mountains are all given, but
would occupy too much space to enumerate here. Between each of the
seven mountains is a sea called _Seetawtara Samoot_. The width and
depth of each is as the distance between the mountains which bound it,
and the depth of the mountains below the surface of the water. The
water is exceedingly refined and light. The fish that live in those
seas are wonderful for variety and size, being many thousand miles
long. Parallel with the circle described by the seventh mountain, and
5,513,650 miles from it, is a circular glass mountain, called _Kow
Chakrawan_. This mountain forms the horizontal boundary of the system.
Its height is 820,000 miles, and its thickness 120,000. The circular
area which this mountain encloses is 12,034,500 miles in diameter. The
circumference of the mountains on the outside is 136,035,500 miles.
The water on both sides is 820,000 miles deep. The width of the ocean
between it and _Kow Asa Kan_ is 3,513,650 miles. Within this vast
expanse of water are situated the four grand divisions of the
populated plane or surface of the Chakrawan. These are called
_Taweeps_, which, for want of a better term to express them, have been
translated continents. These all have their appropriate names. The
first, in its horizontal contour, is shaped somewhat like the face of
a man, and hence is inhabited by mankind with faces like itself. The
second has a form like a half-moon, and is inhabited by an intelligent
race with semi-circular faces. The third is a perfect square, and is
inhabited by square-faced beings. The fourth is circular, and is
inhabited by beings having faces like the full moon. The distance from
each _Taweep_ to _Kow Chakrawan_ is 2,798,600 miles. Each Chakrawan
system is underlaid by a body of water independent of their oceans.
The distance from the surface of the earth to it is 260,000 miles, and
the depth of it is 480,000 miles. Underlying this body there is a
stratum of air 960,000 miles in depth, and thence downward there is
nothing but an open and utter void.

Each Chackrawan has attached to it, somewhere in the subterranean
regions, eight chief hells, called by the Siamese _Narok_, meaning
worlds of utter misery. Each of these hells has attached to it sixteen
smaller ones, making one hundred and twenty-eight in all. Outside of
these there is another range of purgatories, forty to each chief hell,
making in all three hundred and seventy.

Each Chakrawan has attached to it six inferior heavenly worlds, called
_Tewalok_, situated above each other, and at immense distances apart.
The first is situated on the top of the first of the seven circular
mountains, and the second on the top of _Kow Pra Men_. The others have
no terrestrial foundation, but are suspended in open space.

These Chakrawans are far more innumerable than the particles of matter
which compose the earth. A mighty _Prom_ once desired to find the
limits of these systems. He was so powerful that by one step he could
cross a Chakrawan as swiftly as an arrow crosses the shadow of a
palmyra tree at midday. He travelled from one Chakrawan to another at
that rate for one thousand years, and then onward ten thousand more,
and then one hundred thousand more, until he was convinced that it was
impossible to find the limit, or to express their immensity in

The Budhist decalogue consists of ten commandments, viz.

I. From the meanest insect up to man, thou shalt kill no animal

II. Thou shalt not steal.

III. Thou shalt not violate the wife of another, nor his concubine.

IV. Thou shalt speak no word that is false.

V. Thou shalt not drink wine, nor anything that may intoxicate.

VI. Thou shalt avoid all anger, hatred, and bitter language.

VII. Thou shalt not indulge in idle and vain talk.

VIII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

IX. Thou shalt not harbor envy, nor pride, nor malice, nor revenge,
nor the desire of thy neighbor's death or misfortune.

X. Thou shalt not follow the doctrines of false gods.

All who are habitually engaged in killing animals, stealing,
committing adultery, drinking ardent spirits and getting drunk, will
sink to the lowest hell. There are, however, five crimes which are
especially damnable, viz., murder of father or mother, murder of the
highest order of priests, called Arahang, wounding Budha's foot, so as
to make it bleed, (supposed to refer to the renouncing of the Budhist
religion,) and persuading priests to follow false doctrines or
practices. Those committing such sins go down to the very bottom of
the lowest hell.

No new souls are ever made, the universe is ever stocked with
intelligent beings, and has been from eternity. These are continually
transmigrating from one state of being into another. All depends upon
merit and demerit. Every action and thought have their consequences,
either in the present or some future state of existence. Evil actions
produce evil consequences, which will eventually become manifest, and
cause a future birth, either in hell or in some inferior animal.
Hence, in speaking of the future, the Siamese always say _"tam boon
tam kam,"_ according to merit or demerit. An amount of demerit may be
cancelled by a corresponding amount of merit. We have had cooks in our
employ who have been obliged to kill animals such as chickens, &c.,
and who, after leaving us, have entered the priesthood to atone for
their demerit.

Over four hundred millions of the human race hold the Budhist religion
in some form or other. There is no people, however, who excel the
Siamese in devotedness and fidelity, and can show so many gorgeous
temples and monasteries. The government and the religion are so
inseparably connected together, that it is impossible to see how the
one can be overthrown without the other. It is a mutual union of
Church and State. No one can hold any civil office whatever under the
government, who has not spent at least three months in the priesthood.

Budhism was brought from Ceylon to Cambodia, and thence to Siam, and
probably arrived in Siam about the fifth century of the Christian era.
The Siamese know of no other religion having existed amongst them.

They make merit in Siam in different ways. One prolific source is the
building of temples or monasteries. These temples oftentimes cover
acres of ground, and besides the regular temple or shrine of the
idols, have houses or dormitories for the monks, and other
outbuildings. The temples are gaudy, but not magnificent, grand, or
massive. They are all accompanied with spires or pagodas, which
frequently reach a great height. The temple building proper is filled
with idols which are hideous in their appearance. Some are sitting,
some standing, and some are in a reclining posture. There is one
temple at the old city of Audia, said to have twenty thousand idols in
it, and the estimate cannot be far in excess of the real number. There
is one reclining idol in Bangkok, about one hundred and seventy-five
feet long, eighteen feet across the breast; and the feet of the idol
are six feet long. It is made of brick and mortar, heavily overlaid
with gold, and cost probably about $3,000. When the King wishes to
make merit, he builds a temple costing perhaps $100,000. When any of
the chief princes or nobles wish to make merit they do the same. The
temples built by the princes and nobles are all given to the King, and
then formally dedicated. These are called "Wat HLuang," or royal
temples, from the fact that the kings visit them once a year, and
distribute presents to the priests. The common people also join
together, and build temples, which are called "Wat Ratsadon," or the
people's temples. They are the same as the others, only not so grand,
and the kings do not visit them. There are in the city of Bangkok
alone about one hundred and twenty temples.

Another prolific source of merit is by entering the priesthood. It is
the highest ambition of every mother to have all her sons take holy
orders in the priesthood, at some time or other during life, but
generally in the prime of it, as they thus not only make merit for
themselves, but also for the parents. It consequently becomes an
ambition to have as many sons as possible. The advent of a son is
hailed with delight, whilst that of a daughter is rather an occasion
of lamentation. The first question asked on the advent of a little
stranger is, "pen pu chai rú pu ying?" is it a boy or a girl? When
our first child was born, and our Siamese friends came to see the
little white stranger, finding it to be a girl, the only
congratulations they offered were, "tempte Maú tempte," too bad,
Doctor, too bad. The shortest time any one can remain in the
priesthood is three months, and as much longer as they choose. I have
met men who had been in the priesthood over forty years. I have met
them also who had been in it a number of times. It is no uncommon
thing for a man to leave his wife and family for a short time, and
enter the priesthood.

The ceremony is very simple, consisting of asking the candidate a few
questions as to his motives, shaving his head, and bathing him
copiously with holy water, and clothing him with yellow robes. They
have also the order of _nains_, or novices, consisting of those too
young to take full orders. The clothing of the priests consists of a
yellow robe resembling somewhat the old Roman toga, with a scarf of
the same material, or something richer, thrown over the shoulders. But
as Budha was clothed in rags, they must imitate to some extent his
example, they therefore take the new yellow cloth, tear it in pieces,
and then sew it together again. This is done by the women, and is also
a source of merit.

The priests go out early in the morning for their daily food. At every
house is stationed some member of the family, with a basin of boiled
rice, and a large brass spoon in it. When a priest comes along he
uncovers his vessel, and receives a spoonful of rice, and then passes
on to the next house. Some also give fish, fruit, and other things to
eat with the rice. When sufficient rice is collected for the day, they
return to the temples and take the morning meal. The next meal is
eaten just before noon, and nothing more until the next morning. It is
considered very sinful for a priest to eat after noon. The people also
frequently meet together at the different temples, and make feasts for
the priests, and give presents to them.

There are in Bangkok alone over ten thousand priests, and all that
vast army can be seen starting out early every morning in search of
their daily food.

It must cost Siam annually nearly $25,000,000 to keep up the
priesthood alone, and supposing the population to be eight millions,
which is perhaps an over-estimate, it will make on an average of over
three dollars for every man, woman and child in the kingdom. Now, if
every man, woman and child in the evangelical Christian Church would
average three dollars per annum, there would not be so many starving
ministers, and the Boards of the Church would not be compelled so
frequently to go a begging. The world too, at that rate, would soon be
evangelized. If the heathen can do so much for a false religion, what
should Christians not be willing to do for the holy religion of Jesus,
to which they owe everything they have, and are, and hope to be?

Any violation of the laws of chastity whilst in the priesthood is most
severely punished. The culprit is publicly whipped with a ratan. He is
then paraded for three days around the city with a crier going before,
proclaiming his crime, and is then condemned to cut grass for the
king's elephants for life, and his posterity after him, to the most
remote generation. The other offending party is condemned to turn the
king's rice-mill for life, and her posterity after her to the most
remote generation. In consequence of the severe punishment, _slips_ of
that kind whilst in the priesthood, in proportion to the numbers, are
much less frequent than among the Christian ministry. Sodomy, however,
and other unmentionable crimes, are fearfully prevalent.

The priests are the only persons in the kingdom who are not obliged to
crouch before the king. The king himself crouches before the
high-priest. When any one meets a priest, he places the palms of his
hands together and raises them to his forehead in reverence.

The duty of the priests is to take care of the religion, recite
prayers at funerals, weddings, &c., and preach when called upon to do
so. The people frequently invite the priests to their houses to have
preaching. The sermons consist chiefly of exhortations to make merit,
and are generally in such lofty words and terms, taken from the Pali,
that the common people do not understand them.

The Siamese also make pilgrimages to _Prabat_ and other sacred places.
Prabat is a beautiful little volcanic mountain about eighty miles
north of Bangkok. The rocks appear to have been thrown up in a plastic
state, and in cooling down left innumerable little holes or crevices
in the solid rock. One of these, about six feet long, is imagined to
be the impress of Budha's foot. They have accordingly bricked it up,
and have overlaid the wall with gold leaf. They have also erected over
it a beautiful little temple, whose floor is covered with silver
cloth, and whose walls are heavily covered with gold. Vast multitudes
flock thither during the months of January and February of every year,
to make their offerings at that sacred shrine. The principal offering
is gold leaf, which they paste on the inside of the footprint. There
are at least $5000 expended there annually in gold leaf alone. The
little caves also, with which the mountain abounds, are filled with
idols, and every prominent point is capped with a _pagoda_. At the
foot of the mountain is rather a hideous idol, at which all pilgrims
dismount from their elephants, and make an offering before ascending
to the more holy place. The offering consists chiefly of a twig from a
tree, or a few flowers. The tradition is, that whoever refuses to make
this offering will die before leaving the place. They were very much
surprised that we refused at least to dismount. They told us that Sir
Robert Schomburgk, the English Consul, who had visited there the
previous year, had also refused to dismount, and that he himself had
not died, but a favorite dog he had with him on the elephant had died
before he left the mountain. Sir Robert however, had a different
theory in regard to his dog, and blamed some one for administering to
him a dose of poison. Many of the most intelligent princes and nobles
have no faith in Prabat, but still assist in keeping up the delusion.

There is also a short distance north of Prabat a very lofty rock
called Pra Chei, or sacred glory, where Budha is said to have once
taken shelter from a shower of rain, and departing, left his shadow.
Multitudes also flock thither to worship. We arrived there about ten
o'clock at night, and upon ascending a long flight of steps, found
numbers bowed before the rock and pasting gold leaf upon it. When we
told them that we could see no shadow, they attributed it to a want of

The Siamese are also very much tormented with the fear of spirits,
both good and evil, and use every means to propitiate them. Witchcraft
is also very much feared. Wizards and witches are believed to have
power to put into the stomach of any one a piece of buffalo meat, or
other substance. A very disgusting circumstance of this kind occurred
near our premises. The father of a certain family took sick and died.
The family believed some foul play had been exercised in his case, and
when they came to burn the body, a small portion, perhaps the heart,
did not consume as rapidly as the rest. This was taken at once to be
the buffalo meat, and was taken home and eaten by the family. The
whole family ate of it, except one little girl who was absent in the
family of a missionary. The belief is that if they eat of it, they can
never be affected the same way.

It is just to state that there are two schools of Budhism in Siam. The
late king, whilst a prince and in the priesthood, studied astronomy,
and became too intelligent to believe the teachings of the Budhist
books in reference to the system of the universe, and accordingly
undertook to reform Budhism, by discarding from the sacred books all
those things which conflicted with modern science, and especially in
reference to astronomy. Many of the most intelligent princes and
nobles went with him. A vast majority, however, swallow the whole of
the Budhist teachings.

The greatest champion of the New School was Chow Phya Thipakon, late
Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was in some respects the greatest
thinker in the kingdom. He was the only man in the kingdom who, as
yet, has ventured to write a book, and have it printed wholly by his
own workmen. It consists of several hundred pages, and was
lithographed throughout, which must have taken considerable pains and
labor. The title is "Kitchanukit," a book explaining many things. He
commences by rather ridiculing the elementary system of education
practised in the temples, and tries to stimulate the natives to better
things. He also takes up the different systems of religion throughout
the world, so far as his knowledge extends, and compares them with his
own. He confutes, in his own way, the elementary religious tracts
published by the missionaries, and the evidences of Christianity. He
maintains his belief in his own system, and gives a few arguments in
favor of the transmigration of souls. He also gives a number of
illustrations and anecdotes bearing on that subject, of which the
following is a specimen: "Another instance is that of the child of a
Peguan at Paklat, (a town near Bangkok,) who, as soon as he had
learned to speak, told his parents that he was formerly named Makran,
and had been killed by a fall from a cocoanut tree, and as he fell,
his axe fell from his hand and dropped into a ditch; and they seeing
that his story coincided with something that had happened within their
knowledge, tried the child by making him point out the tree, and he
pointed out the tree, and his story was confirmed by their digging up
the axe from the ditch."

