Siam (Thailand) Literature

By | December 17, 2021

Siamese literature shows, like all civilization, evident and very profound signs of Indian influences: Sanskrit literature has provided, through the Khmer, most of the models to Thai writers for profane works, while Pali literature has inspired religious works. Pāli is after all the sacred language of Siamese Buddhism, and King Chulalongkorn had the Tipi ṭ aka Pāli published in Siamese characters in 1893.

The oldest extant monument in Thai language is the inscription of King Ram-Khampheng, from 1292, which with its alliterations and assonances has become the model of artistic prose. A little later a manuscript is believed that under the title of Book of the three places deals with heaven, earth and hell and expounds the Buddhist doctrine. The Pathomma Somphotiyan, the official life of the Buddha, is linked to religion. The Phra Ruang Maxims and the Rules for the Conduct of Kings, a work translated from the Pāli, belong to the gnomic literature.

Siamese prose is rich in mythological and pseudo-historical narratives, of Indian origin, tales of the Buddha’s previous existences, and also of Javanese sources; the Ramakien, for example, comes from the Ramayana. During the reign of Phra Narai, works were also translated from French and Latin: among other things, the Imitation of Christ and Quintus Curtius. The historical literature has no great value, scientifically speaking: there are the Annals of the North, the Annals of Ayudhya and the Lives of the Four Kings, which go as far as the death of Mongkut, but are full of legendary news; nor are the Memories of greater valueof Nang Nopamat for the period before the founding of Ayudhya, and the Testimony of Khun Luang Ha Wat, which goes from the founding of Ayudhya to its destruction (1350-1767). Numerous legal works, which for the most ancient period expound and carry out the Dharma ś astra and the Laws of Manu. For Thailand 2010, please check

Poetry has always had numerous lovers: of the forms in use, one is based mainly on the alternation of the tones of the words, another makes use of a complicated system of rhymes, finally another, very widespread and dedicated to songs of love, is made up of two stanzas of four lines of eight syllables. Among the poets are especially renowned King Trailok (1448-1488) to whom we owe the novel in verse Phra Law, Phra Maharajagru and his son Sri Praj who lived in the time of King Phra Narai, Sunthorn Bhu, which flourished in the early century. XIX and author of gnomic verses, and the contemporary Kru Deb.

Dramatic literature has always enjoyed great favor: two sister princesses wrote in the 9th century. XVIII two plays inspired by the Javanese legend of Inao ; other dramas are inspired by Indian legends (Ramakien, Nala, etc.) or Siamese history.

In recent times, translations from Chinese (History of the Three Realms, etc.) and Western literatures, especially English, have multiplied: Rama VI translated Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night or What Jou Will.

Moreover, all the latest kings have dedicated their ideals to literature, imitated by many royal princes, among which Prince Damrong deserves special mention, to whom numerous historical and archaeological works are owed.

Siam (Thailand) Literature