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Full text of "The late King Chulalongkorn"

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The original of tiiis book is in 
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the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924023108925 



The Late 



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King Chul^longkorn. 



By U. TEANKPURTEK, I'h. D. 



(Rupriututl Irom the Joufual of tho Siatn Society — Vol. VI.L., I'art 2.) 



BANGKOK 



1911. 






%^'- :-(/\ 






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-(I)- 
The Late King Chulalongkorn, 



On 23rd October, 1910, H. M. the King Chulalongkorn 
died after a reign of 42 years in the 58th year of his age. 
It will be the duty of abler pens than ours to give an account 
of what Siam owes to the deceased monarch in regard to the position 
she now fills in the rank of nations. It may not, however, be 
deemed inopportune if from a sense of gratitude and duty this 
Society records what Siam owes to this monarch from a literary 
point of view, especially as, encouraged by his august example, it 
has also tried to investigate the ai-ts, science and literature in regard 
to the country over which he reigned. 

The son of King Mongkut, a monarch who during the years 
he remained in the priesthood and during his reign had learned to 
appreciate the benefits which his country would derive from the 
influence of western culture on the civilisation of the East, the 
young prince was brought up under this beneficent rule. By it the 
King was guided when he came to the throne in initiating the 
education of his people also in the material sciences of the West. 
He knew that it was necessary for Siam to adopt some of the forms 
of European culture, with which she Was brought into daily contact^ 
and hence his desire that his own sons and the sons of those with 
whom to a certain extent the future government of the country 
would rest, should make acquaintance with western civilization. 
It was also due to his initiative that the schools were reformed 
and a sense of duty and patriotism instilled in the youth of the 
country. 

Akeady in the time of King Mongkut a Government Gazette- 
had been issued at somewhat irregular intervals, in which the King 
made his officials acquainted with government work, and this 
Gazette was continued in regular form weekly by King (Ihulalong- 
horn, aBd'the volumes so issued form historical Documents of the 
greatest importance. It may be mentioned that whilst the first 
Tolunie, issued in 1874, contained with a reprint of the old laws etc., 438 
quarto pages, the issue of 1909 contained 1504 quarto pages besides 
reports. In addition to this Gazette the King ordered the different 



-( II )- 

tniiiistrios to issue regular reports on the working of the depart- 
ments under their control, and from their study a true account of 
the progress of Siam may be had,*as no trouble was taken to repre- 
sent matters other than in their true light. The historical sense by 
which the King was always animated guided him in this respect. 

Printing, which only played a comparatively unimportant 
part in the reign of King .Vlongkut, under whom it may be said to 
have been first introduced, was extensively used and through the 
King's initiative the government issued some of the best literature of 
Siam. All these early editions have become very rare. As unfor- 
tunately no second edition was printed by government, other printinsr 
presses reprinted them, and this they did without critical insight. 
It is known that on the hundredth anniversary of the establishment 
of Bangkok as capital the direct descendants of Phra Buddha Jot 
Fa, the founder of the present dynasty, the children of King 
Mongkut established the Library which was called by the name 
King Mongkut held whilst in the Priesthood the "^ Vajiranau." This 
library was afterwards constituted by the King with the unanimous 
-consent of the other members of the Royal family as the !N"ationaI 
Library, in memory of the 100th birthday of King Mongkut. It 
considered it its aim to make generally known and preserve the 
sacred, historical and profarte literature of Siam, and in its 
constitution the names of tnree Sovereigns of Siam are unitetl 
inasmuch as the present King as Crown Prince was elected the first 
President. In connection with this library formerly a Literary 
Magazine was issued to which King Chulalongkorn frequently 
contributed, and many articles written by King Mongkut were 
printed in it, and these are a mine of wealth for the student ot* 
Siamese history and literature. 

Quite apart from the fact that King Mongkut may be said 
to have originated modern Siamese prose, these articles are and 
■always will remain a norm of Siamese style, of which both in prose 
and verse King Chulalongkorn remained a past master. The 
ifirst idea of the right of ownership, in literaiy prodifctfons was 
manifested in disallowing articles appearing in the magazine to be 
reprinted, and manj'^ years later a general law on this matter was 
passed, which in the main follows the principles laid , down by the 
Berne convention. 



-( in )- 

As a fit complement to the library the King also instituted 
the Royal Historical Research Society in 1907, whose aim it is 
to collect, preserve and eventiially make known for future genera- 
tions as much as possible copies of foreign as well as domestic 
documents showing the relations of Siam with foreign countries as 
well as those having reference to purely domestic affairs. The first 
work issued under the auspices of this Society was a commentary 
written by the late King on the diary kept by the Princess Kroui 
Hluang Narindrdevi. 

The King also allowed the letters which he addressed to his 
daughter on his last journey to Europe to be published. The style 
in all publications of the King was straight and to the point. There 
was no straining after effect, and they may be considered as 
examples of the best Siamese style. Foreign words were only used 
if they were better able to convey the sense than the corresponding 
words in Siamese, and it may be sincerely hoped that at a no very 
distant date the King's literary remains both in prose and in verse 
may see the light. 

Under King Mongkut treaties were first made with foreign 
nations, and the King considerediit his duty to make Siam better 
known throughout the world by sending for the first time exhibits 
to the International Exhibition in Paris. ' This policy was con- 
tinued in the reign of King Chulalongkorn, and he thought it 
a fit memorial of the centenary of the foundation of Bangkok as 
capital to open an exhibition at which Siamese art, industry, 
science and commerce were displayed^ and at the same time institut- 
ing a permanent Museum. At nearly all international exhibitions 
Siam was worthily represented and a permanent commission was 
instituted of which the present King was made President. 

The yearly agricultural exhibitions were due to the initiative 
of the deceased monarchy as he rightly thought that by competition 
and rewaft-ds he would rouse the latent energy of his people. 

We have hitherto only dwelt on the literary side of the 
King's character from a secular standpoint, and it remains to add a 
few words about the position he felt he had to occupy as a Buddhist 



-( IV ]- 

sovereign. He issued after completion of a reign of 25 years the 
editio princeps of the Tipitaka, and in truly kingly generosity had 
it distributed amongst the literary institutions in Siam and foreign 
countries. 

Preparations were in active progress to issue also the com- 
mentaries to the Tipitaka^ and it was intended that they should be 
printed in ancient Cambodian characters, whilst the Tipitaka had 
been printed in SiamesS characters. For the commentaries a new 
fount has been in active preparation. The King died, but one of the 
first acts of His successor on the throne was to give ordei-s to con- 
tinue with the work, and thus in Siam will be issued within a shoi^t 
time the whole of the Buddhist scriptures, a work redounding" to the 
fame of the two sovereigns with whom it is connected. 



0. rEANKFURTER. 



Library ol G«orga B. Mo Garland