Although the book evinces some thought and considerable knowledge, it
is infantile when he attempts to grapple with the great truths of
Christianity. H. Alabaster, Esq., for ten years Interpreter to H. B.
M. Consulate in Siam, has translated portions of the book, accompanied
with remarks of his own, and published it under the title of "The
Modern Budhist."

It may be asked, what is the effect of such a system of religion upon
the morals of the people in comparison with those of eminently
Christian countries? There are many kinds of crimes in which Christian
nations far surpass them, such as those daring and dark outrages
perpetrated in our large cities, the recital of which shocks our
sensibilities every time we take up a morning paper. But heathen
morals have ever been the same, and the description which Paul gives
of the heathen of old, in the first chapter of the Epistle to the
Romans, is a complete description of the heathen of to-day. There is a
rottenness about everything, morally speaking, which we do not find in
Christian countries. It would be impossible on an occasion of this
kind, and before a mixed audience, to give you any idea of the
prevailing state of morals. I am not one of those, who, like the
English governess in the _Atlantic Monthly_, would consider Budhism a
shadow of Christianity, and "thank God" for it. It is eminently the
offspring of Satan, as all its bearings and workings on the heart and
morals will abundantly show. I have seen none of those glorious
death-bed scenes which she describes, and think they are rare. A
Siamese man lived neighbor to us for ten years. He could sit in his
own door and hear the gospel preached in our mission chapel. He was an
excellent neighbor, and was to all appearance a moral man. He had
observed, as nearly as possible, all the tenets of his religion. He
had made merit in every possible way. All his sons had entered the
priesthood. He was about seventy years old, and his death-sickness
came. The future was all dark to him. He struggled with, disease and
death for a number of days. One of our native church members called to
see his old neighbor, and ventured to speak to him about the
approaching change. The old man was unwilling to give up, and
answered, "Mai yak tai," I do not want to die; "Klua tai," I am afraid
to die; and then summoning all his remaining strength exclaimed, "Ch?
mai tai," I will not die. Still he had to die, as millions of his race
have done, without one ray of light to illuminate the soul, and no
faith in Jesus opening up to him the glories of the eternal world.



The education of the Siamese is necessarily limited and the standard
low, when compared with that of European countries. The temples or
monasteries are the common schools of the country. Every priest can
take to the temple with him as many pupils as he can teach, so that at
almost every temple can be found a nice collection of boys, making a
very respectable school. These boys besides being taught the rudiments
of their own language, and the tenets of the Budhist religion, act
also as servants to the teacher, propelling his boat when he goes out
on the river, and doing other like menial turns for him. They live on
the surplus rice which is left, after the priests are satisfied. Every
pupil is taught to hold his teacher in special reverence, which lasts
through life. The males are all thus gathered in when boys, and taught
to read and write their own language, and the simple rules of
arithmetic, as the Siamese knowledge of that art does not extend
beyond the simple rules. It is consequently rare that a male can be
found who cannot read and write his own language, and on the other
hand it is just as rare that a female is found who can. No provision
has yet been made there for the education of females. Indeed the
feeling in high quarters has hitherto been against it, but not near so
strong as in India, and many other places, but that feeling is now
happily passing away. It used to be said that if woman could read she
would become too tricky for man. The females, amongst the common
people especially, are the drudges, and become wives and mothers so
early, that there is but little time for their education. Some of the
women of the higher classes have in some way learned to read, and the
missionary ladies have managed to teach some few others to read,
whilst employed in their families, but aside from these few exceptions
the great mass of the women are ignorant of letters. The late king
made one or two spasmodic efforts to have the women of the palace
taught English. Soon after he ascended the throne he employed some of
the missionary ladies to go to the palace regularly and teach, but
soon became alarmed lest they should teach too much religion, and
requested them to stop. A few years previous to his death also, he
employed an English governess in the palace, who, after about three
years rather arduous labor succeeded in giving the women and children
of the palace some knowledge of English, and perhaps a smattering of
some of the sciences. The higher order of education amongst the males
consists of a correct knowledge of their own language, and a
smattering at least of the Pali or sacred language. Some few who
remain sufficiently long in the priesthood make considerable
proficiency in the Pali. Their standard of education is also rather
depreciating than rising. Missionaries now find it difficult to secure
a young man sufficiently educated to make a good teacher. One reason
of this is that since the country has been opened to foreign commerce,
opportunities to make money are more common than previously, and young
men do not now remain sufficiently long in the priesthood to become
good scholars, but leave it to go into business.

The Siamese language proper is monosyllabic and rather
poverty-stricken. It has however, been enriched from time to time from
the Pali, and from the languages of the surrounding nations, and by a
few words from the Chinese. Titles of nobility and distinction are all
taken from the Pali. Many of the words used in addressing the King,
and others high in authority, have been transferred from the Pali, and
some few from the Sanscrit. The late King professed to be proficient
in the Sanscrit, and some of their learned men now make pretensions in
that way. It is doubtful, however, whether the late King, although the
most learned man in the kingdom, had anything more than a smattering
of Sanscrit, and I do not suppose there is any one now in the kingdom
who knows anything about it worth naming.

The Siamese alphabet consists of forty-four consonants, with several
vowel-points, diacritical marks and abbreviations. The alphabet is
divided into three classes, and there are also seven tones, so that
words beginning with a certain class of letters are spoken with a
raised tone, whilst others are spoken with rather a depressed tone.
Some of the consonants too, are spoken with an aspirate, whilst in
others the aspirate is withheld. This putting on the tone and the
aspirate in certain instances, and leaving them off in others, makes
it very difficult for one not born to it to acquire the language
correctly, _"Kai,"_ with an aspirate, means an egg, but by leaving off
the aspirate it is a chicken. Although spelled somewhat differently,
the sound to an unaccustomed ear is exactly the same. In these things
foreigners make some ridiculous mistakes. You have all probably heard
of the missionary lady somewhere, who, whilst in her garden, told a
servant to bring her a knife, as she thought, but was surprised to see
him coming out with a table on his head. I once heard a missionary,
otherwise good in the language, but who could never manage the
aspirates and unaspirates correctly, announcing to his audience that
there would be services at such an hour in the Siamese language, but
unfortunately he left off the aspirate, and announced that there would
be services in the _dead language_. Still the audience understood from
the connection what he meant.

The literature of the Siamese is very meagre. They have a history of
their country which commences in fable, but after a few pages are
passed, it becomes a correct and reliable history of the kingdom. It
is written in a condensed style, and couched in good language. They
have also tolerably reliable histories of the neighboring countries,
such as Cambodia, Pegu, and Birmah. They are exceedingly fond of
fiction, and have a fabulous history of China, which has been
translated into Siamese, and is very popular. The Regent and Foreign
Minister have both been recently engaged in translating additions to
that fabulous history. If they would take as much pains in translating
the histories of the different countries of Europe and of America,
their people would soon become well informed in regard to the great
transactions of the world. The remainder of their literature consists
in vile and disgusting plays, in which they take great delight, both
in reading and seeing them performed in their theatres. They are also
very fond of a kind of jingling verse, and will listen for hours to
the mere jingle, caring little or nothing for the sense, of which it
is generally devoid.



The principle clothing of the Siamese consists of a waist-cloth called
a _"pa nung,"_ corresponding to the _sarang_ of India. It is about
two-and-one-half yards long, and one yard wide; is placed around the
waist, neatly tucked in, the two ends brought together, twisted, and
brought back between the legs and tucked in behind. Formerly this was
the only clothing worn, except a scarf thrown around the shoulders in
cool weather. The King formerly used to receive foreigners whilst
dressed in that style. Since the influx of foreigners however, they
have adopted a neat jacket with sleeves, and cut to fit tight to the
skin, and buttoned up in front. Those of the higher classes are made
of silk, but those of the common people are nothing but common white
muslin. The _"pa nungs,"_ also, of the better classes are made of
silk, whilst those of the common people are generally cotton. The
attire of the females is pretty much like that of the males, except
when they wish to dress, they have a neat yellow silk scarf which they
fold gracefully over the shoulders. The Siamese display excellent
taste in the selection of colors and figures, and have no love for the
gaudy in the way of clothing, like the Malays and some other eastern
nations. Shoes are seldom worn. The better classes have sandals or
slippers, but very likely a slave will be carrying them after the
owner, and when worn, are always thrown off before entering a house.
Occasionally however, you can see some young fellow rendering himself
ridiculous in a pair of European shoes and a European coat.

The males shave the head, except a tuft on the top, which resembles a
shoe-brush. The females do not shave the head, but clip the hair as
closely as possible, leaving the tuft similar to the males, and a
small love-lock in front of each ear.

They have a universal and disgusting practice of chewing the areca
nut. The nut of the areca palm is possessed of astringent properties
similar to the bark used in tanning. In connection with this nut they
use the leaf of the seri vine, which has a kind of pepperish taste.
They take white stone lime while yet unslaked, and mix with it the
powdered turmeric root, which turns it a crimson color. They take the
seri leaf and put on it a quantity of that red lime in the form of
paste, and then a portion of the areca nut, the leaf with the lime on
it, and some fine cut tobacco, are all put into the mouth together.
The saliva arising from such a mixture is a kind of blood-red color,
and is very copious. Their houses and walks have frequently a very
disgusting appearance, from large deposits of that red saliva having
been spit out of the mouth upon them. This process turns the teeth
black, and indeed destroys them, as the lime adheres to the teeth and
destroys the enamel, and finally they drop out by wholesale. Those who
have no teeth to chew the mixture, carry with them a small mortar, and
pound it all up together before putting it into the mouth. Both sexes
are addicted to this practice, and an exception can rarely be found.

Black teeth are an element of beauty, and besides the chewing of the
areca nut, they resort to other means of coloring. When cautioned
against thus destroying the teeth, they invariably reply that "any
monkey can have white teeth." They never go anywhere without the box
containing the ingredients for chewing. The poorer classes carry their
own, but the rich have theirs carried after them by a slave. A man's
rank is indicated somewhat by the number of slaves that follow him,
and the golden box containing the areca nut, &c., and a teapot, are
the insignia. When one person calls on another, almost the first thing
done is to set out the tray containing the chewing material, and not
to do so is considered almost an insult. The males are also all
inveterate smokers from infancy.

In going anywhere together, they never walk side by side as we would
do, but one after the other, according to rank or age. The husband
also always goes before, and his wife or wives walk behind. It is also
contrary to Siamese custom to have any one pass over their head, and
consequently they will not occupy the lower story of a house when
persons are above them on the next story. When the King goes out on
the canals in his boat, all the bridges have to be drawn, lest his
sacred head should pass under where some person had walked. No greater
insult can be offered than to take a man by the tuft of hair on his
head. It is the same as spitting in a man's face with us.

Like all heathen, and I am sorry to say too many Christians, they are
very fond of jewelry, especially the women. Their fingers are
frequently nearly covered over with rings; gold chains are also thrown
around the neck and shoulders, and a neat gold pin through the lobe of
the ear. Children wear anklets and bracelets. Those of the rich are of
gold, and quite heavy; some are of silver, and those of the poorer
classes are brass. I have seen some of the children of princes and
nobles with several hundred dollars worth of jewelry on in the form of
anklets, bracelets and gold chains, and aside from the jewelry the
body was perfectly nude.

The people are very much attached to the customs of their ancestors,
and what their fathers have done they must do, how absurd soever it
may be. _"Pen tumneum Thai,"_ it is Siamese custom, is sufficient
reason for doing anything.

The principle food of the Siamese is rice and fish. Fish are very
abundant and cheap, and become a wholesome diet for that climate. It
is contrary to their religion to take animal life, and they never kill
any animals for their own consumption, but they do not scruple to eat
anything killed by another, if they can only roll off the
responsibility of killing it. They buy pork and fowls which have been
killed and dressed by the Chinese. They also eat animals which have
died. When warned that perhaps the animal died of some bad disease
which may prove injurious to them, they will answer that it can't
stand the fire; if there is anything of the kind, it will depart when
the meat comes in contact with the fire. They also live largely on
vegetables and hot peppers. The rice is boiled, and dished out into a
large basin or platter, and placed on the floor. The meats and
vegetables which have all been cut up fine before cooking, are also
dished out into small bowls and placed near the rice. Those about to
eat seat themselves around, tailor fashion, in a circle, each with a
bowl in his hand. He takes some rice from the large dish into his own
bowl, and then uses his fingers dexterously. When he wishes any of the
accompaniments he dips his fingers into the common dish. When there is
anything like soup or gravy, they have a common spoon, and each one
takes a spoonful into his mouth, and then passes the spoon to his
neighbor, and it thus goes around. They eat with apparent ease and
enjoyment, rolling up a ball of rice in the fingers, then throwing the
head a little back, and the mouth wide open, it disappears without
difficulty. They have never attempted to improve upon the fingers. The
Chinese invented the chop-sticks, and are apparently well pleased with
the result, for they never attempt to improve upon them; but any one
who has ever seen a Chinaman slabbering and blowing over his bowl of
rice, with a pair of chop-sticks, could not but wish to see him back
again at the more primitive fingers. The Siamese think we eat with
difficulty, and rather pity us for having so much ceremony. A
missionary and his wife were out on a mission tour, and came to a
village not frequented by Europeans. They stopped at the village and
partook of a meal. They of course had a table, and table implements
with them on their boat. The natives flocked around to see the
foreigners eat, and one old woman, after watching eagerly for a time,
turned away with a sigh, remarking, _"Kow kin yak tedio,"_ they eat
with great difficulty.

Some of the princes and nobles have secured table furniture, and can
imitate European style very nicely, and some of their dinners given to
European officials are quite creditable; but when alone, they go back
again to their own mode.

They have their own ideas of politeness in their social intercourse,
and are very strict in carrying them out; but in their intercourse
with foreigners they frequently try to imitate our customs, and as a
general thing spoil both. When a man meets a superior, he either
prostrates himself on the ground, or squats down, places the palms of
his hands together, and raises them up to the face. When equals meet
they do not say "Good morning," as we would do, but "Pai nai,"--where
are you going. The other will give an evasive answer, saying, "O, I am
not going anywhere, only up here a little ways."

Their household furniture is generally meagre, consisting only of a
few cooking utensils, and mats and moscheto bars for sleeping. There
was a while that some of the higher classes manifested a desire for
European furniture, and bought it up very readily, but perhaps on
account of a nod from high quarters, there appears to be a reaction in
that quarter.

