Siam (Thailand) Religion and Language

By | December 17, 2021


The official religion is Buddhism, which entered Siam around the century. VII and flourished to become the religion of the state starting from the century. XII. The king is the supreme protector of religion and appoints its high dignitaries; monastic life is very flourishing and here too the custom of spending at least one season in a convent is common. There are numerous monasteries (more than 17,000, of which 16,970 belonging to the Maha nikaya sect or “great congregation”, in 1934) and temples (17,075, according to a statistic from 1933). For Thailand religion, please check

With the middle of the century. XVI the first Catholic, Franciscan and Dominican missions also began to arrive in Siam; However, despite his desire, St. Francis Xavier was unable to go there, impeded by death. In 1606 the first mission of the Society of Jesus arrived. But the merit of Catholic evangelization in Siam goes above all to the French Lambert and Pallu, of the Society of the Paris missions, who after having encountered many difficulties and after an adventurous and very hard journey to land and sea, through Asia Minor and India, they reached Ajuthia in 1662 and 1664 respectively, where they found the church already founded by the Portuguese. In 1669 (4 July) the foundation of the apostolic vicariate takes place, by the work of Pope Clement IX.

The vicariate itself went through various events (in 1840-41 the diocese of Malacca was also under it; until 1899 Laos was also part of it) until the ecclesiastical hierarchy had the current system, which includes the apostolic vicariate of Bangkok (name assumed from 3 December 1924), entrusted to the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and the apostolic prefecture (28 May 1934) of Rajaburi (former mission, founded on 30 June 1930) entrusted to the Salesians. Northern Siam, on the other hand, is ecclesiastically dependent on the apostolic vicariate of Laos. The work of the missionaries was hindered by the attachment of the population to Buddhism and by frequent persecutions in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was easier in the century. XIX, but national sentiment means that the great majority of the population, and the state, remain faithful to Buddhism. Most of the conversions take place among the fishing tribes and among Chinese emigrants; however, there is also an indigenous clergy.

The reformed missions were quite active in the century. XIX: especially the congregationalist one, established in 1831 by the American Board of commissioners for foreign missions, a member of which, the doctor DE Bradley, made himself meritorious with the beginning of the smallpox vaccination. In 1850 this mission passed to the American Missionary Association, but it did not last long; nor did the Baptist mission carry out great activity since 1833. Greater success was achieved by the Presbyterian mission, founded in 1840, which in 1928 had 14,724 adepts, of which only 8222 were admitted to the sacraments. According to statistics from 1929-30 there are 10,928,426 Buddhists in Siam; 498,311 Muslims and 49,462 Christians. According to data from the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, in 1930 there were 26 Catholics.


The official language of the kingdom of Siam is Siamese (in Siam. Tăĭ ; pasá tăĭ ” Siamese language “). Siamese, together with Lao, Lü and Khun, forms the southern section of the Thai subgroup of the oriental or Sino-Siamese group of the great Indo-Chinese linguistic family (see Indo – Chinese, languages, XIX, pp. 129-131). He knows only monosyllabic words; the plurysyllables are all borrowings from other languages ​​(or from Pāli, which gave a very considerable number of words, especially to the literary and cultured Siamese language, as p asá ” language “⟨pāli bh ās ā, etc., or from modern European languages ​​such as juròp “Europe” ⟨ingl. Europe).

The Siamese has five tones (natural, low, rising, descending, high). It is interesting to observe the relationship between the initial consonant and the tone; words starting with a deaf one (p ‛, k ‛, etc.) have a higher pitch, those starting with a voiced one (b, d) a lower pitch; this agrees perfectly with the conditions supposed by A. Conrady for Tibetan (see Indo – Chinese, languages, XIX, p. 129). The Siamese has neither grammatical gender nor number distinction. The placement of the words is direct (subject, predicate, object); the adjective follows the noun be it attribute or predicate (e.g. nă m ron “hot water” or “the water is hot”). The number system is the decimal one (but in the high style the pāli numbers are also used). The verb is invariable for all persons and does not even distinguish the category of the number; since the subject pronoun is usually omitted, it goes without saying that any verbal form can be interpreted for all persons (eg p ăĭ “to go” means “I go”, “you go”, etc.). When times and modes are not sufficiently indicated by the speech itself, they are expressed with auxiliary verbs and adverbs (eg the past with d ăĭ “to have, to obtain”, or with lä ŏ “already”, the future with djã, etc.). There is no true passive form.

Siamese is written with a special alphabet introduced in 1284 AD. C. The oldest known Siamese inscription dates back to 1292; until a few years ago, even in Siamese prints the words were joined to each other and separated only at the beginning of a new sentence; but now the individual words are generally divided as in our scriptures.

Siam (Thailand) Religion