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Cornell University Library 
CN 1220.B32 

On some Siamese Inscriptions. 

3 1924 022 989 325 

B Cornell University 
f Library 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 


By Dr. A. Bastian. 


On some Siamese Inscriptions. — By Dr. A. BASTiAif. 
[Received 12fch May, 1864.— Head 1st Jane, 1864.] 

Of the Indo-Cliinese alphabets, the most interesting one is that of the 
Siamese. The others, as those of the Camhodian, the Lao, the Shan, 
the Talein, &c., are all derived, more or less directly, fi-om the Pali 
characters, which connect them with the circular alphabets ofSouth India 
and the vernacular Singhalese. The Siamese flows more immediately 
from the Sanscrit and has, for instance, preserved the three sibilants, 
whereas there is only one in the Pali and its cognate languages. For 
a great many of those terms, which all the Buddhistic literatures of 
eastern India have purloined from the Pali, the Siamese possesses two 
forms, one taken from the original Sanscrit, and the other modified by 
its passage through the medium of the Pali. In writing the sacred 
books of the Trai-Pidak, the Siamese do not employ their vernacular 
letters, but have borrowed the Pali ones from the Cambodians, and 
call them therefore Akson (Aklcara) Khom or Khamen letters. The 
Birmese use only one alphabet, (with the single exception of the square 
characters), whereas the Laos and Cambodians have varied a little the 

4 I On some Siamese Inscriptions. 


forms of their Pali alphabet for profane uses, but have never employed 
two distinct alphabets, as has been the case in Siam. The introduction 
of the Pali alphabet in Ultra-India, is connected everywhere with the 
arrival of Biiddhaghosa, the Brahmin of Maghada, who visited Ceylon 
to translate^ the Atthakatha, but the invention of their vernacular 
alphabet is ascribed by the Siamese to their favourite king Phra- 
Ruang, whose exact date is a great point of controversy amongst them. 
In the Phongsavadan Mdang nua, or the history of the northern towns, 
it is said, that Phaya Huang, (who was carried by his kite to foreign 
lands, like the Raja of Dewaju), invented for the nations, subjected to 
his rule, the Xieng thai (Siamese strokes or letters), the Xieng mon 
(Peguan letters), the Xieng khom (Cambodian letters), and the now 
unusual employment of the word Xieng (inclined or oblique) seems 
£o have reference to the straight and angular shape of the Siamese 
letters, (recdling the ancient alphabets of the Bugis and Battas in the 
Eastern Archipelago), in contradistinction to the circular one of the 
Pali. But without going farther into the claims of Phaya Ruang to 
the invention of the alphabet, a subject which would require a disser- 
tation by itself, I shall lay before you the translation of an old stone- 
inscription, found at Sukhothai, (the ancient capital of Siam during the 
reign of Phaya Ruang and before him,) and placed at present in the 
palace of Bangkok, by the order of the reigning king. You will see 
that the king mentioned in it under the name of Ramkhamheng, 
assigns to himself the honour of having invented the written character, 
which he, (a very interesting circumstance,) calls Lai-su. The present word 
for books in the Siamese language is l^fangsd, pronounced by a fanciful 
whim and against all rules of Siamese grammar, as Nong-sH. Nang-sti 
means verbally the writing on skins (nang), and thus illustrates in a strik- 
ing way, the old traditions of the Lawa, Karen, &c., regarding the former 
existence of parchment books, and it appears that the Siamese a 
people of quite recent growth, as they could not understand the reason 
for the appellation, gave intentionally a different pronunciation, al- 
though they retained the original spelling, a manner of proceeding, 
which could be illustrated by many similar examples in the Siamese 
language. The other term Lai-sH, " would, according to the same 
analogy, mean writing in (various) colours, or writing in stripes." A 
Chinese officer who visited Cambodia in the year 1295, says of the 

JounrtAs 3oc: Bengal. Vol.XXXlVFtl.PlW 




Nok lx>ph lorth sat. 