The people are generally indolent, and lazy, and very much addicted to
gambling, which is, perhaps, the ruling vice of the country. At every
gambling house groups of men and women may be seen sitting from
morning till night, and from night till morning, intently gambling.
They will gamble away everything they have, and incur large debts; and
then sell their wives, children, and even themselves into slavery, to
pay their "debts of honor." They have different kinds of games, but
that on which they stake most is a Chinese game called _po_, and is a
kind of dice.

They are exceedingly fond of theatricals, and every prince and
nobleman, who can afford it, has a theatre of his own. No festival of
any kind can be held without theatricals. Their plays are generally
some fictitious love tale, or history, and some of the actions of the
actresses are most lascivious and vulgar, but perhaps not more so than
the exhibitions of the stage in Europe and America to-day.

They are also very fond of bathing, which is perhaps very conducive to
health in that climate. They bathe regularly at least three times a
day. They always carry a cloth with them for bathing purposes. Both
sexes meet together at the common bathing place, and they slip off the
regular cloth and don the bathing cloth so dexterously that nothing
amiss can be noticed in the transaction, and then plunge into the
river, both sexes being expert swimmers. Notwithstanding their
frequent ablutions, however, cleanliness is by no means a national
virtue, and some of their habits are extremely filthy.

There are some things in which "Young America" might well pattern
after the Siamese. One is extreme reverence and respect for age. The
aged receive that reverence justly due to them in Siam, perhaps more
than in any other country. Another is love and reverence for parents.
The parent may sell a child into slavery, which is frequently done,
still when the child grows up, he never loses respect for that parent.
When a child too, commits a crime, and tries to evade the law, the
authorities at once lay hold upon the parents, which is sure to bring
the culprit back to give himself up.

Although the Chinese have more natural stability of character than the
Siamese, and are in many other respects superior to them, still the
latter are in many respects the more hopeful people. A Chinaman knows
everything, in his own estimation already, and is unwilling to learn
from any one; whilst the Siamese will pick up all the information they
can from others. Whatever they can get of European arts and sciences,
without acknowledging the authority, and especially without costing
them anything, they have no scruples about receiving.



It has long been the custom amongst the Siamese to ascribe honor and
glory to their princes and lords, in proportion to the number of wives
they have, and can maintain.

The king has generally one whom he constitutes his Queen Consort. A
young princess of the highest rank that can be found in the kingdom is
selected. She however is not certain of promotion until after she has
lived with the king for a time, and has succeeded in gaining a large
place in the royal affections. When this is sufficiently accomplished,
the king appoints a day for her exaltation. Three days are usually
devoted to the purpose. The chief officers of the palace, the chief
scribes, and the chief princes and nobles of the kingdom are present.
The principal ceremonies devolve upon the priests, of whom there are
quite a number present, both Budhist and Brahmin. The princess is
copiously bathed in pure water, in which the leaves of a certain kind
of tree, supposed to possess purifying and healthful influences, are
put. Most of the time is spent in feasting, but on the third day she
is placed on a small throne under a white canopy, where she is bathed
with holy water, the priests reciting prayers the while. She is then
conducted to a place where the wet clothes are laid aside, and she is
arrayed in queenly costume, jewels, and diamonds, and then displays
herself to those in attendance. Instances have occurred when the king
had two Queen Consorts. In such cases one is called the queen of the
right hand, and the other the queen of the left hand.

It has only happened about twice in Siamese history, that the king has
taken a foreign princess for his Queen Consort. This can happen in one
of two ways. The foreign prince wishing to secure the friendship and
alliance of the king of Siam, makes the first advance, offering his
daughter to the king of Siam. If, after having received testimonials
of her beauty and worth, the king is favorably disposed, he sends an
embassy to formally ask her of the father. The other way is, that the
king of Siam is the first mover in the matter, and makes the first

In addition to his Queen Consort the king can have as many inferior
wives, or concubines, as he wishes. These are called _"Nang-ham,"_
literally, a woman forbidden--that is forbidden to go out of the
palace. Although women as a general thing in Siam are not in any way
secluded, still these inferior wives are rigidly confined within the
palace walls. During the late reign however, much more laxity in this
respect was displayed, than in any former reign. They cannot go
outside of the palace walls without a royal permit, and that only on
special and extraordinary occasions. The king seldom seeks an inferior
wife, but they are presented to him by princes and nobles wishing to
gain the royal favor, and thus they consign their daughters to a life
oftentimes worse than exile for that purpose. It is said that the late
king never left home but he returned with some new accessions to his
harem, and that they became so numerous that he oftentimes had to
refuse them.

The better classes amongst them procure wives something after the
following manner. There is nothing like courting amongst the young
folks, as we understand that term, unless it is done by stealth, which
is almost impossible, from the fact that the mothers exercise the
strictest vigilance over their unmarried daughters. In this respect
American mothers might often profit by the example of these heathen.
Girls become wives there at the early age of fourteen, and an old maid
is quite a curiosity.

Although young men in search of wives are not allowed the privilege of
courting, still they keep their eyes open, and when one sees a young
lady he fancies, he takes the proper steps to secure her. He makes the
matter known to his parents, if he has any; they employ an elderly
lady who is denominated a _"Maa su"_, and who is acquainted with and
respected by the young lady's parents. This _"Maa su"_ goes to the
house of the young lady's parents, and by a series of nice
insinuations, or otherwise, finds out how such a match would take, and
returns to report progress. If indications are favorable, the parents
of the young man then select a number of elderly persons of both
sexes, who are respectable, and intimate with both families. These
they invite to their house, and hold a consultation, and after the
matter is thoroughly discussed and the match decided to be a favorable
one, a propitious day is chosen, and the elderly persons repair to the
house of the young lady's parents. These of course divining their
object, receive them kindly, and according to custom, set out the tray
containing areca nut, seri leaf, red lime, and tobacco for chewing.
This ceremony over, the elders broach the subject of their mission,
taking good care to address the parents according to their rank, as
one improperly used pronoun might spoil the whole. If it is proper to
say _you_, they say it, and if it is proper to say your _honors_, or
your _graces_, they say that.

"Such parents having ascertained that this is a propitious day, have
commissioned us to come and confer with you concerning their son of
such a name, who has as yet no wife. His parents having put the
question to him, 'Have you any one in your mind, you would like to
have become your wife, and to whom you could trust your life in
sickness, and your obsequies after death?' The young man answered,
that he had your daughter of such a name, and her only. The parents
have therefore commissioned us to visit you the much respected parents
of the young lady, and confer with you in reference to this matter.
What do you the parents say?"

The parents reply: "Our daughter is one we love much, and the young
man is one whom his parents love much. We have an ancient proverb
which says, 'Move slowly and you will gain your object, and a
prolonged effort generally results favorably.' We will consult our
relatives on the right hand, and on the left, and see what they say
about it. Please call again."

After waiting a reasonable time and another propitious day has come,
the elders call again. The parents of the young lady will say: "We
have consulted our relatives, and they are unanimously of the opinion
that if the young man really loves our daughter, and can confide in
her as a proper person to take care of him in sickness, and take
charge of his body after death, his affections and confidence should
be planted." "But how is it in regard to the ages, and birthdays of
the parties? Are they such as to be suitable to each other?" The
Siamese have a superstition that persons born in certain years, are
incompatible with each other. For instance, if one was born in the
year of the _dog_, and the other in the year of the _rat_, or one in
the year of the _cow_, and the other in the year of the _tiger_, they
would be incompatible with each other. The matter is accordingly
referred to some fortune-teller, who, for a small fee, generally
pronounces no serious difficulty in the way.

This difficulty cleared up, the elders call for a further discussion
of the preliminaries. They say:--"Since birth-days do not interfere,
what shall be said about the mutual stock for the young couple to
commence business on, and the money for building a house for the young
couple?" According to Siamese custom the bridegroom almost invariably
goes to live with the parents of the bride, and accordingly puts up a
house on their premises, and as near the old mansion as possible. Thus
a man who has a number of daughters, finds himself surrounded by a
village, by the time they are all married off. The parents of the
young lady will answer, "We are by no means affluent, that we could
devote much money to that purpose. But allow us to ask, how will it be
with the parents of the young man--how much will they be willing to
give their son?" The others will reply, "It depends altogether on the
parents of the young lady." The other party will reply, "If such be
the case, we would suggest that they appropriate, say one hundred
_ticals_ ($60), for the purpose of building a house; and for mutual
trade _five hundred ticals_, and that they also contribute areca nut,
seri leaf, red lime, cakes, &c., for wedding purposes, say one hundred
salvers or dishes." The plan of the new house, and the number of rooms
are generally also specified. The elders then return and report to the
parents of the young man, and if they are satisfied, a bargain is

All preliminaries having been made, the young man goes to work to
build his house, which generally requires but a short time, and the
parents of the young lady do not delay to consult astrologers in
reference to a propitious day for the wedding. The day having been
fixed, and all things arranged, the friends of both parties are
invited to assist in carrying out the arrangements. The parents of
both parties unite in selecting some elderly persons, who shall be the
bearers of the money, together with two suits of white raiment, an
offering to the bride's parents, and the wedding cakes, &c. This is
done in procession, either in boats on the river, or by land, with
bands of music playing wedding airs. The money and presents are given
over to the bride's parents, and they in turn bring out their portion
of the money, and perhaps a slave or two, to assist the young bride in
performing her household duties. The guests being all assembled, the
money and presents are all exhibited. The elders then count the money
of both parties, as legal witnesses. Both sums are thrown together,
and sprinkled over with a little rice, scented oil, flowers, &c.,
symbolical of blessings craved on the young couple. The joint stock is
then delivered over to the parents of the bride for safe keeping.

Some time is then spent in feasting and mutual conversation, and
priests are chanting prayers the while. The bridegroom then, in
company with some of his young friends, goes to his new house.

The bride at the same time dispatches a lad neatly dressed, bearing a
tray of areca nut, who meets them there, and invites them to be seated
and enjoy themselves. She also decks herself in gay apparel, and in
company with some of her attendants repairs to the same building, but
the two parties are still separated by a screen. Religious services
are then held, after which the screen is withdrawn and the elders
proceed to bathe the young couple copiously with holy water. The chief
elder pours it first upon the head of the bridegroom, and then upon
the head of the bride, pronouncing a blessing upon each. The
attendants of the bride then assist her in changing her wet apparel
for dry, but still, if anything, more gay than the former. A finely
dressed lad then appears with a silver plated tray, containing a
handsome suit for the bridegroom, being a present from the bride's
parents, in which he speedily attires himself. Whilst these things are
going on the priests are rehearsing prayers for the benefit of the
young couple. All are then invited to a feast prepared by the bride's
parents, and when this is over the guests all return to their homes.
The bride stays with her parents, but the bridegroom goes to his new
house, where he has secured a band of music, and serenades the bride
until a late hour. Early next morning the guests all assemble, and
have a feast for the priests in which all vie with each other in their
attentions to the clergy. They then have another feast for themselves.
If this is a propitious day the ceremonies are closed in the evening.
A respectable couple, friends of the bride, who are man and wife, and
who themselves have been blessed with a large family of children, are
selected, and they then repair to the new house and prepare the bridal
bed. About 9 o'clock in the evening the elders conduct the bride to
her new home, and after some counsels and exhortations, the young
couple are left alone perhaps for the first time. Oftentimes however,
if the second day is unpropitious, the ceremonies are continued until
the third or fourth day.

After a few days have elapsed the bridegroom conducts his bride to
visit his parents. She takes with her a few presents of cakes and
fruit, and upon entering the house prostrates herself three times to
the floor, and is then taken into the embrace and confidence of the
family. The bridegroom also pays a formal visit to the bride's
parents, and prostrates himself before them.

After the birth of the first child the joint stock of money is
produced, and the young couple enter into business for themselves, as
they are supposed to have lived off the bride's parents up to this
time. There are three things which are considered absolutely essential
in these wedding ceremonies. These are three metallic platters, one
containing a kind of sweet cakes called _"Kanome cheen",_ or Chinese
cakes; another contains a kind of mince-meat, highly seasoned, and
much prized; and the third contains areca nut, seri leaf, red lime,
and tobacco for chewing purposes. These articles constitute what is
called the _"Kan mak,"_ literally the areca-nut tray, but which has
become one of their names for a wedding.

Marriage amongst them appears to be little more than a civil contract,
in which the bride has but little choice, but yields implicit
obedience to the will of the parents.

If a young man attempts to pay his addresses to a young lady without
going through the proper channel, he is supposed to be doing so from
improper motives, and stands a chance to get himself chastised by some
male member of the family. We had once in our school a young man, who
was rather fancy, and who attempted to address a young lady in the
neighborhood, without taking the proper steps. One evening two of the
young lady's brothers met him, and administered to him a sound

A man in Siam possesses the prerogative of administering to his wife a
little wholesome chastisement, if she fails to fulfil her duties. I
have seen a few instances in which I really thought it was deserved,
and did good, but as a Christian missionary, and a representative of
the free United States, where women are clamoring for the same rights
as men, I had to discourage such things under all circumstances.

Polygamy is not common amongst the middle and lower classes, simply on
account of their inability to maintain more than one wife, but divorce
is very easy, being only a dissolving of the civil contract by the
mutual consent of the parties, and then each party is at liberty to
marry again. There are however, many happy marriages in Siam, and I
have seen old people of seventy, who had spent a long life together
and raised large families.

Notwithstanding the vigilance of the mothers, there is occasionally a
runaway match. In such cases however, they as soon as possible take
all proper steps to propitiate the parents. They select respectable
persons, and send them with presents to the parents, and, as a general
thing, like runaway matches everywhere; after a short time every thing
is smoothed over satisfactorily. I had in my employ a young man who
was an orphan. He became enamored with a young lady in the
neighborhood, and through his friends secured the consent of her
parents, but as he was poor, the wedding was to be postponed a year.
In the mean time, a well-to-do Chinaman, who had considerable money at
his command, came along and proposed. The parents consented,
notwithstanding the former contract, and went on to make arrangements
for the wedding, without telling the daughter anything about it. A few
days before the wedding was to come off, she got wind of what was
going on, and that night ran away and came down to our place, to hunt
up her other lover. In the morning he came to me in great trepidation,
but unwilling to give up his prize. I rather felt for the young folks,
and selected some of the most honorable persons in the neighborhood,
and sent them up to the parents, but they were inexorable. I then sent
for them to come down to our place, which they did through respect for
me, but would still do nothing, and threatened to go to law; but I
told them I would defend the young man in his just rights to the last.
After a few days however, all was quieted down, and the matter
smoothed over amicably. A faithful creature she also proved to be. She
worked and kept up the house, and all the expenses, whilst he worked
to pay me a tolerably large debt, for money which I advanced him on
the occasion.

