The White Elephant in Thai Culture

In my view, one of the most impressive and majestic animals is the elephant, in particular the white elephant. Hence, in Thai culture the white elephant is called ‘chang samkhan’ which means ‘auspicious elephant’. Whitness is regarded as an sign of purity in this context. The white elephant has an important meaning in both Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduist thought, the white elephant is related to the God Indra who is also a guardian deity in Buddhism. His elephant can also fly and it is called ‘Airavata’.

White Elephant in Thai Culture

White Elephant of Thailand (Dressed) (credit: Sodacan, wikimedia.org)

White Elephant of Thailand (Dressed) (credit: Sodacan, wikimedia.org)

This kind of elephant is thus also related to Buddha’s conception since his mother Maya is said to have been circled by a white elephant three times until it entered her womb through her right side. Thus, in Thailand white elephants (‘chang phueak’) are not only considered to be auspicious but they also belong lawfully to the King.

Have you ever seen a white elephant? In fact, ‘chang phueak’ are not necessarily albinos but are  much paler than common elephants. Their skin may be light grey, beige or even have a rosy or pinkish hue. Think of the impressive procession of eleven white elephants at the Grand Palace in honor of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on the 8th November 2016.

In Thai culture, the status of Kings have been rated by the number of white elephants that were in their possession and they have been historicalled considered an appendage to the King’s majesty. Hence, the late King H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej owned the greatest number of white elephants. He had 21 white elephants and this can be regarded as an unprecedented achievement. Eleven of these elephants are still alive but only five of them have royal titles.

White Elephants – Monument to honour King Bhumibol Adulyadej in front of Bangkok's Lak Mueang (credit Puja1984, wikimedia.org)

White Elephants – Monument to honour King Bhumibol Adulyadej in front of Bangkok’s Lak Mueang (credit Puja1984, wikimedia.org)

Hence, how does a ‘chang phueak’ become a royal elephant? An elephant has to undergo an number of tests conducted by the Bureau of the Royal Household since it is important to ensure that the elephant is suited for the title and has not only the physical but also the behaviourial characteristics required.

The White Elephant Flag Thai national flag from 1855 to 1916, 31 December (credit: wikimedia.org)

The White Elephant Flag was the Thai national flag from 1855 to 1916, 31 December (credit: wikimedia.org)

In the past, Thai Kings also gave white elephants as presents to friends and allies. This was a blessing or curse since an elephant considered sacred was not supposed to work and at the same time it needed care and food. Thus, a ‘chang phueak’ could easily become a huge financial burden to the owner unless the King would also provide the recipient with land for the elephant.

Summing up, we may say that the white elephant has been the most sacred and auspicious animal in Thai culture since it is also considered as a royal animal related to the King.

Yours, Sirinya

 




Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives

Today I’d like to present you the outstanding stage culture performance ‘Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives’. This show takes place in Bangkok at The Stage Asiatique The Riverfront, from Tuesday to Sunday, 8PM onwards.

Muay Thai Live in Bangkok

Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives & Warrior Rising Boxing

Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives 

The show was created by acclaimed director Ekachai Uekrongtham. It is a special and spectacular event not only for Muay Thai lovers. The performance is about the history of Thai Boxing, dealing with its origins and its development until today.

A performacne about the history of Thai Boxing was created by acclaimed director Ekachai Uekrongtham

A performacne about the history of Thai Boxing, created by acclaimed director Ekachai Uekrongtham

Hence, the show has five thrilling acts which trace the story of Muay Thai. Thus, the first part starts at the very beginning of the history of Thai boxing, namely in the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1699 where the ‘Tiger King’ appears. He is not only charismatic but shows extraordinary kickboxing skills.

Ancient Thai Boxing techniques at The Stage Asiatique The Riverfront

Ancient Thai Boxing techniques at The Stage Asiatique The Riverfront

The second act, set in 1767, deals with the ‘Prisoner with Eight Limbs’. After the downfall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, many Siamese soldiers are confined by their ememies. Among them is a warrior with amazing skills in Muay Boran which is an ancient form of Thai Boxing.