^^ lj)A?p ^ 



3p ^G^Cfy^ 


Te dhfljmmAi Jutvppaj hha^)w 
Ytsnnijhetum taffiMldiato lihxi 
Te- ?orga' yo nirodhp mariu 
Cithi' maha samanoti 



I ^ 03-^ 2L oc=» 2/ 2y 



On some Siamese Inscriptions. 5 

literary sect, which, according to his accounts, then existed in the coun. 
try, " Their hooks and public records are written on buck-skin dyed 
black, and cut into the required dimensions. They work down a paste, 
resamhling the China white lime. Of this they form little sticks, and 
taking one into the hand, like a pencil, form characters, which can 
never be effaced." He must mean the black books, still in use, amongst 
the Birmese, Siamese and Cambodians, on which they write with a 
soft chalk-stone. In the convents they employ wooden tablets, cover- 
ed with a black varnish, on which the writing of the boys, who trace 
the letters for exercise, can be easily blotted out, and the same material 
is used afresh. For docuinents and memorials, these black books are 
at present made of vegetable substances like ,the white paper books, 
and afterwards covered over with a black varnish. The writing is, 
however, far from being indelible, and can be effaced without difficulty. 
If the book is written full and not required to be kept^ the leaves 
(folded up in zigzag,) are rubbed over with a preparation of burnt peas 
and charcoal, and then used again, as if new. In especially valuable 
books, the letters, for appearance' sake, are traced with a yellow dye, 
a preparation from gamboge, on a smoothly varnished surface, but 
gradually crumble off and become illegible, because the fluid does not 
enter into chemical composition with the material of the substratum. 
The white books are written on with Chinese ink. On the leaves of 
the Talipoin-palm the letters are traced with an iron style. The 
change from parchment to paper took place very likely in the rigorous 
times of Buddhism, when the pious priests would not allow the killing 
of animals to carry on its fabrication. 

The inscription, translated here, is written in an ancient kind of 
character, differing from the present one. The vowels are still written 
in one line with the consonants, and the diacritical points of the mo- 
dem alphabet are mostly dispensed with. The complicated system of 
accentuation in the Siamese of to-day, has developed itself only gra- 
dually, and can be traced bac|j; in old books to that simplicity, which 
still reigns in the ruder dialects of the Laos, and makes them unintel- 
ligible to the polished ear of the low-landers. I was enabled by the 
help of some learned friends in Bangkok to extract the anticyaated 
alphabet of the inscription, but have not brought it yet to the state of 
perfection, which would be desirable for publication. The first lines 

6 On soine Siamese Inscriptions. 

jn the commencement of the inscription, are to be found in the book 
about Siam by Sir John Bowring, to whom the king had sent it, and 
as the form of the letters can be looked for there (Vol. I. p. 278), I 
abstain from giving specimens. 

Two other stone-inscriptions from the neighbourhood of 'Xiengmai, 
which were obtained by me in Bangkok, are wiitten likewise in an 
ancient character, related to that of the inscription of Sukhothai, 
although differing in many particulars. Both speak of royal offerings 
and the deposition of relics to establish the sacred period of 5000 years, 
in terms similar to those employed by the Birmese king Mentara, but 
I have not yet advanced far enough in the explanation of the cha- 
racters to translate the whole of them. Even the present translation, 
which I offer here, is still a verj' imperfect one, but whenever I was at 
a fault to make out a satisfactory explanation, I was sure to find the 
best informed Siamese in the same predicament. The inscription of 
Sukhothai covers the four sides of a conical stone, and in the same 
court of Vat Keoh in the royal palace at Bangkok, is placed at its 
side, another s'tone, which was brought from Kampheng-phet and bears 
a Pali inscription. Besides these, stone inscriptions are found in the 
Siamese province of Ligor, and at the old pagoda of Pathomma-chedi 
at Nakhon-Xaisi, where also brick medallions are disinterred, resem- 
bling those of Tagoung and other localities, and containing the con- 
fessional formula of the Buddhists. 

I have added for comparison, a few specimens of several inscriptions, 
which I copied at length from the stone monuments in Cambodia. 
The ancient characters, called Ahson Mihng, abound chiefly at Nakhon 
Tom, but are found also at Nakhon Vat, intermixed ivith inscriptions 
of modern date. They are believed by the natives to be wholly unintel- 
ligible, but seemingly -without real foundation, as I have already suc- 
ceeded, by consulting the more intelligent members of the priesthood, 
in decyphering the names of gods, kings and towns, mentioned in them. 