The nobility have all a plurality of wives, in proportion to their
means and rank. The first one taken, is head or mistress over the
others, and the whole get along as harmoniously together as such an
arrangement could be expected to do, and much more so than the same
arrangement would do with us. A nobleman is rather to be envied than
otherwise on his return home, as he receives so many delicate
attentions from his numerous wives, who all vie with each other in
meriting a liberal share of the divided affections of their lord.
Woman knows her place in Siam, and there are no such unfrocked
specimens of the sex there, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott,
and others. Polygamy is however, one of the curses of the land, and
one of the great barriers to the introduction of the gospel. It is one
of those mountains which the power of the gospel must eventually bring
low. The day is coming when it must be abolished even in Siam.



The Siamese dispose of their dead by cremation. When a prince of rank
is found to be near death, the relatives suspend every other care, and
assist in giving the departing spirit as good a passport as possible
into the spirit land. Every effort is made to fix the thoughts of the
dying man on Budha. They take their turns in calling out as loudly,
and distinctly as possible, _"Pra Arahang,"_ one of the names of
Budha. It is uttered as much as eight times in a minute, so that it is
impossible to hear anything else. This seems to be the "Extreme
Unction" of the Budhist. When all evidence of the dying man's hearing
is past, the attendant friends will raise their voices to a stunning
pitch, hoping that the departing spirit may still hear _Pra Arahang_.
After it is thought Pra Arahang can be no longer heard, the most
uncontrollable wailing is commenced, which can be heard to a great
distance. The friends of the deceased, household slaves, and all,
engage in this outburst of grief.

When a prince of high rank has died, the King visits the house of
mourning and bathes the corpse with water, with his own hands. After
him other princes present come forward, and pour a dipper of water
upon the corpse. Next comes the nobles who are present, according to
their rank, and do the same. When all the princes and nobles present
have performed this office, certain officials present proceed to dress
the corpse. They put on it a pair of tight-fitting pantaloons, and a
tight jacket. Over these they apply a winding-sheet, wrapping it as
tightly as possible. Quicksilver is also poured down the throat. The
corpse is then placed in a copper urn, in a sitting posture. This
copper urn is then placed inside of a golden urn. The inner urn has a
grating at the bottom, and the outer one has a stop-cock, by which the
juices flowing from the body are daily drawn off, until it becomes
perfectly dry. The King usually remains until the corpse has been
placed in the urn, and that placed on an elevated platform, ascending
by three gradations to the height of about five feet. Whilst the
corpse is being thus elevated, conch-shell blowers and trumpeters are
performing lustily upon their instruments, with all the harmony
possible. This trumpeting is called the inviting of the corpse to be
seated on the platform.

When thus seated, all the insignia of royalty to which the prince has
been accustomed during life are brought and arranged in order at the
foot of the urn. These consist of his golden areca nut box, his golden
cigar case, his golden spittoon, his writing apparatus--in short, all
the utensils which he was accustomed to use in daily life. The band of
trumpeters come at early dawn, at noon, and at dusk, every day, to
perform the funeral dirge. They come in concert with some wailing
women, who chant the virtues and excellences of the deceased. These
women spend an hour each day in that service, and in the intervals a
company of priests, seated upon a platform near by the urn, chant
incantations, and recite moral lessons in the Pali language. These
services are kept up daily until the time appointed for burning has
arrived, which is six, and sometimes even eight months after death.
The remains of a king generally lie in state about twelve months,
before burning.

Upon the death of a king his successor commences at once to make
arrangements for erecting the temporary building for his cremation,
which is called a _Pra mane_. The building is generally in size and
grandeur proportionate to the estimation in which the deceased has
been held. Royal orders are sent to all the provinces, and even to the
tributary States, where large timber grows, requiring them to furnish
posts for the _Pra mane_, and especially four enormous sticks, which
are to form the central pillars of the building. These central pillars
must be of the finest timber that can be found, very straight, and
from two hundred to two hundred and fifty feet long. Besides the large
ones, twelve other pillars of smaller size are needed. Timbers which
have been used on a former occasion cannot be used again, but all must
be new. The large pillars are cut in the forest, dragged to the river
by elephants, and floated down at high water to the capital. When they
arrive at the city, a general levy is made all over the country for
workmen, and those huge logs are dragged up to the place mainly by
force, as it would be contrary to custom to employ any labor-saving
machine in getting them up. They are first dressed off, and then
planted with great difficulty in the ground about thirty feet deep.
The four large pillars are planted in a square, about one hundred and
sixty feet in circumference. When planted, the tops incline a little
toward each other, forming a kind of truncated pyramid, having four
sides, and is about two hundred feet high. On the top of these pillars
is erected a pagoda-shaped spire, adding about fifty feet more to the
height. The spire is covered with gilded and tinselled paper, so as to
give it a neat and grand appearance, especially from a distance. At
each side of this central pyramid is erected a wing, by means of other
smaller posts, and extending about forty feet, and facing the four
cardinal points of the compass; and each wing is also capped with a
pagoda spire. The whole is covered with a basket-work made of bamboo
splits, which is covered again with gilt and tinselled paper. The
building is surrounded by a bamboo fence, enclosing, perhaps, two
acres of ground, and entered by two large gates. Inside of the fence
are numerous temporary buildings, made of bamboo, for the
accommodation of priests, theatrical performances, and other
exhibitions. On the west side of the Pra mane is the building for the
accommodation of the King and his family. The roof of this building is
made of crimson cloth, with gilt edges, and the sides are covered with
curtains, which in front are tucked in neatly to the posts. At each
end, at the comb of the roof, is a peculiar shaped horn extending out,
which is peculiar to royal buildings and temples.

The whole area of the enclosure is covered with a floor made of split
bamboos neatly woven together. Immediately at the base of the Pra mane
are small artificial mountains, and artificial lakes, and ponds, upon
which small boats and miniature floating houses are moored. Also
flowers, shrubbery, and every other thing imaginable, which is
considered at all ornamental. On the outside of the enclosure are
houses built for the accommodation of princes, nobles, and all
foreigners who may wish to attend, and who are all entertained at the
royal expense. Rope dancing, juggling, and every other imaginable feat
are also carried on outside. At night, too, those brilliant fireworks,
in which the Siamese so much excel, are touched off by the King
himself, and are kept up to a late hour every night.

Directly under the tall spire in the centre of the building is erected
what may be termed the _Pra mane_ proper. A floor is laid over the
whole building about twenty feet from the ground, and upon that floor,
directly under the tall spire, is erected an octagonal pyramid, about
sixty feet in circumference. It diminishes by right angled gradations,
to the height of about thirty feet, and terminates in a truncated top,
and upon this top is placed the urn containing the royal remains. On
an appointed day the royal remains are brought out and placed upon the
_Pra mane_. This is done in a procession. The governors of the
different provinces, and the kings of the different tributary states
have all been ordered to be present at the cremation. Early in the
morning of the day of the procession, the chief princes, nobles, and
rulers, assemble at the palace. The golden urn, richly decked with
diamonds, containing the remains, is placed on an elevated seat, upon
a huge and unwieldy car, drawn by two horses, assisted by hundreds of
men. The funeral car is preceded in the procession by two others. The
first is occupied by the high-priest of the kingdom alone, reading as
he goes moral lessons from the sacred books, in the Pali language. The
second car is occupied by a few of the favorite children of the
deceased. A strip of silver cloth, about six inches wide, extends from
the thighs of the high-priest to the seat occupied by the children in
the next car, and thence to the funeral car, and is attached to the
urn. This forms the mystical union between the deceased, the sacred
book, and his children. The car next behind the funeral car contains a
few sticks of sandal wood, with ends gilded, for the purpose of
burning the corpse. These cars are all drawn by horses, assisted by
scores of men. There are also in the procession numbers of other cars,
containing figures of lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, and
numbers of indescribable fabulous animals, and upon the backs of all
these animals are placed piles of yellow cloths, to be presented to
the priests. There are also numbers of boats placed on small wheels
and drawn along, which are also to be presented to the priests. In
front and rear of the cars are hundreds of men, dressed in white, and
having white turbans, terminating in a pagoda point, and who represent
the _Tewedas_, or Budhist angels. When the procession arrives at the
place, the urn is drawn up an inclined plane, and placed upon the top
of the truncated platform already described. The piece of narrow
silver cloth, already mentioned, is attached to the top of the urn,
and extends to the floor, and then out the east and west wings of the
building to the steps. High above the urn is suspended a neat golden
canopy, of that indescribable form for which the Siamese are so
celebrated. Around and under the canopy are hung beautiful white
scented flowers, arranged in the form of a chandelier; splendid
chandeliers are also suspended all around for the purpose of
brilliantly lighting up the _Pra mane_. Nearly all the priests in the
kingdom are called into requisition on these occasions, who chant
prayers and recite moral lessons.

All the chief princes and nobles, the family and family servants of
the deceased, are all dressed in white, and have their heads shaven,
the badge of mourning. When the time has come for igniting the fire
the outer golden urn is removed, leaving only the inner copper urn.
The grating at the bottom of the copper urn is covered over with
spices and fragrant powders. All valuable or precious articles are
removed from the platform. The platform is also lowered some feet, to
make it more convenient. The sandal wood is arranged under the grate
of the urn, and precious spices and fragrant articles are placed
amongst the wood. A gunpowder train is arranged, extending to the
place where the king is. All being ready, the king takes electrical
fire, which has been preserved in the palace for a long time for such
purposes, and ignites the fuse, and soon the wood is in a blaze. The
family of the deceased, and the chief princes and nobles are all
standing near, with lighted wax candles in their hands, and each in
turn steps up and places the candle amongst the wood. Tubs of water
are standing near, and men with dippers ready to prevent the flames
from rising too high, and consuming the whole building. Many persons
from reading descriptions of these cremations, have got the idea that
the whole building is burned, but nothing is burned but the sandal
wood and the corpse which is in the urn. When the wood is fired the
band strikes a funeral dirge, and the women commence wailing, which
generally lasts only a few minutes. When the ceremonies are all over
the _Pra mane_ is taken down, never to be used again.

The corpse is generally burned on the third day of the ceremonies, and
they are kept up in the same manner for three days after the burning
proper, making about six days in all. After the burning, the charred
bones still remaining are collected, put into a small golden urn, and
kept by the family. The present king has the remains of his ancestors
for many generations back, preserved in this manner. The ashes are
also collected, when a procession of boats is formed, and they are
scattered upon the river.

During these ceremonies much is given away in presents, for the
purpose of making merit. Small gold and silver coins, and gold rings,
are put into _limes_, and other small fruit, and these are scattered
amongst the crowd, and they scramble for them. The king amuses himself
at this kind of sport very frequently during the ceremonies. Other
small fruits contain lottery tickets, which always draw a small
article of some kind. These are also given away. Outside the enclosure
are artificial trees, full of _limes_, in every one of which is a
small coin. A person frequently during the ceremonies ascends a
platform, pulls off the _limes_ and scatters them amongst the crowd,
and then such a scramble as there will be. Persons frequently get hurt
in the scramble, and it is frequently muddy, and I have seen the
scramblers all covered over with mud. The royal funerals are very
expensive. The funeral of the late king must have cost at least

The common people, on account of the expense, do not keep their dead
long, but burn them as soon as possible, but in substantially the same
manner. They do not erect a _Pra mane_, but most of the temple grounds
have a permanent _Pra mane_. I have also frequently seen them burning,
out in the open space, without any covering. The corpse is placed in a
board coffin, covered over with figured paper, and is then taken to
the temple and burned. There is a very disgusting practice more or
less common amongst them. Sometimes the person dying orders it to be
done in order to make merit, and sometimes the friends do it of their
own accord. When the corpse is taken to the place of burning, they
take knives, cut the flesh from the bones, and feed it to the
vultures. These filthy birds will be perched near by, and will come
down into the crowd to receive the coveted morsel, which they either
carry off, or swallow upon the spot. After the flesh is thus taken
off, the bones are burned.

Persons dying of cholera, small-pox, in childbirth, or any sudden
disease, and by suicide, are not burned immediately, but are buried
for a few months, and are then taken up and burned. Criminals
executed, and paupers, are given to the vultures wholesale. Medical
students would have no difficulty in getting subjects there.



When we consider that amidst all the light which the latter half of
the nineteenth century sheds upon the subject, the theory and practice
of medicine amongst western nations are still enveloped in darkness,
and are constantly changing, it is not to be wondered at that a nation
like the Siamese is almost wholly in the dark upon such a subject. The
Rev. D. B. Bradly, M.D., the oldest missionary in Siam, and who for
many years practised medicine in Bangkok, has prepared an abstract of
the Siamese "Theory and Practice of Medicine," which was published in
the _Bangkok Calendar_ of 1865, and from which the abstract which I
shall give at present is mainly taken.

The Siamese believe the human system to be composed of four
elements--water, air, fire, and earth, and that disease is simply a
derangement in the proportions of these elements. They believe also
that all nature is constituted in the same way, and that the elements
without, are continually operating upon the elements within the body,
producing health or disease. For instance, if fire from without enters
the body in undue proportions, it will derange the healthy equilibrium
of the same element within, and will produce one or more of the
diseases into which fire enters, such as fevers, measles, small-pox,
&c. Each element is supposed to have its season of influence to
produce disease, just as the fruits of the earth have their seasons.
Their medical books, and common parlance, both say that in such and
such months, wind produces most disease, and in such and such other
months, fire produces most, and so with all the other elements. The
internal elements are also supposed at certain times to become
deranged from causes wholly internal. For instance, one of their
theories in regard to apoplexy is, that the internal wind blows from
all parts of the body upon the heart, with such force that it is often
ruptured, and death immediately ensues. The other theory is, that the
wind has fled, and left a vacuum in the upper story, and it must be
forced back again, if a cure is to be effected.

All diseases are produced either from an excess or diminution of one
or more of the four elements; and, according to their theory, wind
produces more disease than any, or all of the other elements combined.
If you ask any Siamese what is the matter with him, in nine cases out
of ten, he will answer, _"Pen lom"_--it is wind, or disease produced
by wind.