The Prisoner with Eight Limbs

The Prisoner with Eight Limbs

The third act takes place in 1773, a time when the Kingdom is again in fierce war with enemies. Swordsmen are recruted from all over the country to fight against the opponents. General Pichai is a warrior of the double swords. Hence, he is known as the ‘Warrior with broken swords’ because in battle one of his swords is broken. Eventually, he is left to fight with only his body and soul.

Scene from 'The Warrior with Broken Swords'

Scene from ‘The Warrior with Broken Swords’

Fighting with swords and with body & soul

Fighting with swords, body & soul

Act four might be the most dramatic part of the show because this part is about the most dangerous and lethal methods of ancient Muay Thai. These techniques have not been performed over a 100 years. It is also about the ‘Modern Action Hero’ whose fight is reinforced by the combination of stunt techniques and other martial arts.

Modern Action Hero at Muay Thai Live BKK

Modern Action Hero at Muay Thai Live BKK

The dangerous and lethal methods of ancient Muay Thai

The dangerous methods of ancient Muay Thai

Finally, in the last act, the cast performs the ‘Wai Kru’, thus paying respect to the great Thai boxing masters of the past. The Wai Kru is known as Thailand’s unique and most beautiful boxing dance moves.

Wai Kru - Thailand’s unique and most beautiful boxing dance moves.

Wai Kru – Thailand’s unique and most beautiful boxing dance moves

The show is followed by Live Muay Thai boxing as an added feature. In ‘Warriors Rising’ there are two Thai boxing matches that are mentored by Muay Thai Grand Master Kru Sane Tubtimtong.

Summing up, Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives is a special event for everyone interested in Thai culture and the history of Thai boxing. For more information, please visit Muay Thai Live and their FB page. I’m also giving away four tickets for this show on my Facebook page! Thus, head over to Sirinya’s Thailand Blog and participate 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Gemstones & Birthday Colours in Thai Culture

In Thai culture, each day of the week has a colour which is based on the colour of the God who is protecting the day. This attribution goes back to an astrological rule influenced by Hindu mythology.

Gemstones & Birthday Colours in Thai Culture

Red Ruby - the gem for Sunday and the God Surya (photo: Humanfeather, wikimedia.org)

Red Ruby – the gem for Sunday and the God Surya (photo: Humanfeather, wikimedia.org)

Thus, Thai people believe that each day of the week coincides with a planet and a God. Thus, each respective planet and God has a dominant colour. For instance, Surya is the God of Sunday. Since he is also the God of the Sun, his colour is red. Hence, suitable gemstones are garnet and red ruby.

Citrine, a yellow gem for Monday (photo Wela49~commonswiki, wikimedia.org)

Citrine, a yellow gem for Monday (photo: Wela49~commonswiki, wikimedia.org)

Another example is Monday which is the day of the moon. Accordingly, the God of this day is Chandra, the moon God. His colour is yellow or white. The colours of the day are hence the traditional Thai birthday colours. Since King Bhumibol was born on Monday, on the auspicious occasion of his birthday Thailand is decorated with yellow.

Pink Sapphire for Tuesday (photo Wiener Edelstein Zentrum, wikimedia.org)

Pink Sapphire for Tuesday (photo Wiener Edelstein Zentrum, wikimedia.org)

Now let us take a look at what colour is suited for your birthday. As mentioned, Sunday is the day of Surya whose colour is red. The gemstone for this day is ruby or garnet. Monday, the day of the moon, has the yellow gem citrine, yellow sapphire but also moonstone occasionally. Tuesday which is the day of the God Mangala (Mars) has pink as its ruling colour. Thus, we need pink sapphire or spinel.

Cut emerald stones (photo: irvin calicut, wikimedia.org)

Cut emerald gemstones, in Thai culture the Birthday colours of Wednesday (photo: irvin calicut, wikimedia.org)

Since Wednesday is the day of Budha (Mercury), this day’s colour is green. Suitable gems are hence green emerald and tsavorite garnet. Thursday has orange since that is the colour of  Brihaspati (Jupiter). What could be more suitable for this day than orange coral or orange sapphire!