Some characters in ancient Devanagari, (resembling the Bengal 
inscriptions of the 12th century,) I found at the side of Cochin Chi- 
nese letters on a sepulchre in the plain of tombs at Saigon, a town 
which belonged for some time to the kingdom of Chiampa. The 
sepulchre was that of a priest and the Cochin Chinese Buddhists 
on such occasions, sometimes mix their writings with fanciful letters of 
their own invention, and intersperse them with Chinese characters 

On some Siamese Inscriptions. - 7 

Translation or the Sukhothai Inscription. 
" My father was called Siiiitharatthija, my niotlier, lady (naiig) Suang, 
my elder brother, Ban-Muang. I had of the same mother (womh), 
five brothers and sisters, three being brothers and two sisters. Of my 
elder brothers, the eldest died and departed at a time, when I was still 
young. When I became large and grown up to about nineteen, the 
chieftain (Khun) Samxou of the " myang" (toivn or country) Xot 
came up to the place of " myang'' Tak. My father went to attack 
Khun Samxon and fight him on the outworks of his camp. Khun 
Samxon does not delay, he comes forth from the camp. Khun Samxon 
spread out his troops, covering the opun plains of the fields and chased 
my father, who fled hastily, being defeated. I do not fly. I (ku) 
mount the elephant, rushing on upon the army. I push on before my 
father ; I close with Khun Samxon ; I myself throw down the elephant 
of Khun Samxon, mounted on which he had come up to the town. 
Khun Samxon is defeated ; he is beaten and takes to flight, jumping 
on a, horse. My father then raised my title, I was called Phra Ram 
Kamheng (the courageous Lord Rama), because I had thrown down 
the elephant of the chieftain Samxon. All the time of my father's 
life, I gave support to my father ; I gave support to my mother ; I 
procured the flesh of stags and fishes ; I brought them up to my father. 
I procured fresh areca, sweet areca, which I had tasted myself to be 
savoury, tasted myself to be good ; I bring this up to my father. I 
set out against the savages, the tribes provided with elephants, to 
obtain slaves for my father. I fall on their villages, on flieir towns. 
I get elephants, get tusks ; I get males and females ; I get silver ; I get 
gold ; I biing it all up with me and deliver it over to my father. Then 
my father dies. There is still an elder brother. I give support to my 
elder brothei^n the way, as I had supported my father. M}' elder 
brother dies. Now the towns come to me, all the four towns. Of all 
these towns of mine, of me, the father-benefactor (Pho-Khun) Ram- 
khamheng, this town here, the town of Sukhotay excels. The waters 
are full of fish, in the field grows rice. The Lord of the town does 
not exact any duties, he does not tax the people. Undisturbed they 
go along the roads, leading oxen to trade in them, mounting horses to 
trade in them. If they ■\\ish and desire to trade in elephants, let them 
do so. They may trade in them in the same way, as they are used to 

8 On some Siamese Inscriptions. 

trade in horses or in cattle. If they should like to ttade in silver, ' 
trade in gold, trade in slaves, they are free to do so. Let them fearlessly 
transact their business before the face of the lords, before the host of 
princes and young nobles. If death occurs, the property of the father 
goes to his sons, of whatever it may consist. His children, his wives, 
his servants, his slaves, the fruit-gardens of betel and areca, all and 
every thing, what the father possessed, is inherited by his son. When- 
ever disputes arise between the common people and members of the 
nobility, they will be examined into and decided with justice, both 
parties being equally regarded as subjects. The judge must not side 
with the person who clandestinely steals and defrauds. He must not 
harm the property of the litigants and take from it by his greediness. 
Whenever traders to buy or sell come in companies to visit the town, 
let them come. Such as wait for me at the northern frontier, requir- 
ing my assistance, shall have it. If they are in want of elephants, or 
of horses, or of slaves, or of money, it will be given to them. After 
the goods have been stapled* up in 1;he town and stored, there will be 
made an election of slaves and a rejection of slaves. Such as are 
clever in spearing, clever in fighting, shall not be killed, neither shall 
they be beaten. There is under the portico a bell hung up for the use 
of the people, the royal subjects, in the centre of each village, in the 
centre of each town. If in quarrels or injuries of any kind, they wish 
to spjak their mind before the lord or complain to the nobleman, it is 
not dif&cult. They go and ring the beU, which has been hung up 
■ there for «;,hem. The father-benefactor Ramkhamheng, the father 
(sovereign) of the country, takes it up, he has the matter enquired 
into and the names of the parties searched out. 