Their theory also teaches that all vital motions of the body are
primarily produced by wind taken into the system by inhalation, as
wind enters a bellows, and proceeds to the heart, and the heart by its
expansions, invites it into the body, and then, by its own power it
passes to all parts, and is the approximate cause of all internal

There are two grand divisions of internal wind, viz., that above, and
that below the diaphragm. Strictures in the chest, headache, epilepsy,
and apoplexy, are produced by wind beating upward. Colic, flatulency,
inflammation of the bowels, &c., are caused by wind from above beating

It is seldom however, that disease runs its course without involving
two or more of the other elements. For instance, in case of a common
boil, the wind first drives the blood from all quarters into the
locality of the disease, where it stagnates, being invested by wind.
Secondly, the water from the blood consequently settles in that place,
as water in a tea-kettle before the fire is applied. Thirdly, the
internal fire having nothing to drive it away, acts upon the water,
and heats it to scalding. And, fourthly, the earth, inclusive of the
crassiment of the blood, which had stagnated, and other solid matter
in the locality, become diseased from great heat, and are consequently
decomposed and melted down into matter. Anasarca, or general dropsy,
belongs to the water-class, and is produced by the watery parts of the
blood settling under the skin, and among the muscles, causing the
parts to puff outward. But water is not the sole cause; there is also
a diminution of fire. If fire had been present in due proportions, it
would have dried up the surplus water, as the sun dries up the dew.

In the hot season, heat from without combines with heat from within,
and produces an unhealthful degree of heat in the body, and causes
disease of the fire-class. In the rainy season too much water is
absorbed into the system, filling intensely the natural vacuum in the
upper part of the head, and produces disease of the water-class. The
earth produces disease through her mists and vapors. Cholera is
supposed to arise from this source.

They also believe that spirits, good and evil, have great power over
the elements, and have much to do in producing disease. They are
consequently held in continued dread of them, and use every means to
propitiate them. They never start on a journey, or enter a forest
where fevers prevail, without first making an offering to the spirits.

They believe that medicine has power to counteract the deranged
elements, and restore them to a healthful equilibrium. The origin and
practice of medicine they believe to have been supernatural. Their
medical books declare that the father of medicine was so privileged,
that wherever he went, every individual member of the vegeto-medical
kingdom was sure to summon his attention, and speak out, revealing its
name and medical properties; and since the days of miracles have
passed away, the science is only now to be acquired by following
closely the original medical books.

They have four classes of medicines, each calculated to counteract the
disturbances caused by each of the four elements. The _modus operandi_
of each individual class is supposed to be as various as the specific
diseases. For instance, medicine for wind in the head is quite
different, and acts differently from medicine for wind in the bowels.
A sternutatory snuff, a wash for the head, a patch or plaster, may
dispel the wind in the head, whilst it will require a carminative to
allay the storm in the bowels. It is believed that wind of every kind
may not only be expelled from the body by way of the esophagus and
rectum, but also by the pores of the skin, and all the secreting
organs of the body. It may hence be drawn off by suction; as cupping,
poultices, bleeding, and scarification. They also attempt to drive the
surplus wind from one part of the body to another part where it may be
wanting. If the disease arise from a deficiency of wind, they try to
raise an artificial breeze in the system by appropriate medicines.
Giddiness is supposed to arise from a deficiency of wind blowing
upward upon the brain, and the upper part of the skull becomes a
vacuum. They consequently fill the stomach as full as possible with
food, and put the patient to bed, and he will awake quite well. If
there is a want of heat, they produce artificial heat; and if there is
too much, they employ a refrigerating treatment. If there is too much
water, they try to draw it off by drastic cathartics. In all their
treatment they employ opposites.

Their medicines are derived chiefly from the vegetable kingdom, and
from those kinds too which are indigenous to their own country. Some
few articles are brought from China, and sold by the Chinese
apothecaries. Barks, roots, leaves, chips, fruits, and herbs,
constitute the great bulk of their _materia medica_. They also employ
some articles belonging to the animal kingdom, such as bones, teeth,
sea-shells, fish-skins, snake-skins, snake's galls, urine, birds'
eyes, &c. They have also a few from the mineral kingdom, such as
stones, saltpetre, borax, lead, antimony, sulphate of copper, table
salt, sulphate of magnesia, and rarely mercury. They have a few gums
also, of which aloes and gamboge are the chief.

But few articles of the vegetable kingdom however, escape enlistment
in the war against disease. They depend more upon great combinations,
than upon the power of a single ingredient, and consequently scores of
kinds, or ingredients, often figure in a single dose. Dr. Bradly says
he has seen one instance in which one hundred and seventy four
ingredients were employed in one prescription, and the whole to be
taken at three doses. The work of preparing medicines is therefore
onerous. Vegetable combinations are used chiefly in a state of
decoction or infusion. They frequently speak of a patient having taken
four or five pots full--a pot holding from two to four quarts. They
knew nothing of tinctures until European physicians came amongst them,
and they are slow to adopt them.

After such a system, it may readily be supposed that their physicians
are in keeping with it. They are wholly self-taught, or, more
properly, untaught. They have nothing like medical colleges, or a
system of medical discipline. They are like too many in our own
country who rush into the study of medicine without a sufficient
literary or scientific education upon which to base a medical
education, and thus prostitute a noble profession. Without a correct
knowledge of their own language, they read a few of their medical
manuscripts, and start out for a patient, following the manuscript
very closely in their treatment. Should they get a patient who is
pretty sick, and he recover in spite of their treatment, their
reputation is made. The reputation once made seldom wanes, for the
physician's tongue helps him out of a great many scrapes. If he loses
a patient, the spirits or some other insurmountable object have always
been in the way.

It is seldom however, that a man professes to be a general
practitioner; they turn their attention to specialities. One will be
renowned for fevers, whilst another will have a reputation in cases of
small-pox. The Siamese physicians are held in great esteem by the
people, an esteem but little less than that offered to princes and
nobles, but of a different kind. That given to the latter is a kind of
servile reverence, but the former is a true esteem. They have two
general classes of physicians, viz., the royal physicians and the
people's physicians. The former class are appointed by the King to
practice in the palace, and amongst the princes and nobles, and
receive a small salary from the royal treasury. The latter class are
self-appointed, and receive no regular salary, but depend upon their
fees for their living, and as a general thing make it pay better than
the other class. A common physician of reputation is frequently
promoted to be a royal physician.

They have also another kind of doctors who profess to cure certain
kinds of diseases by shampooing and manipulating. They are well versed
in the locality of the muscles, tendons, and blood-vessels. They
gently press these points, and when one is tired and weary, it has a
soothing effect, and produces sleep, and in some diseases it may prove
beneficial. I have found it very beneficial at times of great
weariness and lassitude.

The common physicians are always employed by the job, and always on
the condition, no cure no pay. Sometimes, if the disease is chronic,
and but little hope of recovery, they stipulate to pay a certain sum
in case of an alleviation of the disease, and so much more in case of
a permanent cure. A bargain is always struck by the patient himself,
or by his friends, before the physician takes charge of the case.
Sometimes, if a doctor sees his patient is going to die, and he be the
loser, he will take "French leave" without giving the friends any
notice whatever of his intentions. Generally however a more honorable
course is pursued, and the doctor gives up the patient, and releases
the friends from all obligations, and they are at liberty to call
another doctor. The physician is thus changed frequently, several
times before death or recovery, each new one putting in for a higher
bid. They have also a kind of domestic water treatment, by copious
bathing, which in many cases is far more beneficial than their

They are also great people for recipes, and many of the temples have
these recipes inscribed by scores upon the walls, and upon little
marble tablets, for the benefit of the poor, and all others who wish
to use them. The king frequently makes merit by having these recipes
thus inscribed. The following one for small-pox, will serve as a

"One portion of conch-shell; two kinds of aperient fruit, one portion
of each; two kinds of sour leaves, one portion of each; one portion of
asafoetida, one of borax, one of ginger, nine kinds of pepper,
including the hottest, a portion of each; four kinds of cooling roots,
a portion of each; one of an astringent root; four kinds of drastic
cathartics, including the fruit and leaves of the croton plant, one
portion of each; one of rhubarb, and one of Epsom salts. Boil in three
measures of water until it be diminished to one measure of the
decoction. Then squeeze out the oily parts, dry, and pulverize. A
woman may take the weight of thirty cents in silver, and a child may
take the weight of seven and one-half cents in silver. It will purge
off everything in the bowels."

They have as yet little or no confidence in European physicians and
medicines. They however, are obliged to acknowledge their ability as
surgeons, and they are beginning to have confidence in quinine in the
treatment of fevers. They know nothing of anatomy; and consequently
nothing of surgery. They do not pretend to lance even a common boil,
but depend upon opening it with poultices.

The first amputation was performed in Siam by Dr. Bradly, in 1837. A
company of priests at the dedication of a temple were playing with
fireworks, when a cannon burst, and killed several and wounded many
more. Dr. Bradly offered his professional services, but all the
wounded refused, except two. He amputated the arm of one of them, and
dressed their other wounds, and they soon recovered, but all the
others died. Inoculation for small-pox was introduced by the
missionary physicians in 1838. They found themselves surrounded by the
disease, and being without vaccine virus, they inoculated their own
children as the next best thing that could be done. It acted so well
that the king sent a number of the royal physicians to examine into
it, and learn how it was done. Having learned, he sent them out
through the city to inoculate.

Vaccination was introduced in 1840, from a scab sent out from Boston
_via_ the Cape of Good Hope. It finally died out, and was again
renewed from time to time. It is now constantly kept up by Dr.
Campbell, a Scotch physician, in connection with the English
Consulate. The natives no longer hesitate to have their children
vaccinated, and it has done much towards staying the ravages of the

The first operation for cataract was successfully performed by Dr.
Bradly, upon the eyes of a distinguished nobleman and minister of

They know nothing of obstetrics, and those cases where nature needs to
be assisted, are left to die. Superstition too, has enveloped the
whole afiair in silly and ridiculous notions. Since they believe in
the transmigration of souls, and that the spirits of all persons who
are born have existed in some previous state, their books on midwifery
pretend to teach parents how they may know whence their children came,
and whether the expected stranger will be a boy or girl. There is also
a choice in the day of the week upon which a child is born. Wednesday
and Thursday are particularly favorable for robust constitutions, and
bright intellects. Children born on Sunday, are liable to be careless
and reckless all their lives.

This business is almost wholly committed to elderly women or midwives.
Male physicians are seldom called in on such occasions, unless the
case requires extraordinary skill, and then they are as ignorant as
the midwives themselves. They always attempt to assist natural labor
by the use of domestic medicines, shampooing, and other manipulations,
and in many instances do positive injury by deranging natural labor.
Facts however, prove that parturition amongst the Siamese is much
shorter and easier than amongst Europeans and Americans. One reason
is, that they have more of the animal in their natures, and doubtless
the kind of dress they wear has much to do with it--their dress being
more in accordance with nature.

It is after the birth of the child that the Siamese mothers have to
endure torture. It is a custom amongst them, as immutable as the laws
of the Medes and Persians, that the mother after the birth of the
child, must lie by a hot fire from five to thirty days. After the
first child they must remain by the fire about thirty days, but the
time gradually diminishes with every subsequent birth. She is placed
on a hard board, with nothing under her but a thin mat, and no
clothing but a narrow waist-cloth and is thus obliged to lie within
four or five feet of a hot fire. This is generally, too, in a small
room, with no chimney, but the fire is on an open furnace, and the
smoke is allowed to escape as best it can. In such a climate as Siam,
this must be positively injurious, and it certainly makes young
mothers look prematurely old. It is not known whence this custom
originated. It is also practised amongst the Cambodians, Peguans,
Burmese, and Cochin Chinese.



The staple of the country is rice. Their farming operations are simple
in the extreme, and as the soil is very fertile, I know of no place
where the husbandman is so abundantly rewarded for so little labor.
Their plough is exactly like that used in Scripture times, and
pictures of which you have doubtless seen in books on biblical
antiquities. It consists simply of a crooked stick, answering for beam
and handle, to which a sheath is attached, to the end of which a small
shovel is affixed. It has but one handle, and is difficult to hold,
and hence from the same kind of an instrument we have the Scripture
illustration, "No man having put his hand to the plough and looking
back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven." To this plough they attach a
couple of oxen, or Indian buffaloes, and when sufficient rain has
fallen to soften the ground a little, they scratch it over with their
little plough. When sufficient rain has fallen to turn the ground into
a perfect mortar, they stir it up again, and sow the rice upon the
mud. This they sometimes harrow over with a brush or rude wooden
harrow. About this time the water in the rivers begins to overflow the
banks, and gradually overflows the rice fields to the depth of three
or four feet. The rice however, manages to grow, and keep head above
water, and so long as it can do this it is all right. The water keeps
up until the rice is out in heads, and then it begins to subside until
harvest, when the ground is generally quite dry. I have rode in my
boat for a whole day, directly over the rice fields, when the rice was
coming out in heads, and found the water in many places four feet
deep, but the heads of the rice were waving in the wind majestically
above it. The best quality of rice is raised by transplanting. The
ground is prepared the same as before, but instead of sowing
broadcast, they take the rice plants, and place them in the soft mud
with the hand. This work is generally done by women and children, and
they do it very dextrously, placing the plant in the mud with the
thumb and finger almost as fast as they can walk. It is put down in
rows, about two or three inches apart. This is the same kind of rice
as the other, only the grains are fuller and better, and it commands a
better price in market.

After planting his rice the farmer has little or nothing to do until
his crop begins to ripen, when all hands have to turn out to drive off
the birds. There are immense flocks of a diminutive little bird, with
gray and red wings, and about the size of a canary, and sings almost
as sweetly. They are beautiful little creatures, but great
rice-eaters, and would soon destroy a whole crop if not driven away.
Men, women and children have all to turn out to guard off these, and
other rice-eating birds, until the harvest is gathered.

The rice crop is harvested about the first of January, with a kind of
primitive sickle, and bound into small sheaves. It is then collected
by means of a nondescript ox-cart into one place, where they intend to
thresh it. The threshing floor is levelled off on the ground, as in
Scripture times, and a bamboo pole is set up in the centre, upon the
top of which a few heads of the best rice have been tied, as a kind of
first fruit-offering to the spirits. The sheaves are then placed
around in a circle, and a number of oxen are driven around abreast
upon it. When threshed, the rice is collected into a heap and winnowed
with a large fan. The threshing is frequently done at night, and I
have seen the banks of some of the rivers illuminated for miles with
fires around the threshing floors. The crops are generally abundant,
and the labors of the husbandman abundantly rewarded.