Coral jewelry (photo: Markus Bärlocher, wikimedia.org)

Coral jewelry (photo: Markus Bärlocher, wikimedia.org)

Finally, Friday is the day of Shukra (Venus) and his colour is blue. Thus, we love blue sapphire for this day. Saturday has the colour purple since it is the day of Shani (Saturn). The gemstones for Saturday are amethyst and purple sapphire.

Blue Sapphire for Friday (photo: Wiener Edelstein Zentrum, wikimedia.org)

Blue Sapphire for Friday (photo: Wiener Edelstein Zentrum, wikimedia.org)

Amethyst for Saturday (photo: Wela48, wikimedia.org)

Amethyst for Saturday (photo: Wela48, wikimedia.org)

Here is a short clip on what color is suited for your birthday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84A1ZKx24bg

Summing up, I think it is a very pleasant concept having birthday coulours and corresponding gemstones for each day of the week. Since I was born on a Monday, according to Thai culture, my gem is the yellow citrine 🙂 Which one is yours?

Yours, Sirinya




A Hidden Gem: The Bangkokian Museum

The Bangkokian Museum is also known as the Bangkok Folk Museum. In Thai, it is called Phiphithaphan Chao Bang Kok (พิพิธภัณฑ์ชาวบางกอก). This museum is located in the Bangrak district only several hundered meters from the Chao Phraya River and hence not far from the well-known Oriental Hotel. It is placed at Soi Charoen Krung and Maha Set Road.

Entrance to the Bangkokian Museum (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)*

Entrance to the Bangkokian Museum (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)*

The Bangkok Folk Museum has two wooden houses which date back to the time of World War II. These teak houses are behind a wooden gate, in the back of a garden. Thus, the museum captures the spirit and lifestyle of middle-class people in Bangkok during WWII and the after war period.

A Hidden Gem: The Bangkok Folk Museum*

A Hidden Gem: The Bangkok Folk Museum*

This museum was once the home of the Suravadee family*

This museum was once the home of the Suravadee family*

The houses, built in 1937, were the home of the Suravadee family. They became a museum to preserve Thai lifestyle of early Bangkok and have been managed by the Bangkok  Metropolitan Authority since 2004. Today, Ms Waraporn Suravadee is the caretaker of the museum which was once her residence.

The living room*

The living room*

Ms Waraporn Suravadee*

Ms Waraporn Suravadee*

In the first building, there is an ancestors’ quarters upstairs. There are many valuable objects but also everyday items of the Suravadee family who used to live there. Some treasures include precious Benjarong jars. These jars are made from Thai porcelain, painted in five basic colours black, green, yellow, red and white. The technique dates back to the time of King Rama V (1858-1910). What is more, the museum also habours other amazing porcelain art which stem from the early Rattanakosin period.

A display of porcelain from the Rattanakosin era*

A display of porcelain from the Rattanakosin era*

Some more porcelain in a cabinet*

Some more porcelain in a cabinet*

In the ground floor are the dining rooms, library and offices. Upstairs are the neat bedrooms with cabinets and closets. There are also valuable objects like antique jewelry for instance.

The Library at the Bangkok Folk Museum*

The Library at the Bangkok Folk Museum*

A neat bedroom*

A neat bedroom*

At the rear, behind the main building, is the second house of the museum. This place was supposed to be the clinic of Dr. Francis Christian who was the stepfather of Ms Waraporn. However, he passed away before he could move in. For instance, there you find his amazing cigar collection displayed and an old kitchen with typical utensils dating back to the war period.

Dr. Francis Christian was the stepfather of Ms Waraporn Suravadee. This bust was created by Prof Silpa Bhirasr. *

Dr. Francis Christian was the stepfather of Ms Waraporn Suravadee. This bust was created by Prof Silpa Bhirasri*

Kitchen utensils from the war era*

Kitchen utensils from the war era*

In addition, you can also admire some stunning antique jewelry. Do you like the amazing purple spider brooch? I do 😉

Antique jewelry*

Antique jewelry*

A beautiful dresser from the war era*

A beautiful antique teak dresser*

In a nutshell, we may say that the Bangkokian Museum is one of the important heritage buildings in Bangkok like the Jim Thompson House, Suan Pakkad Palace and Vimanmek Palace. If you are in Bangkok, this place is worth a visit for sure 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(All pictures in this post, credit to Amporn Konglapumnuay)




The Supernatural World in Thai Culture

If you’re familar with Thai culture, you know that belief in ghosts and the supernatural is very prominent. Thus, supernatural beings can be divided into two main groups which are the benevolent and the malevolent spirits.

