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happiness and prosperity!

Given at our palace, Parania Raja Sthit
Maholarm, on Tuesday, the nth waning of
the lunar month Migusira, the first month
from the cold season of the year Toh Eka-
sole, 1241 of the Siamese era, corresponding
to the European date 9th of December,
1879 of the Christian era, being the 4046th
day, or 12th year of our reign.

(Manu Regia.)
Chulaloukoru, R. S.

The white or pink-
splashed elephants
are very rare, and in
J '35 2 yearSi between
A. D. 515 and 1867,
only twenty - four
were captured, mak-
ing about one in
every fifty-six years.
The last one was cap-
tured in 1885, and
was conducted to the
court of the King of
Siam by His Royal
Highness, Somdetch
Chowf Mahamalah
Bamrahp Parapako,
mid much parade.
His Majesty accepted
and made the fortu-
nate finder, with his
mother and son, all
poor natives, a pres-
ent of a sum of money.
The Siamese officials
who brought the ele-
phant to Bankok,
were honored with an
audience by His Maj-
esty, and also given
valuable presents.

In former days the
ceremonies attending
the capture of a white
elephant were very impressive. The
discoverer, were he the humblest man
in the kingdom, was immediately made
a mandarin; he was exempted from
taxation for the remainder of his life,
and presented with large sums of
money, the King himself giving him
one thousand dollars. As soon as the
capture was made, a special courier



ARTY KORKS.



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



333




TEMPLE PHO, FROM THE RIVER.



was dispatched to the King, and a
posse of nobles with gifts and robes
started immediately for the scene of
action. The ropes which the captors
used in binding the royal victim were
replaced by cords of scarlet silk.
Mandarins attended to the slightest
wants of the animal. Rich feather
fans with gilt handles were used to
keep the flies from it during the day,
while a silk-embroidered mosquito net
was provided at night. To remove it
to the capital, a boat was built ex-
pressly for the purpose, and a mag-
nificent canopy erected over it, orna-
mented and bedecked as were the
King's palaces. Silk draperies, heavy
with silver and gold, enclosed the
royal prisoner; and in this state he
floated down the river, receiving the
acclamations of the people. When
near the city, the animal was landed,
the King and his court going out to
meet him and escort him to the city,
where a place had been built for him
within the royal palace grounds. A
large tract of land was .set apart for
his country place, chosen from the
best the kingdom afforded. A cabinet
of ministers was appointed, and a
large retinue of nobles to attend to his
wants.

The priest of the King was ap-
pointed to see to the elephant's spirit-



ual needs, and eminent
physicians ministered to his
physical requirements.
Gold and silver dishes were
supplied to leed him from,
and every want was attend-
ed to as became one of the
Royal family. The city
devoted three days to festiv-
ities, and the rich Manda-
rins made it presents.

When a white elephant
died the ceremonies were
the same as those of a King
or Queen. The body lav in
state for several days, and
then it was placed upon a
funeral pyre and cremated.
This pyre often cost thous-
ands of dollars, being made
of the choicest sandal, sassafras, and
other valuable woods. After the body
had been thoroughly cremated, it was
allowed to remain three days more ;
then the ashes were collected, placed




^Ppi



RUINS AT AYI'TIIIA, THE OLD CAPITAL OF SIAM.



334




THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



in costly urns, and
buried in the royal
cemeter)', a mag-
nificent mausole-
um being erected
over the spot.

Though this
country is com-
monly known as
Si am, it is seldom
so called by the
natives them-
selves, nor is the
country so named
in the annals of
the history of the




laud. The word
Siam or Seam, is
of Malay origin,
m e a n i n g brow
brown. Besides
being known as
" The Land of the
White Elephant,"
it is also called
"The Country of
the Kings,"
"TheEandofthe
Lotus," and the
" Venice of the
East," on account
of the large num-
ber of intersect- ^H^^^^^^B
ing canals. By its own people
called "Muang Thai,''" meaning
country."