The native mills for hulling the rice are small basket affairs turned
by band, but there are now in operation four steam rice-mills, built
and owned by Europeans, and which clean on an average about four
thousand piculs of cargo rice daily.

Bangkok is one of the greatest rice ports in the world, and vast
quantities are shipped every year to China, Europe, California and
other places.

Cotton grows well, and the quality is good, but is not raised in any
quantities. A few Hainan Chinese have located up the country, and are
raising cotton, but all they raise is shipped in junks to the island
of Hainan.

Some little Indian corn is raised, but not as a business; it is
generally used when soft. Vegetables of various kinds are also raised
in considerable quantities, such as sweet potatoes, turnips, cabbage,
beans, peas, cucumbers, squashes and egg-plants.

All tropical fruits are also abundant, such as oranges in great
variety, shaddocks, plantains, mangos, mango-stines, jack-fruit and
bread-fruit. The king of fruits to the natives however, is the
_durien_, a large fruit about the size of a man's head, with a prickly
shell. Inside the shell there are a number of lobes, each having a
large seed, surrounded with a white pulpy substance, resembling
custard highly flavored with garlic. To most Europeans the smell of
the fruit is very offensive, resembling that of a spoiled egg. When a
boat load of the fruit is passing up the river, even before the shell
is broken, it can be smelled at a great distance. Strange to say
however, after a few contacts most Europeans become extremely fond of
the fruit, notwithstanding the smell. It is however, like most
acquired tastes, the end gained scarcely justifies the effort in
obtaining it.

The palm is there also in considerable variety. The palmyra, the
cocoanut, the nypa, the date, and the areca palms, all figure to some

Amongst the woods the teak is most valued for ship building, and
quantities of it are shipped every year to China and Europe for that
purpose. Rosewood is also abundant, and a variety of other red woods.
Sapan wood is largely exported to China for dyeing purposes.

There is scarcely anything so generally used and so universally prized
as the _bamboo_. It grows in clumps to the height of about
seventy-five feet; and when full grown is about six or eight inches in
diameter at the butt. It also grows in joints, and is hollow except at
the joint. The houses of the poorer classes are all built of this.
Their baskets, boxes, buckets, boat covers, and nearly all the
utensils used by the poorer classes, are made of it. It is to all
appearances a _"sine qua non"_ in the country.

Their domestic animals are few. The ox and the Indian buffalo are
prized for farming purposes. Fowls and ducks are raised in great
quantities, but by the Siamese only for the eggs; the Chinese however,
eat large quantities of them. The ducks have lost the instinct of
incubation, and the eggs are hatched by artificial means. Pariah dogs
are there in great numbers, and many of them without any owners, and
they frequently render night hideous by their howling.

Amongst the ferocious animals the tiger is chief; both the Bengal and
leopard species are found in numbers in the jungles. The fox, wolf,
and a small species of bear, are also found.

Monkeys in great variety are there, and in passing up the rivers and
along the canals they can be seen in large droves perched upon the
trees, cutting up their antics apparently for the benefit of the
passer by. Several species of deer, and wild hogs, abound in the
jungles. Jungle-fowls, pea-fowls, and a vast variety of other birds
abound, so that an expert sportsman can find plenty to do for his gun.

About thirty species of venomous serpents are known to the natives,
about one half of which are considered very poisonous. A few inflict
deadly wounds with their tails. One of the most venomous is five or
six feet long, and has the power of reflecting prismatic colors. The
cobra, or hooded serpent, is abundant. The boa constrictor is also
common, but does little harm except rob hen-roosts at night. The
writer has frequently been obliged to arise at night to relieve his
hen-roost from their attacks, and he has seen them, when killed,
measuring twelve and fifteen feet long. The natives tell marvellous
stories about those found in the forests, forty and fifty feet long,
and which can crush and swallow a deer, or an ox, without any
difficulty. Vast numbers of harmless little lizards are constantly
sporting upon the walls of your house and bed-room. The most noted is
the "gecho," a large dragon-headed lizard, about six or eight inches
long, called by the Siamese _"To-kay."_ He secretes himself during the
day, but comes out on the walls at night in search of moschetos and
other things for food. He is a fierce-looking fellow, and most
Europeans at first sight are terribly afraid of him. Shortly after our
arrival in the country, one evening when we were about to retire, we
discovered something, presenting rather a ferocious appearance, in the
corner of the bed-room near the ceiling. My wife could not think of
retiring with such a creature so near the bed, so I got a long bamboo
pole and called in a native man to assist, and after a considerable
contest we succeeded in worsting him. They have also a tremendous
voice, and at night will often keep you awake by hollowing "To-kay,
To-kay," from some secret corner of your bed-room. We once lived in a
part of a house, the other half of which was occupied by another
mission family. There was a large "To-kay" which had been about the
house for some time, and was quite a pet with the other family, and
they would not allow him to be disturbed. In the evening, however,
just when our baby would get to sleep, he would come out and commence
his hollowing and wake her up again. One afternoon when the other
family were out, he came out on the porch, or veranda, and commenced
hollowing lustily, and I loaded my shot gun and brought him down.
This, and the one already alluded to, are the only encounters I have
ever had with the "To-kays."

An American gentleman who was traveling around the world, once stopped
with us. He arrived from the ship about 9 o'clock in the evening. He
was scarcely in the house until a To-kay commenced hollowing,
apparently for his edification. The gentleman looked up in
consternation, exclaiming, "What's that--a billy-goat?"



The twenty-fours of the day are divided into two equal parts. The day
is called _Wán_, and the night _Kún_. The former begins at 6 A.M.,
and the latter at 6 P.M. The hours of the forenoon are numbered from
one up to six, or mid-day. The hours of the afternoon are numbered in
the same way. The forenoon is called _Pëla Chow_, and the afternoon
_Pëla Bai_. The word denoting an hour of the day is _Mong_, and that
denoting an hour of the night is _Toom_. In expressing 9 o'clock,
A.M., they would say, _"Sam Mong Chow,"_ or the third hour of the
morning. Three o'clock, P.M., they would say, _"Sam Mong Bai,"_ or the
third hour of the afternoon. Nine o'clock in the evening, they would
say _"Sam Toom."_

Siamese months are lunar months, but often vary from the moon, a day
or two. Each month is divided into two parts, the _waxing_ and
_waning_ moon. The former has always fifteen days, but the latter has
sometimes fifteen and sometimes fourteen. Six of their months have
thirty days, and six twenty-nine days, making three hundred and
fifty-four days to the year, which lacks eleven days of a full solar
year. To compensate this deficiency, they have an intercalary month of
thirty days, every two or three years. There is still however, a
deficiency of about three days in nineteen years, which is supplied by
adding a day to the seventh month from time to time, whenever the
astrologers may think proper.

They have no word to denote a week of time, but each day has its
appropriate name and number, commencing at Sunday and ending at
Saturday. By the recurrence of the first and seventh days, they are
reminded that seven days of time have elapsed.

The days of the week are:

1st. Wan Atit, (day of the sun,) Sunday. 2d. Wan Chan, (day of the
moon,) Monday. 3d. Wan Angkan, (day of Mars,) Tuesday. 4th. Wan Póot,
(day of Mercury,) Wednesday. 5th. Wan Prahat, (day of Jupiter,)
Thursday. 6th. Wan Sook, (day of Venus,) Friday. 7th. Wan Sów, (day
of Saturn,) Saturday.

Their months are numbered from one up to twelve, and have no
particular names, but are designated by their numbers. The first and
second months, it is true, are called by names, but their names have
the same meaning as their numbers.

They have two cycles, one within the other. The greater cycle is
twelve, the smaller ten. The former is called _Pee_, their common name
for year, and the latter is called _Sok_. Every year of each kind of
cycles has its own specific name.

The years of the cycle of twelve are:

1st. Pee Chóoat, _year of the Rat._ 2d. Pee Cháloo, _year of the
Cow._ 3d. Pee Kán, _year of the Tiger._ 4th. Pee Taw, _year of the
Rabbit._ 5th. Pee Marong, _year of the Great Dragon._ 6th. Pee Maseng,
_year of the Small Dragon._ 7th. Pee Mameea, _year of the Horse._ 8th.
Pee Mamaa, _year of the Goat._ 9th. Pee Wawk, _year of the Monkey._
10th. Pee Raka, _year of the Cock._ 11th. Pee Chaw, _year of the Dog._
12th. Pee Koon, _year of the Hog._

The years of the cycle of ten are:

Eka Sók, 1st. _cycle._ To Sok, 2d. _cycle._ Tree Sok, 3d. _cycle._
Chattawa Sok, 4th. _cycle._ Benya Sok, 5th. _cycle._ Chaw Sok, 6th.
_cycle._ Sapta Sok, 7th. _cycle._ Atta Sok, 8th. _cycle._ Woppa Sok,
9th. _cycle._ Samretti Sok, 10th. _cycle._

In writing the number of their era, they mention the name of each
cycle, as it happens to be. For instance, January 1870, would be 1231
_Pee Maseng Eka Sok_, year of the _small dragon_, 1st of the cycle of
10, and 1231 of the civil era. The Siamese sacred era is reckoned from
the time of Budha's supposed death, which, on the full moon of May
1870, was 2413 years. This era is only used in religious matters. The
civil era is reckoned from the time that _Pra Rooang_, a Siamese king
of great celebrity, established it, and on March 27, 1870, was 1231
full years.

Although the Brahmin astrologers manage to calculate eclipses with
considerable accuracy, the great mass of the Siamese are wholly
ignorant of their true cause. They attribute them to _Rahú_, a
terrible monster who threatens to devour the sun and moon. When they
see an eclipse of any kind coming on, they commence firing guns,
beating gongs and tin-pans, and shouting, to frighten away _Rahú_.
The late king however, studied astronomy, and could calculate eclipses
in the European way, and did much to dispel the ignorance of his
subjects in regard to such matters.



It would be unjust to close without at least some reference to the
efforts of missionaries to evangelize Siam, It is also just to state
that there is scarcely any other field, in which modern missions have
been established, where the introduction of the gospel has met with so
little opposition as in Siam proper, and especially during the late
reign, and so far during the present. It is equally just to say that
there is scarcely any other field which has been so barren of results.
Pure Budhism appears to yield more slowly to the power of the gospel
than any other false system. Even Brahminism itself yields more
rapidly. The Siamese have the utmost confidence in the strength of
their own religion to withstand the power of the gospel, and hence
that stolid indifference which they manifest to the introduction of
the gospel amongst them. A nobleman high in rank, once playfully
remarked to a missionary, "Do you expect, with your little chisel, to
remove this great mountain?"

To the Rev. W. H. Medhurst belongs the honor of projecting the first
Protestant mission in Siam. As early as 1827 he proposed to visit Siam
and some of the neighboring kingdoms, but never was able to accomplish
his designs. The Rev. Charles Gutzlaff and Rev. Jacob Tomlin arrived
in Siam, August 23d, 1828, on a Chinese junk. They obtained liberty to
remain in Bangkok, and labor amongst the Chinese, but through the
influence, of the Jesuit missionaries they were afterwards threatened
with expulsion from the country. The Portuguese consul, Signior Carlos
de Silveira, the only resident consul in Siam at that time, interested
himself in their behalf, and partly through his influence they were
allowed to remain. They were out constantly talking to the Chinese,
and distributing books, which soon excited the suspicions of the
Siamese, that the missionaries were endeavoring to incite the Chinese
to rebellion. The King ordered some of their books to be examined, and
when nothing objectionable was found in them, they were allowed to
proceed. It is believed however that a secret edict was issued,
forbidding the people to receive the books. The only English merchant
then in the country was quietly requested to take the missionaries
away in one of his ships. They however demanded of the Minister of
Foreign Affairs the cause of such a step, and claimed equal rights
with the Roman Catholic missionaries, who were allowed to pursue their
labors without molestation. This appeal brought the Minister to terms,
and they were allowed to remain. They studied to some extent the
Siamese language, and endeavored to translate portions of the
Scriptures into that language, which was of course labor lost, as they
had only been in the country about six months, and it was impossible
that they could have acquired the Siamese sufficiently to do anything
at translating.

Mr. Tomlin's health had now failed to some extent, and he left for
Singapore. Mr. Gutzlaff remained a short time, and also left for a
time. During his absence he married Miss Maria Newell, an English lady
then residing at Malacca, and then returned with his wife to Bangkok.
They were there however, but little over a year when Mrs. Gutzlaff
died, and Mr. Gutzlaff becoming discouraged, took passage to China on
a junk. Messrs. Gutzlaff and Tomlin however had visited Siam wholly on
their own responsibility, and perhaps never intended to remain

The Prudential Committee of the American Board, upon the solicitation
of Messrs. Gutzlaff and Tomlin, sent the Rev. David Abeel, then in
Canton, to Siam to make arrangements for establishing a mission there.
Mr. Abeel on his way met with Mr. Tomlin, and the two together
proceeded to Bangkok, and arrived there in June, 1831. They found the
people still eager for books, and soon established a place for public
worship and the distribution of books. Mr. Abeel however, was soon
brought down by a fever, and when sufficiently recovered to do so, he
and Mr. Tomlin both returned to Singapore. Mr. Abeel's health being
recruited, he embarked again alone for Bangkok on a Chinese junk. He
prosecuted his labors for about six months more, but in consequence of
continued ill health he was obliged to leave for good.

In 1832 the Rev. Messrs. Stephen Johnston and Charles Robinson were
appointed by the American Board for Siam, but before they arrived, and
even before Mr. Abeel left, the Baptist mission in Burmah transferred
the Rev. J. T. Jones to Bangkok. Mr. Jones was permitted to reap the
fruits of some of the seed sown by those who preceded him, and a small
Chinese church was organized by him, which is still in existence, and
is now under the pastoral care of the Rev. William Dean, D. D. Messrs.
Johnston and Robinson, already alluded to, arrived in Bangkok, July
25th, 1834. They were kindly received by the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, and soon after arrival secured a lot of ground and proceeded
to build upon it. Thus was finally established in Siam the mission of
the American Board, which, after several years of labor, was
eventually removed to China.

The Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in 1840 sent out the Rev.
W. P. Buell and his wife to Siam. Mr. Buell however, had scarcely
acquired the language sufficiently well to become useful, when he was
obliged to return to the United States on account of Mrs. Buell's
health. In 1841 that Board sent out the Rev. Stephen Mattoon and wife,
and the Rev. S. R. House, M. D. By the time they arrived the king then
upon the throne had become tired of not only missionaries, but all
foreigners, and had determined upon an exclusive policy. He refused to
make commercial treaties with western powers, or to open up the
country any more to commerce. Sir James Brook, the English ambassador,
received what he considered an insult to his nation, and left with the
intention of returning, prepared to open up the country by force. Our
missionaries in consequence of this determination of the King, were
unable to secure a site for the mission, or any foothold whatever.
They were not flatly refused, but were baffled, according to Siamese
custom, with trifling excuses and postponements, so that they became
discouraged, and were upon the eve of leaving the country to seek some
other, where they might find an opening. At this juncture the King was
providentially removed by death, and the now late King ascended the
throne. He was a prince who had imbibed more liberal views in regard
to foreigners, and he immediately opened up the country to foreign
commerce, and our missionaries were permitted to secure a location.

It may also be stated here, that to the missionaries belongs the honor
of opening up the country, although many will doubtless deny them this
just due. The late King, whilst a priest in a monastery, studied the
English language with some of the missionaries, and especially with
the Rev. J. Caswell. He also studied astronomy, and some other
branches in which he made commendable proficiency. He also imbibed
from them more liberal views in regard to western nations, and
consequently as soon as he ascended the throne he was prepared to
treat with them; and that which in many other countries had to be done
by gunpowder, was in this instance accomplished by missionary effort.

The present Regent once in the presence of the writer, whilst
conversing with an American, George F. Seward, Esq., United States
Consul-General to Shanghae, shrewdly remarked that "Siam had not been
disciplined by English and French guns as China, but the country had
been opened by missionaries."

The late King always entertained the highest regard for his
instructor, the Rev. J. Caswell, and besides building a tomb over his
grave, presented his widow with $1,500 as a token of his regard.

The Presbyterian Board has now six missionaries with their families in
Siam proper, and two amongst the Laos, a tributary kingdom to the
north. They are distributed as follows:-- Messrs. House, McDonald,
George, and Carrington, in Bangkok; Messrs. McFarland and Van Dyke in
Petchaburi; and Messrs. McGilvary and Wilson amongst the Laos. The
American Baptist Union has also a mission to the Chinese in Siam. The
missionaries are. Rev. William Dean, D. D., and Rev. S. B. Partridge,
with their wives, and the Misses F. A. Dean and A. M. Fielde, single
ladies. The Rev. D. B. Bradly, M. D., was originally sent out by the
American Board, but is now in nominal connection with the American
Missionary Association, but is wholly self-sustaining, receiving no
support from any Board. Besides supporting his family, he preaches
regularly and does other mission work. The Rev. S. J. Smith was
formerly in connection with the American Baptist Union, but has
dissolved his connection with that Board, and is now self-sustaining,
and also does much missionary work. This is our force for at least
eight millions of people.

When the writer arrived in Siam ten years ago, there was but one
native convert in connection with the Presbyterian mission church. We
have now at Bangkok a church numbering about twenty members; also one
at Petchaburi with about the same membership. We have also a school in
connection with our mission which averages about twenty five pupils.
This school has not met the expectations of those who have had charge
of it, but there is no reason to be discouraged at the results. Whilst
many of the pupils have gone back to heathenism, and others have
turned out badly, a goodly number are exemplary Christians, and some
are looking forward to the ministry, and hope some day to preach the
gospel to their countrymen.

Ten years ago we had the Gospels alone of the Scriptures translated;
we have now the whole New Testament. Many portions of it, especially
the Epistles, need revising, still it answers the purpose. We have
also the Old Testament translated as far as through Joshua, and also
the prophecy of Ezekiel, and minor prophets. Our mission hopes soon to
be able to give the people the entire Scriptures in their own
language. Our printing press is constantly at work printing the
Scriptures and religious tracts.

It has also been the duty of the writer, shortly before leaving the
country, to visit the scene of the last persecution (if we except the
late troubles in China) which the history of the church has to record.
North of Siam proper, there are a number of petty Laos kingdoms, all
of which are in a certain sense tributary to Siam. They pay a small
annual tribute, and the King of Siam claims the prerogative of
nominating the successor to the throne when a vacancy occurs, but
aside from this each of those kings is absolute in his own dominions.
The largest of those kingdoms is Chieng Mai, and the capital city of
the same name is situated in latitude 18° 48' north, or about five
degees north of Bangkok. About three years ago two of our
missionaries, Rev. Messrs. McGilvary and Wilson, having previously
made a visit to that kingdom, determined to establish a mission there.
They obtained permission from the King, and also from the Siamese
government, and with great difficulty and self-denial removed their
families thither, following the river all the way up over the
thirty-two rapids. Their goods at the rapids had to be taken from the
boats and carried around, whilst the boats had to be drawn up with
ropes. The whole journey occupied some three months, a much longer
time than it now takes to come to the United States.

At first they were kindly received by the King, but gradually his
friendship began to cool down. This they attributed to the influence
of a mongrel Portuguese whom the King had taken into his employ, and
who was a Roman Catholic, and looked upon the missionaries as his
enemies. After his departure the King again became more friendly. Some
two years after their arrival they were permitted to baptize two Laos
Christians, and not long afterwards five others were received. This
appeared to arouse the wrath of the King, and before the missionaries
were aware of it, he had arrested and executed two of the Christians,
and warrants were issued for the other five, but they managed to
escape arrest. The two who were executed were faithful witnesses for
the truth, and died as courageously and as triumphantly for the faith,
as any in that long list of martyrs which the history of the Church
has to record. We find here amongst the mountaineer Laos, men who but
a short time before had embraced Christ,--infants as it were, but a
span long in faith,--sealing their faith with their blood. Had we no
other fruits of our long labors in Siam than this glorious conversion,
and still more glorious death of those mountaineer Laos, that alone
will more than a thousand times repay all the expenditure of men and
money upon that kingdom.

The missionaries were not aware of the execution of the Christians at
the time, but soon discovered that servants and all those in
connection with them were leaving, and upon inquiring the cause
learned with difficulty what had happened, and that the others were
leaving through fear of the King. Most of the princes of the kingdom,
and apparently all the people, were indignant at the conduct of the
King, but such was the fear of him that no one durst scarcely whisper
a word, lest it might come to his ears, and their head pay the penalty
of their rashness. He ruled with a rod of iron. The slightest theft,
and continual drunkenness, were punished with death; and I must say, I
know of no country where property is so secure from theft as in Chieng

Such however, was the known treachery of the King, and such the many
stories afloat, that the missionaries supposed their own lives in
danger. They tried to communicate with the mission at Bangkok, but
such was the fear of the King that they could get no one to carry a
letter, although they offered at one time as high as five hundred
rupees ($225) to any one who would carry a letter to Bangkok.
Fortunately however, a Burmese came along who was a native of British
Burmah, and an English subject, and who offered to carry the letter
for nothing. When we at Bangkok heard the news, we did not know but
that they and their families might be murdered; we however deemed it
our duty to make some effort to communicate with them. We accordingly
sent a committee to wait upon the Regent of Siam, who, after
expressing his indignation at what had happened, kindly offered a _"Ka
HLuáng,"_ or government officer, to accompany any one of us who might
wish to go up, who should be the bearer of a letter to the King of
Chieng Mai, and who should also be a safe conduct to us. The officer
had power to levy on provincial towns along the way such provisions
and other things as we needed, and had also power to chastise
delinquent governors who were slow to comply with our demands. It fell
to the lot of the writer, in company with the Rev. S. C. George, to go
on this important and rather dangerous errand. The letter from the
Siamese government only ordered the King of Chieng Mai to allow the
missionaries to remain peaceably, if they wished to, and if they
desired to leave, to offer them every facility in his power to do so,
and by no means to offer them any personal violence, as that would
involve the Siamese government in difficulty with the United States

After storing our boat with a few necessaries which could not be
secured by the way, and shipping a crew of six good boatmen, we turned
her bow toward the north. The Siamese officer with his boats was to
follow on in a day or two, expecting to overtake us ere we reached
Raheng. We rowed by day, and a few hours by night when the moon was
favorable, and when bedtime came, tied our boat up to the bank and
slept till morning. After taking our morning meal of rice we were off
again. We thus journeyed for ten days, passing the provincial towns of
_Aungtawng_, _Chinat_, _Monorom_, &c., all of which provinces have

There is nothing striking in the country or scenery on this portion of
the route. The banks of the river are low and the scenery rather
monotonous. The tenth day brought us to Nakawn Sawán, a provincial
town at the junction of the two principal branches of the river. Here
the novelty of the trip (if there be any novelty in it) was to
commence. Our course lay rather northwest, and the current in the
branch of the river which we were to take became very rapid, so that
our oars which had hitherto served us a good purpose refused to serve
us further. We had now to resort to poling. We had however, prepared
ourselves somewhat for the emergency, and had secured several bamboo
poles about fifteen feet long, in the butt ends of which were short
iron forks. A man with one of these poles walked to the bow of the
boat, and placing the end of the pole containing the fork firmly upon
the bottom, he placed his shoulder to the other end and walked to the
stern. Another was ready to take his place, and thus they kept the
boat constantly moving. It required great dexterity however on the
part of the steersman to keep the bow of the boat to the current, and
thus be enabled to stem it. So soon as he allowed the bow to turn the
least to the current, the poles would lose their hold, and we were set
adrift, and in a few minutes would lose what we would make in an hour,
and besides it was dangerous, as the river was full of snags. The
river here spreads out over a sandy bottom, and many places where it
was tolerably shallow it presented the appearance of a boiling
chaldron. The bottom too, was treacherous; on one side of the boat we
would be against a sand-bar, whilst on the other our poles would not
touch bottom. The receding waters too, at that season of the year,
left huge sand-bars running out from either bank to a point in the
middle of the stream, and also numerous little sand-islands. Some
portions of the route were solitary in the extreme, and in the morning
we were aroused by the crowing of the jungle-fowl, and the scream of
the peacock. In ten days more of poling, making in all about
twenty-one from Bangkok, we reached Raheng, the last Siamese
provincial town on the Laos borders. Here it was determined to leave
our boats and take elephants across the country to Chieng Mai. We
accordingly levied upon the Governor a sufficient number of elephants,
and an escort of men to see us through the jungle. After some little
delay our elephants were reported ready. The Governor of Raheng also,
as a special favor, allowed his Lieutenant-Governor, a fine young
nobleman, acquainted with the route, to accompany us in addition to
the principal officer who had accompanied us from Bangkok. Our
elephants were brought up each with a saddle, or _howdah_, on his
back. A frame is made not unlike a wood-horse, on the top of which a
seat is made about four feet long, like a buggie seat, and over which
a basket cover is placed to shield the rider from the sun, and the
whole, when on the elephant, resembles somewhat the top of a calash
buggie. Raw hides are placed on the back of the elephant to keep it
from chafing, and the saddle is then girthed on with a strong ratan
rope. A cushion is placed in the seat, so that the rider, for a
change, can lie down. The Siamese often sleep whilst the elephant is
going, but we preferred to sit upright. You mount by means of a high
block, or stand, but in the absence of this the elephant is taught to
hold up his front leg, and his knee forms a step by means of which the
rider can climb up. The driver sits astride the neck, in front of the
saddle, with a short stick in his hand, on the end of which is a sharp
iron hook, and when the animal becomes unruly he drives this hook
unmercifully into his flesh, which soon brings him to his senses.
Oftentimes one or two of the natives would crawl on behind to ride,
for a rest. An elephant can carry four persons and a considerable
amount of baggage with ease.

We started with our train of elephants single file. The man ahead
carried a huge gong, which he beat for a halt in the evening, and for
starting in the morning, and when approaching a town or village, to
let the people know that a great personage was coming. Our course lay
directly through the forest and jungle, and over the mountains. About
4 P. M. of the first day we encamped at the foot of a mountain spur,
where there was a pool of water. The elephants were unloaded,
fettered, and turned out to browse. As we had no tent along, our
saddles were placed around in a circle, and a fire was kindled in the
middle. Watch fires were also lighted around outside. After cooking
our rice, and taking our suppers, we retired to rest. As many as
could, slept in the saddles, and the others threw themselves down on
the ground, with a single blanket around them. A watch was also
appointed to keep up fires, and guard against tigers and robbers.
Elephant-stealing is common there, just as horse-stealing is with us
sometimes. About the middle of the first night we were aroused by the
elephants beating the ground with their trunks, which they always do
when alarmed, and the watch cried out, _"súa, súa!"_ a tiger, a
tiger! The tiger however, seeing our fires and watch, considered
discretion the best part of valor, and made off. In the morning we
were up early, and had our rice eaten and were ready to start by
daylight. Owing to the difficulty in carrying many utensils and much
provisions on elephants, the two noblemen and us usually took our
meals together. It was amusing to see us with our knives and forks,
and they with their fingers, all dipping into the same dish. On one
occasion I was considerably provoked at the chief man. At a certain
Laos town they brought us victuals already cooked, but the fowls
prepared after their style were not suitable to our taste. The
Lieutenant-Governor of Raheng, who was ever more mindful of our wants
than the headman, requested that some live fowls should be brought in,
that we might have them cooked to our taste. The fowls soon came, and
were delivered over to the chief man, who not knowing that they had
been particularly requested, came to us saying, "Doctors, this is our
sacred day, and if you don't object, I will let these fowls go, and
make merit by saving their lives." I was about to object, but my
companion, ever ready, quickly responded, _"ou tert, ou tert,"_ take
them, take them. I was determined however, not to be done out of a
fowl in that style, so I gave my shot-gun to one of my men, and he
went out and shot one. Our cook fixed it up nicely, and when we came
to eat, before I could get a piece, for myself, the chief man was into
it with his fingers, and had like to have spoiled the whole.

We crossed deep ravines, wound around precipices, which to look down
would make the hair stand on the head, and went over mountains where
one unaccustomed to it would say an elephant could never go. He is
however, sure-footed, and when he once plants his foot, which he does
with great deliberation, it is there. I once remarked to the driver,
is there no danger of him falling? The reply was, "He knows better
than to fall, for if he does, he gets killed." We went down one or two
declivities where I would fain have dismounted, could I have done so,
but it was impossible. The driver spoke to his elephant, saying,
"slowly." He placed first one fore-foot forward, and then the other by
its side firmly. The driver then said "drag," and he threw his hind
parts down on the ground, and drew them up to the fore-feet, and then
held on until he could again plant the fore-feet, and in this way the
whole train passed down.