The Supernatural in Thai Culture

The benevolent spirits are primarily guardian spirits, for instance the guardian spirit of the village proper and the numerous territorial spirits which are the spirit of the forrest (Chao Pa), the spirit of the hills and mountains (Chao Khao), the rice goddess (Mae Phosop), Kuman Thong (กุมารทอง), the spirit of young children and Mae Sue (แม่ซื้อ),the guardian goddess and female ghost of infants.

Guman Thong effigies (photo: kumarnthong.com

Guman Thong effigies (photo: kumarnthong.com)

A very well-known spirit in Thai culture is the ghost of the house compound which is called Phra Phum. Every Thai house and building has a guardian spirit that lives in the spirit house in front of the respective house.

Spirit houses, San Phra Phum (photo: W. Horsch, wikimedia.org)

Spirit houses, San Phra Phum, example of the supernatural in Thai culture (photo: W. Horsch, wikimedia.org)

The group of benevolent spirits also include the heaven spirits of Thewada which are usually referred to collectively. Malevolent spirits cause trouble to people and aim at harming them. Most often these evil spirits are supposed to be the spirits of people who died violently or accidentally. It is a common belief that if a person dies violently or suddenly, his spirit wanders around in this world since it still aims at fullilling its role in this world.

Phi Krasue drawing by Xavier Romero-Frias, (photo: wikimedia.org)

Phi Krasue drawing by Xavier Romero-Frias, (photo: wikimedia.org)

However, there are also other kinds of bad spirits like Phi Pop (ผีปอบ, a malevolent female spirit that devours human entrails, Phi Krasue (กระสือ, a woman’s head with her viscera hanging down from the neck) and Phi Krahang (กระหัง, a male ghost that flies in the night) for instance. These spirits have the ability to possess people and can even kill a person and devour his viscera. Hence, it does not come as a surprise that the majority of good spirits are referred to as individual ghosts whereas the evil ones are categorized in groups.

A humerous comic version of Phi Krahang (photo topicstock.pantip)

A humerous comic version of Phi Krahang (photo topicstock.pantip)

The benenvolent spirits are supposed to assist and protect the living. In return the good spirits receive offerings and sacrifices made by people. In this way, the spirit has to be pleased so that it will help people. Hence, we may speak of a reciprocal relationship between the spirit world and human beings. As far as the malevolent spirits are concerned, people often make an offering first in order to pacify the spirits. If that does not work, the assitance of the benevolent spirits is needed. Thus, it might also be the case that Buddhist rituals are necessary to pacify the malevolent spirits.

Taksin Memorial Spirit House (photo: wikimedia.org)

Taksin Memorial Spirit House (photo: wikimedia.org)

What is more, it is a general belief that if human beings behave badly and disrespectfully towards a good spirit, this ghost might turn malevolent. Hence, we may say that the distinction between good and evil spirits may not always be clear cut.

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo credit: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine offerings, portraits of the spirit and dresses (photo: Xufanc, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we might be justified in claiming that generally, in Thai culture, spirits and the supernatural are very important. Ghosts are classified by their nature of origin as benevolent or malevolent. Some of them also have their own shrines for worship like Mae Nak who is the famous female ghost who died at childbirth.

Yours, Sirinya




Slow Life in Nan Province

Today, I’d like to take you on a photographic journey to Nan province in Thailand. I thus invite you to enjoy the peaceful and serene atmosphere and landscape of this place. Enjoy the beauty of Nan province!

Nan Province

A Buddha in Nan province (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

A Buddha in Nan province (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Nan is a hidden gem in Northern Thailand where life is still slow anf tranquil. Thus, Nan has become increasingly propular with both local and foreign travelers and the province is also known for its amazing handicrafts.