Siam is an Asiatic kingdom inhab-
ited by a quiet, peace-loving people of
unique manners and customs which
are peculiarly interesting and often
picturesque, owing to their romantic
surroundings and the influence of
ages long since past. The natives,
who are Buddhists, guard their relig-
ious beliefs jealously, and the priests
render the most rigorous devotion to
their temples, altars and idols, which
are simply the material representa-



tions of the characteristics they wor-
ship in their God. They relate cu-
rious tales and legends, handed down
from time immemorial, and believe in
and cherish the superstitions that have
prevailed in their country for hun-
dreds of years. Many believe the
Siamese to be of Malay origin. Euro-
peans regard them as Mongolian, but
it is much more probable that they
belong to that powerful Indo-European
race, whose chief branches are the
Hindoos. Their language is tonal,
having forty-four letters and fourteen
vowels, and it is appropriately called
"The Italian of the East," on ac-
count of its resemblance in sound to
that language. The people generally
are somewhat below the average
height, slight, of lighter complexion
than the Chinese, with the notable
absence of the almond eyes and flat
noses.

The Siamese trace their genealogy
up to the first disciples of Buddha,
and commence their records at least
five centuries before the Christian Era.
But it is only since the establishment
of Ayuthia as the capital of Siam in



free




SIAMKSK ACTORS.



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



335



1350, that history has assumed its
rightful functions, and the course of
events been registered with tolerable
accuracy.

The climate of Siam has an unde-
sirable reputation which has been at-
tached to it through unfortunate cir-
cumstances, but of which it is not
deserving. Many loafers and adven-
turers, who have tried their fortunes
in every part of the globe, and have
miserably failed, make this locality
their last refuge. These people go
there broken down in every sense
of the word ; they frequent drink-
ing shops of the city and resign
themselves to all the indulgences
to which these dens are conducive.
Sooner or later the residents are
startled by the news that a Euro-
pean has died of cholera. The fear-
less sailor exhibits as little judgment
in the neglect of his physical being.
He will, contrary to all advice and re-
monstrance, drink the vilest of ' samshu,
eat unripe fruit and drink river water
to quench his thirst; and the river wa-
ter will in all probability finish him.
In a few hours he is dead of cholera,
and the European community begins
to be alarmed. There is no reason
why they should, for these people
would die of cholera in the healthiest
place in the world if ' ' they flew in the
face of Providence ' ' in the same out-
rageous manner.

Every precaution should be taken
upon arriving in Bankok, the capital,
to make sure that the drinking water
is all right, and see that the cook
plays no tricks with the water used in
cooking. Rain-water should be col-
lected on a clean roof, and stored for
some length of time in the ordinary
red jars of the country before using.
The first showers should not be gath-
ered, as they only serve to clean the
roof. Pure water is a great requisite
for good health ; if that is all right,
half the battle of living in a tropical
country is won.

The great river, Ma Nam Cho Phya,
is the Nile of Siam, usually overflow-
ing in June and covering the whole



vast valley like a sea. Before the
season of inundation, sometimes the
year is marked by the absence of earl v
rains, causing much sickness and anx-
iety. Rice is then scarce and expens-
ive and rendered unfit for market. At
other times the overflow continues too
long, and too much water in this
country is nearly as great a calamity
as too little. State barges are then
sent down the river, containing priesta
who chant and wave wands, com-
manding the water to recede. Often
the water continues to rise, and the
priests are compelled to abandon their
prayers in disgust.

A river festival takes place in the
month of June, called the Loy ECatong.
The festivities are held during the
night, the river at this time present-
ing a fairy-like appearance, and one
could almost imagine the mermaids
and fairies were vying with each other
in gay contributions to this floating
panorama. There are lamps placed
in baskets made of plantain leaves,
decorated with flowers and chaplets.
Small models of boats are built on
rafts formed by young plantains fast-
ened together, also towers, gates and
pagodas, bright with many colored
lights. Men, women and children
throng the river banks, not only to
witness this brilliant scene, but each
one to watch his own little bark with
a single light, float down the rapid
stream and out of sight. Should the
light float away unextinguished, the
omen is a good one, and the owner of
the little chaplet retires contented.
The King participates in the enjoy-
ment of the sight with as much zest
as any of his subjects. The object of
the festival seems to be a test of merit,
though there is no suggestion of seri-
ousness in the dazzling spectacle.