" Furthermore in this city of Sukhotay there are planted orchards 
of areca-palms and betel-vines, all over the town. Ofr every place 
there ^are groves of cocoanut trees in great abundance. In this town 
are parks of the resin tree and plenty of them. In this town are' mangoes 
BiUd plenty of them. In this town are tamarinds and plenty of them. 
In this town there is liberty to build and plant for whosoever wishes. 
In the middle of this town ot Sukhotay there is a stone basin with 
a bubbling fountain, the water is clean and clear and good to, drink 
without being distilled, clear like the water of the Ganges (khongka). 
* Sic in MSS. Qm'i-y [secured] ? — Eds. 

On some Siamese Inscriptions. 9 

There is a river, which surrounds this town of Sukhotay in three 
windings, even at the dry season, two thousand four hundred fathoms 
in extent. The people in this town of Sukhotay are addicted to alms- 
givings, are addicted to observe the precepts, are addicted to make 
offerings. The father-benefactor Ramkhamheng, the sovereign of this 
town of Sukhotay, he with all his ladies, with the host of lords, all 
men and women, the whole of the princely race, the sons of nobles, all 
males and females, as many as there are, the whole multitude, all of 
them, persevere piously in the religion of Phra-Phuth (Buddha). 
They keep the precepts during the time of Lent, every one of them. 
When the rainy season is concluded, they celebrate the processions to 
throw presents to the priests during one month, and then it is finished. 
To solemnize this festival, they contribute artificial fruits ; they collect 
the fruits of areca ; they bring flowers ; they bring cushions ; they will 
reap the fruits of meritorious rewards. Those who present cushions, 
will sleep on costly canopy couches. The variety of the presents in 
multifarious patterns, heaped up by royal command and by the com- 
mon folks, are innumerable, glittering in such quantities that they 
cannot be counted ; they block up all places, filling e^ery spot. The 
lines of presents extend in piles beyond the precincts of. the town till 
to the outskirts of the jungle. If they have to be transported inside 
the palace, there is one uninterrupted mass of goods stretching around, 
before and behind, from the jungle outside. Then in prayijjg and 
ejaculating pious words, the air resounds with the clashing of voices, 
with the echo of voices, in the passing and repassing of*roices, with 
singing voices. According to every one's liking, he who feels inclined 
and vsdshes to gamble, may gamble ; who feels inclined to play, may 
play ; who feels inclined to promenade, may walk about. In this town 
of Sukhotay there are excellent singers with melodious voices. At 
the height of the festival the people use to come in in crowds, jostling 
each other and eager to look on, how they light up the fire-works and 
let them off. This town of Sukhotay contains a gong, split in halves. 
This town of Sukhotay possesses a temple ; possesses a statue of Bud- 
dha, 18 cubits high ; possesses a large image of Buddha ; possesses a 
holy convent ;*'possesses aged teachers ; possesses a high priest. To the 
west of the town of Sukhotay there is a jungle-monastery (of hermits). 
The father, benefactor Ramkhamheng bestows alms on the high priest 

10 On some Siamese Inscriptions. 

(Maha-thero or the great Thero). Amongst the aged teachers there is 
a learned one, who has read through the Pidok in all its three parts. 
He is the head of the trihe of savans, excelling above all others in this 
town of Sukhotay, and there is none like him, from the town of 
Srithammarat to here. In the midst of the jungle there is a monas- 
tery. It is very large and roomy and exceedingly beautiful. At the 
eastern side of this town of Sukhotay there is a monastery with vene- 
rable professors ; there is a royal lake ; there is a forest of areca-palms 
a,nd betel-vines ; there are fields and cultivated tracts ; there are home- 
steads with gardens ; there are houses, large and small ; there is a forest 
of mangoe trees ; a forest of tamarinds handsome to look at and care- 
fully kept. At the south of the town of Sukhotay there is a market 
and a school-room ; there is the palace ; there is a forest of cocoa-palms, 
a forest of thorny areca ; there are fields and cultivated tracts ; there 
are homesteads and gardens ; there are houses, large and small. To 
the north of the town of Suldiotay, there is a convent with the cells 
of venerable teachers, who live by alms ; there is a pretty lake with 
plenty of fish ; there are plantations of cocoa-palms, plantations of 
resin trees, plantations of mangoes and tamarinds ; there is water in 
a cistern. There is also the lord Khaphung, the demon-angel, who 
is the mightiest in that mountain and above every other demon. In 
this country every one of the nobles reverences the town of Sukhotay, 
and observes the rules of adoration in his worship, paying homage. 
This town is an upright one. This town stands well with the demons. 
If mistakes «-e committed in the worship, if the sacrifice is not correct, 
ihe demons in yonder mountain do not guard and protect the town ; 
they disappear. 