Temple in Nan province

Mythical beings in front of a temple in Nan*

Nan is located near the Laotian border and it is also in close proximity to Luang Prabang, the capital of Laos. Hence, this place is very much upcountry Thailand. Historically, Nan was once an independent kingdom. Hence, Nan’s history has been very much influenced by the neighbouring countries and in particular by the kingdom of Sukhothai.

Temple in Nan (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Golden temple in Nan*

In history, this province was an independent principality under the reign of Lanna, Sukhothai, Burma and Siam. However, in 1558, Nan was conquered by the Burmese. It was not until the late 18th century that Nan became allied to the Rattanakosin Kingdom.

Painting in a temple in Nan National Park in Nan, Thailand Temple in Nan (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Mural painting in a temple in Nan*

Amazing handicraft from Nan Painting in a temple in Nan National Park in Nan, Thailand Temple in Nan (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Amazing paintings from Nan*

Thus, Nan was a half-autonomous kingdom with its own kings who reigned from 1786-1931. Nan is also the home of many Tai Lue people and other hill tribes like the Hmong, N’tin, Yao and Khamu. About 10 percent of Nan’s population belong to the hill tribes. They preserve their traditions and customs.

National Park in Nan, Thailand Temple in Nan (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

National Park in Nan, northern Thailand*

In Nan, there are also great agricultural areas where rice and fruits also grown.

Nan is devoted to agriculture, particularly to rice cultivation

Nan is devoted to agriculture, particularly to rice cultivation*

What is more, Nan is known for its stunning national parks. For instance, the Doi Phukha National Park is well-known for its nearly 2000m high mountains. Therefore, Nan is also a popular destination for people who like trekking and hiking. Interestingly, the provincial tree and flower is the Orchid tree.

Nan is a popular destination for people who like trekking.

Nan is a popular destination for people who like trekking*

Make a wish! Have you ever seen such a starlit sky?

Make a wish! Have you ever seen such a starlit sky? The milkyway is just around the corner*

Summing up, we may say that Nan province has not only impressive and interesting cultural destinations like temples and museums but also an unique laid-back charm. Last but not least, the province also offers amazing quality cafes and restaurants for refreshment 🙂

Quality cafe for refreshment Amazing handicraft from Nan Painting in a temple in Nan National Park in Nan, Thailand Temple in Nan (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Quality cafe for refreshment*

Yours, Sirinya 🙂

*All photos in this post: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66




The Story of The Buddha

I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value (Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha)

The story of Buddhism begins with a man who became enlightened, thus gaining abiding insight into the nature of the world and its reality. Hence, the word ‘Buddha’ means the ‘Enlightened’ or ‘Awakened One’.

Great Buddha Monthon - Great Being (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Great Buddha Monthon – the ‘Awakened One’ (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

The Story of The Buddha

The historical Buddha was born as a prince among the Sakyas in the year 623 B.C. The Sakyas were a warrior caste who lived in Kapilvastu which is located in today’s Nepal. His parents were King Suddhodana and Queen Siri Maha Maya who died after he was born. The prince was named Siddhartha Gautama. There was a prediction that the prince would become either a great King or a supreme Teacher of the World if he choose to become a monk.

Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho, Bangkok. The ‘Sleeping Lion’ posture is the position in which the Buddha died (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Legends tell us that Prince Siddhartha was a very remarkable personality. Even though he was surrounded by luxury and splendour, he kept a serious, meditative turn of mind. Thus, one day the prince rode through the village streets and saw an old and discrepit man, then he also encountered a man severely stricken with illness and finally a dead man. Since he had not seen such conditions before in his luxurious palace, he became preoccupied with the ultimate questions of suffering and death.

The Buddha's hand (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

The Buddha became a supreme Teacher of the World. This is the Great Buddha of Wat Muang  (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Thus, at the age of 29, the prince left his palace to become a monk leaving even his beautiful wife and child behind. First, he sought instruction under several great spiritual teachers and later he undertook the disciplines of rigorous self-mortification. Finally, after six years of radical physical asceticism and abstract philosophy, he reached Enlightenment through sitting quietly in meditation beneath the Bodhi Tree. He detected the cause of suffering in craving due to ignorance, discovering a way to right view, conduct and concentration.

Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men

The Buddha has preached the four noble truths to all men (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

The Buddha decided to share his insights, what he discovered through the process of Enlightenment by preaching the message of salvation (Dharma) to all people of all castes without any discrimination. Thus, he organized a community of monks, the Sangha, which included disciples from all castes. The Buddha was a wandering teacher for 45 years before he died at Kusinara at the age of 80.

Buddha Monthon against the blue sky (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

Buddha Monthon against the blue sky, the Buddha teached the Dharma to all men (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan)

In fact, the Buddha was a human being and his story was a story of a rich prince who became a monk and spent many years in the jungles, villages and schools in order to achieve Enlightenment. Hence, as a man he was born, he lived and he passed away. Thus, the Buddha is neither a god nor a god’s prophet. He is not a savior who saves others by his personal salvation. He rather wants his disciples to depend on themselves for their salvation.

A Buddha in Nan province (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66)

A Buddha in Nan province (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan)

Finally, we may also say that the Buddha does not claim the monopoly of Buddhahood. Thus, we should also point out in retelling his story that every person can achieve Enlightenment and hence Buddhahood.

Yours, Sirinya




A Thai Folk Tale: Seven-Coloured Emerald

I’ve read the Thai folk tale ‘Seven-Coloured Emerald’ in ‘Folk Tales of Thailand’ (1976) by P.C. Roy Chaudhury. Thus, today I’d like to retell this story with a moral for you.

Thai Folk Tale: Seven-Coloured Emerald

Once there was a King called Hongse Thong who was married to two Queens. He had two children with the elder Queen, Prince Hongse Yout the Crown Prince and Princess Sroi Pradub. With the younger Queen, the King had only one son called Prince Hongse Noi.

Gachala Emerald, precious like the seven-coloured emerald in this Thai folk tale (photo credit: thisisbossi, wikimedia.org)

Gachala Emerald, precious like the seven-coloured emerald in this Thai folk tale (photo credit: thisisbossi, wikimedia.org)

The King had become very old and thus he thought about how to distribute his royal treasure. Of course only a male could become King and hence he left nothing to his daughter. The King cherished most his beautiful great seven-coloured emerald and wanted to give it to his oldest son, the Crown Prince. For this reason, the younger son complained to his father that he did not get anything in place of the emerald.

The court was split by the disagreement between the younger son and the decision of his father. The King’s younger brother also agreed with the younger prince that he should be entitled to receive something of the heir.

The precious Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

The precious Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

One day, a bold thief entered the palace and stole the precious emerald. Thus, neither of the Princes received it. The King was vexed and the Princes upset and enraged. However, finally nothing could be done about this matter, the emerald was gone forever and this is the end of this Thai folk tale.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: P.C. Roy Chaudhury, Folk Tales of Thailand, SterlingPublishers, 1976)




Happy Chinese New Year 2016!

Chinese New Year is a popular festivity in Thailand since there are many people with Chinese ancestors in Thailand. Actually, it is supposed that over half of ethnic Thai today are descendants of people who migrated from southern China about 1,000 years ago. In Thai, Chinese New Year is called ‘Wan dtrut jiin’ and it is also known as the Spring Festival.

Chinese New Year 2016

This year, Chinese New Year is on 8th February, this is when the year of the monkey begins.

Year of the monkey 2016 (photo: savingstips.com.ph)

Year of the monkey 2016 (photo: savingstips.com.ph)

The monkey is connected with the elements water and metal. Whereas water is connected with wisdom and danger, metal is related to gold and fortune. Thus the year of the monkey is supposed to be a year of financial events, flux and change. This also means that things can be accomplished but mainly by individual and personal efforts. Hence, this year might also be a good year to break free and to follow one’s passion and heart’s desire.

In Thailand, the centre of the Chinese New Year festivities are Chinatown on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok and Phuket Town. For instance,  the Old Phuket Festival takes place in the old Sino-Portuguese quarter of Phuket Town every year.

The shrine at Thien Fah Foundation during Chinese New Year. Samphanthawong District, Bangkok, Thailand (photo: Lerdsuwa, wikimedia.org)

The shrine at Thien Fah Foundation during Chinese New Year. Samphanthawong District, Bangkok, Thailand (photo: Lerdsuwa, wikimedia.org)

Traditionally, families clean their houses in order to get rid of any misfortune and bad luck so that there can be a fresh start into the new year. Hence, they make way for incoming luck and this is also called ‘Spring cleaning’.