There are many national holidays :
in fact the Siamese have a holiday
about once a week. There is Teep-
ching cha, or swinging holiday, Kroot
cheen, or Chinese New Year, the sea-
son for visiting Phrabat, Buddha's
foot-print, Kroot Tai-Holidays, or
Siamese New Year, Tu nam, or drink-



336



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



ing allegiance, and Song Kraut holi-
days, when the women draw water
to wash the idols, indulging in the
sportive amusement of throwing it
upon each other. This holiday is the
only one in which men and women
throwing off all restraint become as
boys and girls, and hiding behind cor-
ners wait for the unsuspecting to give
him a ducking. The lad who loves
the lassie delights to give his lady-love
a chance to see how skillful he or she
can be, with the use of the bucket or
dipper.

The festival in commemoration of
the birth and death of Buddha is kept
up three days, during which there is
alms-giving, praying and preaching,
accompanied by a display of fireworks.
On Raakna holiday (beginning of seed
time) a Prince is chosen, who, as a
representative of the King, scatters
rice — he being the first one to plant
the seed at the opening of the season.
The various kinds of grain are ex-
posed that the oxen may eat, and



whatever kind they eat the most of
will be most abundant. Then there
are the Kouwasa holidays — ordination
of priests, who wish to oe ordained
for three months only— Nand the Auk
Wasa holidays, when priests leave the
temple presumably to get married. It
is the universal custom that at some
time a man must have been in the
priesthood ; it would be difficult to ob-
tain a wife unless he had been a priest.
The temples, or Wats, of the Siam-
ese priests are many and of great
beauty, containing large idols of all
sizes and being frequented at almost
all times by many worshippers. One
temple, known as Wat Pra Kaw, in
which the emerald idol stands, at-
tracts much attention, and would here
be given more extensive description
did time and space permit. Birth-
days of the King and Crown Prince
are celebrated with great pomp and
display. Feasting, presents, and fire-
works are in great profusion upon
these occasions.

The manner of disposing of the
dead is by cremation. The ceremon-
ies attending death in the Royal fam-
ily are conducted upon an extensive
scale. For weeks and months men
are busy gathering material for a
building, which is especially prepared
for the purpose,
and after the cer-
emonies is torn
down and cast
aside. A stranger
entering the




ROYAL TEMPLE GROUNDS, BANKOK.




EXTERIOR OK PALACE, BANKOK.



grounds or enclosure during funeral
services would be led to think a fair or
exhibition was in progress. There are
booths, artistically decorated by each
male member of the Royal family, con-
sisting of very fine specimens of rare,
curious and choice crockery, fine
needle work brought from other conn-
tries, as well as some of the handy
work of some of the ladies in the
harem. Neither expense nor labor is
stinted. The show connected with
the ceremonies is usually unrivalled,
continuing from three days to an en-
tire week. The removing of the urn
in which the body rests or rather sits,
from the residence to the cremation
building, occurs the first day. A
grand procession follows. The build-
ing is made of bamboo and decorated
with artistic taste, large bouquets with



the unrivalled Siamese flower-baskets,
and other natural decorations abound-
ing in great profusion. The electric
lights shed their radiance and add
brilliancy to the scene, while the
noise and din of the theatricals spoil
the effect to such an extent that one
forgets he is at a funeral. Chanting
priests, Chinese gongs and puppet
shows attract crowds, and the noisy
laughter about the grounds sugg<
a gala day, rather than the solem-
nity of death.

These shows generally begin at
nine in the morning and last until
midnight, at which hour the yellow-
robed priests take their places around
the golden urn and retain them until
daybreak, after which they breakfast
and receive presents of food or priestly
robes. The third day the remains



337



338



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



are removed from the urn and placed
in one made of sandalwood, in readi-
ness to receive the fire. The urn is
placed upon logs of wood that have
gilded ends, and are laid one upon



the heavens. A lamp supposed to
contain the " Chained Thunderbolt "
is said to be seen burning in the royal
temple, called Pra Keo.

The ceremonies of cremation in this




INTERIOR OF RAJA BO PIT, ROYAL TKM1M.K.



another in the form of a pyramid.
The King usually arrives about five
in the evening, everything being in
readiness to receive the fire from the
King's hands. The fire is not sup-
posed to be the ordinary fire of vulgar
mortals, but is known as " Celestial
Fire," caught from the lightning of



country, which are usually supposed
to be under the superintendence of
the King, are emanations of the Budd-
hist faith. The urn signifies a per-
sonage of high rank, and no official
can use the urn without special per-
mission. There is said to be but one
pure gold urn, and this is the exclu-



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



339




RIVES VIKW OF IJANKOK — ROYAL COLLEGE AT Till: LEFT.



sive property of royalty. They have
a curious custom sometimes of cover-
ing the face of the dead with gold,
which is rather an expensive proceed-
ing. The sums these people spend
upon cremation are enormous.