When the era was dated 1214, in the year of the dragon, the father- 
benefactor Kamkhamheng, the sovereign of this count^ (town) of 
Sisatxanalai- Sukhotay planted a palm tree, and after nineteen rice 
crops had gone by, he ordered the workmen to prepare the smooth 
surface of a stone, which was fastened and secured on the middle of 
the trunk of the palm tree. In the (fays of the dark moon, at the 
beginning and at the end, for eight days, and on the days of the full 
moon and the quarters, the s^sembly of the aged teachers and the 
priests ascend the surface of the stone to rest ; and the whole circle of 
pious laymen accomplish the holy law in remembering and observing 

On some Siamese Inscriptions. 11 

tlie victorious precepts. The father-benefactor Kamkhamheng, the 
sovereign of the country of Sitxanalai-Sukhotay, ascending to the 
surface of the stone, sat down ; and the host of the lords and the sons 
of. the nobles, the whole multitude, paid homage to him for their vil- 
lages, paid homage for their towns. On the first and the last day of 
the dark moon, on the extinguished moon, and at the full moon, the 
white elephant was adorned in its trappings of costly gold, as it has 
always been the custom to do. Its name is Kuchasi. The father- 
benefactor Ramkhamheng, having mounted on its back, proceeds to 
worship the image of Phra-Phuth in the jungle. He has brought 
forth the engravings from the town of Xolajong, to place them in the 
foundation, together with the glorious relics, the jewels holy and 
splendid from the cave on the source of the waters, the cave on the 
river's bank, from the precious fountain in the middle of the palm 
forest. Of the two halls, the one is called the golden, the other 
the strength of the protecting Buddha. The flat stone, called 
Manang-sila, in the form of an alms-bowl, is placed (as Dagob) above 
the relics, to close the foundation formed by the stone. Then all men 
saw and acknowledged, that the father-benefactor Ramkhamheng, son 
of the fatber-benefactor Sinitharathiya, had become king in the coun- 
try Sri Satxanalai-Sukhotay and over the Ma-kao, the Lao and the 
Thay ; over all towns, below and above, under the vault of heaven. 

All the inhabitants of the mountain U, the dwellers on the banks 
of the river, were called out in the year of the pig, when the era dated 
1209. They were ordered to dig and take out the holy relics. Hav- 
ing come upon them and seen them, they made offerings and worship- 
ped the holy relics. At a favourable day of the sixth month, they 
took them ojjt and brought them, to be buried in the centre of the 
town of Sisatxanalai. A pagoda was placed upon them and stone- 
towers were erected in a circle around the holy relics. 

Then three years went by. In former times there was no written 
character of the Thai. Wben,the era dated 1205, in the year of the 
horse, the father-benefactor Ramkhamheng, having consulted with the 
learned teachers, established the letters of the alphabet for the Thai, 
which exist since that time, when the king arranged them for, use. 
Then it was, that the father-benefactor Ramkhamheng became verily 
the king and royal lord to all the Thai, because then veiily he became 

12 On soine Siamese Inscriptions. 

their teacher and instructor, enlightening the Thai, that they might 
know truly the merits and understand the law. But amongst the 
people, living in this country of the Thai, there is nobody equal in 
regard to firmness and boldness, in regard to courage, pre-eminence 
and strength, equally powerful to overcome the host of enemies. 