Sometimes, too, our course lay across vast plains of rice-fields. The
rice had been harvested and threshed, and they were busied in carrying
it to the villages. Trains of elephants, with baskets holding ten or
twelve bushels on their backs, were walking along majestically with
their loads. Long trains of bullocks were also employed for this
purpose. Two baskets were fastened on a frame, and thrown across the
back like a pair of saddle-bags. The front bullock was fantastically
dressed up with a mask, and a huge peacock tail in it, and numerous
strings of little bells resembling sleigh-bells. He had also a driver,
and all the rest followed after without any drivers. On the afternoon
of the thirteenth day, the spires of the city of Chieng Mai began to
loom up in the distance, and about 5 o'clock P. M. we entered the city
with gong beating lustily. Our approach had been heralded ahead, and
the King had his officers waiting to receive us. Our missionary
brethren, whom we found well, but rather depressed in spirits, also
came to meet us with open arms. The next day the letter of the Regent
of Siam was to be conducted to the palace, under the royal umbrella,
and we, of course, were to accompany it. Before starting, the
missionaries held a consultation, and it was deemed best not to cover
anything over, which might break out again, as soon as we were gone.
It was thought expedient to bring matters to a focus, and then abide
the consequences. We found the old King in his audience hall,
surrounded by his court, who were prostrate before him. He appeared
pale, with suppressed rage. After the reading of the Siamese letter,
he remarked that "This letter only gives the missionaries privilege to
remain, if they wish--or to go, if they wish." This opened the way,
and I went on to state, that some three years ago the missionaries had
come up there with his consent, and we might say with his invitation,
and also with the consent of the Siamese government. They were at
first kindly received by him, and he showed them many kindnesses, for
which he deserved praise, and for which they had praised him. But
latterly, things were not going on so well, and circumstances had
transpired which justified them in writing to their friends at
Bangkok. They were now ready to commence building suitable houses to
live in, but could get no workmen, as the people were all afraid to
work for them; and the reason was, that he had taken two, in
connection with them, and put them to death. This did not appear to
ruffle him, and he replied, that as to workmen and servants he had
never put anything in the way. He had put a couple of fellows to
death, who had failed to do their government work. It appears that an
order had been issued to a certain number of men, for each to bring a
stick of timber to repair the city wall. The order had been issued
some two days previous, and when the two Christians were on their way
to get the timber, they were arrested and executed. The pretext given
for their arrest was that they had failed to comply with the King's
command. Mr. McGilvary then proved to him most clearly, that they had
in no way failed to perform their government work; and that when they
were executed, not one out of fifty of those who had received the
order had complied with it. When he saw he could not lie out of it, he
fairly boiled over with rage. So great was his anger that I at one
time feared that it might become so uncontrollable that he might break
over all restraints, and do us some personal injury. The highest
prince in the kingdom would not have dared to say the one hundredth
part of what we did, without losing his head. And then to be
contradicted and proven a liar, before his court, was hard to bear. He
said he had executed them because they had embraced the Christian
religion, and he would continue to kill all who did the same. The
missionaries might remain, in accordance with the command of the
Siamese government, but could not teach religion--they could not make
Christians. The Siamese officer was also alarmed for our safety. After
a consultation it was considered expedient to break up the mission for
a time, and we sent in word that the missionaries would leave as soon
as the river would rise sufficiently for the larger class of boats to
pass down, hoping, however, that Providence would so interfere in the
meantime as to prevent the breaking up of the mission. He has most
wonderfully interfered. When we left, the King was preparing to come
down to Bangkok, to attend the cremation of the late king of Siam.
Whilst at Bangkok the United States Consul-General, F. W. Partridge,
demanded of the Siamese government that they would make the King of
Chieng Mai conduct himself more properly, and grant religious
toleration. They doubtless gave him such orders, but he secretly told
some one that when he returned, the missionaries would have to leave,
according to promise. He however, took suddenly sick, and left Bangkok
in haste, but was never permitted to enter again his own capital. He
died on his way home, and according to Laos custom, no corpse is
permitted to enter the city, and his remains are now lying in state in
his river palace outside the city walls. He was apparently the only
obstacle to the spread of the Gospel amongst that people. The Laos are
a hardy mountaineer people, with much more stamina of character than
the Siamese, and free from many of their vices. I know of no more
interesting missionary field than Chieng Mai. They also appear to be
ready for some more substantial religion than Budhism.

After spending ten days in Chieng Mai we began to think of returning
home. The letter of the chief Siamese officer required that he should
return by elephants, as he had come, but we were anxious to follow the
river down, in order that we might pass over the thirty-two rapids, or
falls, and witness the scenery on the way. To this the King gave his
consent if we would secure boats, and he would then send a letter
ahead to have us sent from village to village along the way, and would
give us pilots to take us over the rapids. We accordingly secured
three boats, each about thirty feet long and two feet beam, propelled
by two short oars, and steered with a long paddle fastened to the
stern with a ratan rope. These boats are peculiarly adapted for
shooting over the rapids. We divided our party, the chief man
returning on elephants, whilst the Lieutenant-Governor of Raheng, and
a number of the men, accompanied us. After some little delay we got
started, and things went on pretty well for part of the first day. Men
were waiting on the bank at every village, to send us on to the next.
Soon however, we got ahead of the King's letter, which had started the
previous day. Rather than wait on men, we put our own men to the oars,
and passed the villages by. Nothing of importance transpired for the
first five days. Occasionally we would run on a sand-bar, and our men
would have to get out and push the boats off. Sometimes a company of
men and women would come down to the river to bathe. The Siamese never
bathe without a waist-cloth around them, but the Laos go into the
water perfectly nude, yet it is done with such dexterity, that nothing
amiss can be seen in it, although both sexes bathe together. The Laos
women wear a garment resembling a lady's skirt, but very narrow. They
step into the water, gradually raising the garment, until the water
becomes sufficiently deep to cover their nakedness, and then they slip
the garment over the head, and lay it aside. When they are ready to
come out, they again practise the same dexterity in putting it on.
Nothing is thought of such a scene amongst them, and it does not call
forth such expressions of vulgarity as a similar scene would amongst

At one time we came near falling into the hands of what we supposed to
be a band of robbers. In a solitary bend of the river, some twenty
persons were stationed, some with flintlock muskets, and others with
short swords. They beckoned to our men to stop, as if they had
business, but our men, suspecting their character, gave them a wide
birth, and we put our guns in order, determined to die hard should
they make an attack. Fortunately there were no sand-bars in the river,
and we shot rapidly past them, without their attempting to do us any

The fifth day brought us to the village at the head of the rapids. We
did not know but now we might be in a tight place. It would be
impossible for us to pass the rapids without pilots who were
intimately acquainted with every rock in the river, and these we could
not get without the King's order. The letter must be three days behind
us, and it would be trying to wait on it. The villagers too, seeing us
pass without stopping, might not send it on. And then, might it not be
a trick of the King, to get us into a scrape, as he was in no pleasant
mood towards us. We determined however, to make the best of it. After
arriving at the village, the Lieutenant-Governor, who was with us,
sent for the head-man of the village, who soon made his appearance. He
then inquired, "Has the King's letter to send us down the rapids
arrived?" "No," was the reply. "Well, it is coming, and we are in
haste. I want you to furnish us by to-morrow morning, three of the
best pilots you have, and also two additional rowers for each boat, to
send us down the rapids. I have foreigners in my charge, and if
anything happens to them, the blame will rest with you." The next
morning the men made their appearance, and a faithful set of fellows
they were. We were off early, and very soon began to near the
mountains, and just where the mountains on each side come down to the
river is the first rapid. Before approaching it, the pilots ran the
boats ashore, and taking some rice, fruit, and cigars, they made an
offering to the spirits of the mountain, and then pushed off. Our boat
was ahead, and the pilot, seemingly aware of the responsibility which
rested upon him, rose up and stood upon the stern, seized tight hold
of his steering oar, spoke a few hurried words to the oarsmen in
front, such as, "Lay heavy to the right or left", and then apparently
held his breath. We also held ours; the hair appeared to rise upon the
head, and the heart beat very near the throat, but in a moment the
long breath of the pilot indicated that danger was past, and our boat
was dancing over the waves caused by the falling of the water below.
We had passed the first rapid. Were a boat to be capsized, death must
ensue, for the water is so rapid, and rocks so abundant, that the most
expert swimmer could do nothing.

The scenery here is indescribably grand. Much of the boasted scenery
of Europe and America would be tame in comparison with it. Grandeur
and beauty oftentimes struggle for the mastery, first one and then the
other prevailing, and sometimes both combined. The river winds its way
along between the mountains which rise perpendicularly from one bank,
and in an amphitheatrical order from the other. Sometimes the ascent
is gradual on both sides. In one or two places no outlet can be seen
for the river at all, and one would think that soon all would be
dashed against the opposing mountains; but a slight turn would open up
a channel, with perpendicular banks on each side, to the height of at
least six-hundred feet, whilst between those perpendicular masses of
solid rock would be one of those indescribable rapids to be passed.
The fish-eagle would be screaming hundreds of feet above our heads,
and the little mountain-goat, sticking on a cliff, apparently midway
between heaven and earth, would look down upon us with apparent
contempt. We could seldom see a quarter of a mile either way, and the
sun shone upon us but a few hours at midday. Huge stylactites, the
formation of ages, were pending from the crevices. At one of the
rapids the river passes under a projecting rock for some distance, and
a little cascade, which in the rainy season must be quite a stream,
falls into the river some distance beyond the boat. When night came
on, we stopped in the solitude, tied our boats to the shore, cooked
our rice and then retired, we sleeping on the boat, but our men on the

The scientific geologist might find an ample field here, and the
sportsman would also have plenty of sport amongst tigers, deer,
wild-hogs, pea-fowls, and jungle-chickens. For a passing effect
however, a simple ride down the rapids is best. Five days brought us
through the rapids to Raheng, where we had left our other boats,
making about ten days from Chieng Mai. We were not long in getting our
boats ready, and the rapid current brought us to Bangkok in about one
fourth of the time it took to ascend against it. We arrived at home
without a moment of sickness, or any mishap, except the loss of one
poor fellow, a slave of the chief man, who died of jungle-fever.

It may be asked why Budhism, and especially the Budhism of Siam,
yields so slowly to the power of the Gospel? The cardinal doctrine of
the system is, no God, no intelligent creator and proprietor of the
universe. The unrenewed heart loves such a doctrine better than all
religious creeds and dogmas, yea, better than the simple gospel of
Jesus. As soon as sin entered the world, our first parents were afraid
of God, and could they have done so, would have dispensed with him all
their days. Thus it is that in Christian countries men batch up
development theories, and every imaginable falsehood, to dispense with
an intelligent first-cause. Men of natural good sense on other
subjects, on account of this enmity against God, become fools upon the
great subject, "The fool hath said in his heart no God." Alabaster, in
his "Modern Budhist," closes up with the following remarkable
flourish:--"The religion of Budha meddled not with the beginning,
which it could not fathom; avoided the action of a deity it could not
perceive; and left open to endless discussion that problem which it
could not solve, the ultimate reward of the perfect. It dealt with
life as it found it; it declared all good which led to its sole
object, the diminution of the misery of sentient beings; it laid down
rules of conduct which have never been surpassed; and held out
reasonable hopes of a future of the most perfect happiness.

"Its proofs rest on the assumption that the reason of man is his
surest guide, and that the law of nature is perfect justice. To the
disproof of those assumptions we recommend the attention of those
missionaries who would convert Budhists."

Mr. Alabaster must think missionaries very obtuse, not to be able in
thirty years labor in Siam, to find out the strongholds of Budhism.
Those "assumptions" have been "disproved" a thousand times, but as
they harmonize with the natural heart of the Budhist, and indeed with
that of very many who are nominal Christians, but who are in greater
condemnation than the Budhist, all reasonable proof is rejected.

Again, in all Budhist countries there is a mutual union of church and
state, and the Budhist regards kings as the proper rulers of the land,
and also the regulator of the religion. A man in Siam who embraces
Christianity, expects to cut himself off from everything which has
hitherto been near and dear to him. They have the most profound
reverence for the King, and cannot understand how the United States
can get along without one. A nobleman not long since asked a
missionary in good faith, if the United States would not soon be far
enough advanced to have a King, like England and France. The
missionary replied, that from present indications England and France
would soon be far enough advanced to do without one.

The Siamese are also wonderfully addicted to custom. Whatever their
fathers have done they must do, how ridiculous soever that may be.
"_Pen tumneum thai_,"--it is Siamese custom, is sufficient reason for
doing anything. It is seldom that a Siamese can be drawn into an
argument, even on religion. They will generally assent to everything
the missionary says, and will reply, "Your religion is no doubt much
better than ours, but it would be contrary to custom to abandon our
religion in this life; in the next life we will embrace Christianity."
Apostasy from Budhism too, is one of their unpardonable sins.

One of the greatest obstacles to the spread of the Gospel amongst the
heathen is, the ungodly example of those who have been brought up in
Christian countries, and who unfortunately bear the Christian name.
Every port open to commerce is overrun with adventurers from western
countries. So few of them have any religion at all, that the heathen
are unable to make any distinction. Many too, who have professed
religion, when they come to the East manifest no vital godliness, and
soon abandon themselves to every imaginable vice. Most of the official
representatives sent out by western governments are either avowed
infidels, or men of no moral character. All these things are against
us. The Siamese have frequently said to me, "Why do you offer us your
religion, whilst those in our midst, who have been brought up in that
religion, are no better than we, and are even more abandoned? True,
you missionaries do not engage in those vices to which the others are
addicted, but religion is your business. You are paid for it." It will
also be found that all such characters are opposed to Christian
missions, and missionaries in general, and are ever ready to bear
testimony against them.

I have often thought that a few such business men as George H. Stuart,
who carry religion into business and every-day life, would do more in
the East in converting the heathen, than a host of missionaries. It is
not however, "By might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the

In view therefore, of all these obstacles and difficulties, we appeal
to all true Christians for their sympathies and prayers for the
success of this great work which God has committed to his Church.


Transcriber's Note:

Archaic spellings have been retained, but obvious typographic errors
have been corrected. Otherwise the author's spelling of non-English
words, including tone marks, has been preserved as printed, even when
inconsistent, e.g. Birmah vs. Burmah.

Use of double capital letters in HLuang appears to be intentional by
the author, to represent the digraph in the Thai spelling of the word,
and as such has been preserved as is.

Ditto marks in lists have been replaced with the appropriate text.

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