There is a marked difference be-
tween the cremation of a King or a
wealthy person, and that of one who
is poor. There is a temple ground
called Wat Sa Kate, where people too
poor to buy fuel find vultures who
devour the bodies of their dead, and
when the bones are picked clean,
three or four bodies, perhaps more,
are put on one burning pile. The



scene is revolting and offensive in the
extreme.

There are two schools of Buddhism,
ancient and modern. Modern Budd-
hists are inclined towards Atheism.
They neither assert or deny a future
life, saying they will not speak defi-
nately of that which they cannot
clearly see nor understand. The
words of an educated Siamese Prince
may enable us to understand some-
thing of their convictions: ' ' When you
go and travel in the desert, you must
always take a bottle of water with
you. If you find water in the desert
all very well ; if you find none, you




Crown Prince. Czarowitz. King of Siara. Prince (leorge. The King'* Broth-

RECEPTION OK THE CZAROWITZ OF RUSSIA BY THE NOBILITY OF SIAM.



34Q



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



have your bottle of water. So it is
with our creed. We should do our
best. If there is no future, we have
in this case, in the life, the conviction of
having done no harm, and if there is
a future, the good we have done will
follow us in the next life. There is no
creed which we attack or condemn.
I can believe in Christ — I even con-
fess that I am a great admirer of
Christ. I am a great admirer of the
moral principles which He incul-
cated." This man has visited the
principal cities of Europe, speaks En-
glish fluently, and mingles with the
European residents.

' ' Love your enemies. Sacrifice
your life for truth. Be gentle and
tender. Avoid everything that may
lead to vice. Reverence old age.
Provide food and shelter for the poor
and aged. Despise no man's reli-
gion. Persecute no man." These
are some of the precepts of modern
Buddhism. They are all good, but,
as in many others, their votaries often
fall short in practice. The King pro-
fesses to have adopted this religion.

The Buddhists believe in the law of
retribution, and many stages of de-
velopment through which the soul
may finally attain Nirvana, or loss of
identity in the infinite spirit of perfec-
tion. Buddhism has here, as else-
where, its priests who seclude them-
selves from the world and spend their
days in devotion and poverty.

There are about 5,000 temples in
Siam, where boys are taught to read
and write. For many years this has
been the only way a boy could attain
an education. The women are not
taught to read, although five out of
every ten have learned to do so now.
This shows that women are sharing
the general progress of Siam; they are
becoming more competent to influence
and direct the education of their chil-
dren, and they seem to attach more
importance to it than do the sterner
sex.

There is nothing that can be called
good literature in Siam. A few plays
make up most of the reading mat-



ter, but there are also some transla-
tions of the Bible. The distribution
of the latter is now under the care of
Mr. Carrington, a former pastor of a
church in San Francisco, who is en-
gaged in missionary work.

Siam has been found a fertile coun-
try when properly cultivated, and is
able to export large quantities of her
products. There are many steamers
constantly plying from one point to
another with large cargoes of rice,
fish, teak work, ivory, betel-nut, hides,
sugar and fruit. Many of the modern
improvements of western countries
are found in the cities, and they seem
almost a mark of vandalism upon the
picturesqueness of the ancient man-
ners, customs and habits of life. There
are telephones, telegraph systems,
electric cars and tram cars in Bankok;
also gheries, carriages with liveried
syces driving at breakneck speed
through the crowded, narrow streets.
The cars come and go with danger-
ous rapidity accompanied by the noise
of a warning trumpeter, who blows
sometimes simply to make a noise.
The thoroughfares are crowded, and
it is surprising that many are not
killed and maimed, for the people walk
along as indifferently as if they were
on country roads.

The King of Siam resides in Ban-
kok. He is popular with his subjects,
for he always seems anxious for the
best welfare of the people. He is a
great admirer of Abraham Lincoln,
and long before he came to the throne
he vowed his country should be
Muang Thai — a free country. All
children born in the year in which His
Majesty was crowned, shall be free at
the age of twenty -one — so says this
gracious King. He wears a crown of
solid gold, weighing many pounds,
and carries the title of Para Bard
Somdetch Phra Paramender Maha
Mongkut Phra Cham Klau Chau Yu
Hua, with a few additions which we
have forgotten.