The country stretches far and wide, being enlarged by conquests. 
On the aide of sunrise, it extends to the royal lake, stretching in two 
lines through the low grounds along the banks of the river Khong 
(Mekhong), up to Viengchan and Viengkham, which two forts have 
been placed there to form the boundary posts. On the south side jt 
comprises the people who inhabit the district Phrek in Suphanna- 
phumiratbuii, the boundary line being marked by Petchaburi and 
Srithammarat on the shores, which are washed by the waters of the 
sea. On the side of sunset, it extends to the countries of Xot and 
Bangkapa4J, and there are no frontiers along the waters of the ocean. 
In a northerly direction it comprises the town of Phleh (Pre), the 
town of Nahn, the town Phlua, stretching to the banks of the 
large river, where the country of the Xava (Xao) constitutes the 
boundary. There are eatables cultivated in this territory, that the 
multitude of villagers and citizens may be provided with food, as it 
is right and just, according to the laws of line men." ■ , 

The discussion of the many important points, alluded to in this in- 
teresting inscription, I must leave for another occasion. It has been 
remarked above, that this truly enlightened king, under whom, the 
people might with more propriety than now, have been styled " the free" 
(Thai), appears to be identical with the famous Phra Ruang, (at least 
with one of the different representatives of this name). The Siamese 
chronicles place his reign generally in the seventh century, but the 
Peguan history confirms his having reigned at about the epoch here 
mentioned, which has to be reckoned most probably in the Mahasak- 
kharat : if not, as the era appears to be counted backwards, it begins 
with the holy period of 5000 years. The first king of Siam makes 
the date of the inscription 1193 of the Christian era.- The town of 
Sul^hothay is one of the oldest capitals of Siam and continually cele- 
brated in the Phongsavadan muang nua, where one of the Brahmini- 
cal ancestors is called by the name of Satxanalai. The town of Tak 

On some Siamese Inscriptions. 13 

lies now in ruins, in the neighbourhood of the present Kahiein, and 
belonged to the kingdom founded in Kampengpet. The mentioning 
of the ocean, in defining the frontiers there, recalls the traditions of 
the Taleins ; and Sukhothai itself is said to have been formerly a sea- 
port. According to the Siamese legends, Phra-Kuang sailed from it 
to conquer China (Krung Chin), in the same year in which the Chinese 
historians (616 P. D.) speak of a tribute brought from Siam. The 
mythic traditions of the Damdiikban place the residence of Phaya 
Kuang in Nophburi or Lophburi, the ancient capital of the aboriginal 
occupants of the soil, before the emigration of the Thai. The demon- 
worship, mentioned in the inscription, continues still in various forms 
in all Buddhistic countries, and the processions to make presents to the 
priesthood may still be seen repeated every year at Bangkok, in the 
way here described. The presents are called Kathin, on account of 
their variegated components, in remembrance of the checkered gar- 
ments of the monks, which, according to the founder's institution, had 
to be sown together in incongruous patchwork. The royal custom of 
hanging up a bell, which might be rung by complainants seeking access, 
occurs also in the history of Hongsavadi and is known all over the 
orient. From the remark, that the stone placed over the relics had 
the form of an alms-bowl (batr), one would have to conclude, that the 
shape of the Dagoba is only indirectly connected with the lotus it is 
supposed to represent. In Cambodia, one often sees pots with bones 
and ashes of priests, placed under the Pho-tree, the peepul. , The town 
of Xalang is perhaps Jonk-Ceylon (the shipping of Ceylon), a place 
formerly in intimate connection with the island of Ceylon, where 
relics were cheap as mushrooms. The places mentioned to define the 
boundaries of^^e kingdom, are all still in existence, and can be easily 
traced by the directions given. The kidnapping of the mountaineers 
to carry on the slave-trade is still continued at the present day by the 
Laos. The northern trade, the inscription speaks of, may have been in 
the hands of Chinese merchants,»and the king promises them, (as pro- 
tection for their valuable cargoes), a safe conduct through the territory 
occupied by hostile and predatory tribes. The years are counted by 
crops of rice, as it is often done by the present Siamese, who at otJier 
times employ the enumeration of the yearly inundations in their 
reckonings. The names given to the years are those of the Dodecade. 

14 On some Siamese Inscriptions. 

It is said in Siamese history, that Phra Kuang changed the successian 
of the series, in which the two cycles intersected each other, and since 
that time the Siamese have continued to observe two festivals of the 
new year. 

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