On the eve of Chinese New Year, families have supper together and feast on Chinese dishes and delicacies like duck, chicken, pork and sweets. The night is ended with fireworks and on the following morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a happy new year. The children will then receive the so-called lucky money in red envelopes which are called ‘Ang Pao’. Usually, the married people will give money to the unmarried who are mostly younger people and children.

Lucky money in a red envelope

‘Ang Pao’ Lucky money in a red envelope

During the Chinese New Year festivities, the Dragon and the Lion dance are the most popular highlights. In particular, the dragon is supposed to bring good luck since he is believed to posses qualities like power, fertility, dignity and wisdom. Thus, the longer the dancing dragon is, the more luck and power he brings to people.

Chinese New Year decorations and the Merlion statue, Sentosa, Singapore (photo: wikimedia.org)

Chinese New Year decorations and the Merlion statue, Sentosa, Singapore (photo: wikimedia.org)

Finally, I’d like to share with you this entertaining video about 10 facts you might not know about the Chinese New Year 🙂

I wish you all a very happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!  (‘I wish you wealth’)

Yours, Sirinya




Thai Folklore: The Tale of Sang Thong

Sang Thong is a very popular folktale in Thailand and it is maybe the most well-known tale among Thai people. It has been transmitted in various forms ranging from jataka tale, written literature, folk drama, local legend to television drama. The first written version is Suwan Sangkha Chadok  in Panyasa Chadok (Suvannasankhajātaka, Jataka Tale).  Thus, today I’d like to retell this story for you.

The Tale of Sang Thong

Sung Thong, the prince in the conch shell (photo: thaigoodview.com)

Sung Thong, the prince in the conch shell (photo: thaigoodview.com)

Once there was a king who had two wives. When his major wife gave birth to a son, this son was born in a conch shell. The minor wife wanted to banish the major wife and her son from the kingdom and she was successful. The king ordered the major wife and his son, Prince Sang, to live in another place with an old couple.

Detail of the murals of the Sang Thong Tales, Viharn Laikam at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, (photo: ich.culture.co.th)

Detail of the murals of the Sang Thong Tales, Viharn Laikam at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Each day, Prince Sang would leave his shell to work in the household of the couple. When his mother learned about this, she broke his shell. Still the minor wife longed to get rid of the Prince. Thus, he found harbour at the place of a giant lady who took care of him.

Chao Ngo mural (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Chao Ngo mural (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

The giant lady forbade the Prince to jump into the golden well but one day the Prince broke this rule. He jumped into the well putting on an ugly mask to escape. When he wore his ugly dark mask he was called Chao Ngo. This was when he came across the Samon kingdom. The king of Samon had seven daughters. Hence, he ordered all kings to send their sons to his place so that his daughters could choose their husbands.

Sang Thong mural painting (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sang Thong mural painting (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Six of the king’s daughters chose a husband but only his youngest daughter Rodjana did not. To the king’s surprise and anger, she finally took Prince Sang as her husband. She was the only one who could see his golden body whereas to other people the prince appeared as an ugly dark person. Enraged, the King chased his youngest daughter and her ugly husband away to live in a rice field.

Sangthong mural, Thai folklore (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sangthong mural, Thai folklore (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Hence, the king also ordered his other sons-in-law to bring him a 100 fish and deer. He wanted to see Chao Ngo dead. However, Chao Ngo was clever and could perform magic. Thus, he was the only son-in-law able to bring the king what he wanted. Finally, Chao Ngo was the only one who could help King Samon to protect and save the kingdom. This was when his golden body and his royal origin were revealed.

Sang Thong, the hero, is finally acknowledged (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sang Thong, the hero, is finally acknowledged (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Summing up, we can say that Sang Thong is a hero who becomes finally accepted. At first he hides behind ugliness and deformation but then his true nature and beauty is revealed.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Siraporn Nathalang, Thai Folklore. Insights into Thai Culture, Chulalongkorn UP 2000)