The Royal family is a large one.
The custom of polygamy has always
been practiced, and in consequence of



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



341




THE KING'S SON IN COURT COSTUME



this custom, the royal concubines of
the King of Siam have ever been nu-
merous, numbering upwards of hun-
dreds — even thousands. It is a custom
when a Prince ascends the throne,
and becomes established in his reign,
that each of his nobles and lords
present his most beautiful daughter or
niece to the King, to serve as a Nang
ham — literally, a lady forbidden; that
is, forbidden to go out of the palace.
In former reigns, this class of persons,
have been rigorously confined in the
royal palace, but in this reign they
are allowed much more freedom.



Their royal husband is their lord
indeed, and they may not go away
from home without a royal permit.
This favor must not be sought very
often, and then only on extraordinary
occasions.

These ladies are not allowed to be
idle, as each have ra cha kan, or royal
business assigned them, some of them
being appointed to superintend others,
some performing the services of ser-
vants under mistresses, and all having
some daily duties. Preparing betel-
nut in soft round balls, the size of a
marble, for His Majesty to eat, is one



342



THE LAND OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT.



of the occupations; rolling the spicy
clove-leaf, which is plastered over with
lime, to be eaten with this nut, is
another. They also prepare wax and
put it into little gold boxes for lip-
salve, to say nothing of the making of
tea and dainty sweet-meats for the
royal palate.

There are two Queens — the right
hand and the left hand. These ladies
do not appear on state occasions, and
seldom participate in festivities. Now
and then one of the Queens will visit
a temple with her children, in a
closely covered carriage and with a
body guard. The first Queen is
closely related by blood to the King.
As there is no more honorable family,
he must seek a wife from a family of
equally honorable parentage. The
King does not woo his own wives. If
he vsees a pretty girl of noble stock
whom he desires, she is conducted to
the royal palace and schooled and
trained as a Nang ham. It is also
quite common for the relations of a
girl to make an offering of their hand-



is placed a throne on which the
woman is to sit while bathing, and
directly over the throne is a white
canopy through which the water is to
be showered. The consecrated water
is so arranged above that by turning
the stop, it shall neatly and delicately
sprinkle the chosen Queen. There
is nothing imposing in this cere-
mony, nor attractive in the lady's
costume.

Bankok is a strange city, totally
unlike other places one may have
visited. The city wall is a turreted
battlement fifteen feet high and twelve
feet broad. Its many beautiful gates
are guarded day and night by police-
men. Most of the streets are narrow,
but are kept in good order, being
frequently watered and swept by
Chinamen. The shops and houses are
peculiarly interesting, and there are
many palaces of great beauty and
highly artistic architecture.

It is becoming generally understood
now that Bankok is not a tiger-hunted
jungle, but a healthy, thriving city,




S1AMKSK KICK AND CARGO BOAT.



somest daughter, grandchild or niece,
thinking it would be a great good to
have the King for a family prop.

The crowning act of choosing a
Queen, is the bathing of her whom
the King delights to honor. The
priests put into the water the leaves
of a certain tree, which are thought
to have a purifying and healthful in-
fluence. A platform is erected, as-
cending by three gradations to the
height of six feet. At the top of this



and as time advances it is to be hoped
there will be fewer Munchausen
stories concerning it, penned by
those whose only excuse is their ig-
norance. Bankok has now at least
300,000 inhabitants, while the whole
Siamese population aggregates 1,200,-
000.

Siam, with its large forests, yield-
ing mines, productive soil, largely
intersected and irrigated canals, should
be recognized among the most promi-



THE MAN WITH A HOE.



343



nent of Oriental countries. The mill, telegraph, electric cars, hospitals,

country owes much to the American dispensaries, type-writer in the Sia-

missionaries, who have materially mese language, and medical class

aided in establishing a feeling of were established by Americans, and

friendship and confidence among the they are hoping to do still more for

people with foreign powers, and this industrious and appreciative peo-

Americans have been instrumental in pie. In the King's own words

introducing many inventions and im- " The Americans have brought peace



Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 45 of 120)