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Ayutthaya Kingdom

Kingdom of Ayutthaya


Ensign Seal
Map of Southeast Asia in the 1400s:
Blue Violet: Ayutthaya Kingdom
Dark Green: Lan Xang
Purple: Lan Na
Orange: Sukhothai Kingdom
Red: Khmer Empire
Yellow: Champa
Blue: Đại Việt
Capital Ayutthaya (1351-1463)

Phitsanulok (1463-1488)
Ayutthaya (1463-1666)
Lopburi (1666-1688)
Ayutthaya (1688-1767)

Languages Ayutthayan Thai
Religion Majority: Theravada Buddhism

Minority: Hinduism, Roman Catholic, Shia Islam, Sunni Islam

Government Feudal monarchy with Chatu Sdomph as executive body.
 •  1350–69 Uthong
 •  1590–1605 Naresuan
 •  1656–88 Narai
 •  1758–67 Ekkathat
Legislature The monarch
Historical era Middle Ages & Renaissance
 •  Uthong ascends the throne in Ayutthaya 1351
 •  Personal union with Sukhothai Kingdom 1438
 •  Vassal of Taungoo Dynasty 1564, 1569
 •  Merge with Sukhothai, and independence from Taungoo 1583, 1584
 •  Naresuan and Mingyi Swa's Elephant War 1593
 •  End of Sukhothai Dynasty 1629
 •  Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 1767
Today part of  Thailand
Part of a series on the
1686 Map of Siam.
Sukhothai Kingdom
Ayutthaya Kingdom
Thonburi Kingdom
Rattanakosin Kingdom
Military period
Democratic period
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Ayutthaya (; Thai: อยุธยา, [ʔajúttʰajaː]; also spelled Ayudhya) was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767. Ayutthaya was friendly towards foreign traders, including the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Japanese and Persians, and later the Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch and French, permitting them to set up villages outside the walls of the capital, also called Ayutthaya.

In the sixteenth century, it was described by foreign traders as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. The court of King Narai (1656–88) had strong links with that of King Louis XIV of France, whose ambassadors compared the city in size and wealth to Paris.

By 1550, the kingdom's vassals included some city-states in the Malay Peninsula, Sukhothai, and parts of Cambodia.[1]

In foreign accounts, Ayutthaya was called Siam, but many sources say the people of Ayutthaya called themselves Tai, and their kingdom Krung Tai "The Tai country" (กรุงไท).[note 1]


  • Historical overview 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Conquests and expansion 1.2
    • First Burmese wars 1.3
    • Second Burmese wars 1.4
  • Kingship of Ayutthaya Kingdom 2
  • Social and political development 3
  • Religion 4
  • Economic development 5
  • Contacts with the West 6
  • The final phase 7
  • Kings of Ayutthaya 8
  • List of notable foreigners in seventeenth century Ayutthaya 9
  • Image gallery 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • Citations 14
  • Further reading 15
    • Dissertations retrieved from ProQuest-Dissertations and Theses on Aug.16,2006 15.1
    • Phongsawadan Krung Si Ayutthaya 15.2
    • Burmese account 15.3
    • Western account 15.4
  • External links 16

Historical overview


The immense, 19 metres (62 ft) gold-covered seated Buddha in Wat Phanan Choeng, the latter from 1324, predates the founding of the city

According to the most widely accepted version of its origin, the Thai state based at Ayutthaya in the valley of the Chao Phraya River rose from the earlier, nearby Lavo Kingdom (at that time, still under the control of the Khmer Empire) and Suvarnabhumi. One source says that in the mid-fourteenth century, due to the threat of an epidemic, King Uthong moved his court south into the rich floodplain of the Chao Phraya River onto an island surrounded by rivers.[2] The name of the city indicates the influence of Hinduism in the region as it is the Thai pronunciation of the famous Indian city of Ayodhya. It is believed that this city is associated with the Thai national epic, the Ramakien, which is the Thai version of the Ramayana.

Conquests and expansion

Ayutthaya is shown in the Fra Mauro map of the world (ca. 1450 CE) under the name "Scierno", derived from the Persian "Shahr-I-Naw", meaning "New City"[3]

Ayutthaya began its hegemony by conquering northern kingdoms and city-states like Sukhothai,[4]:222 Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok. Before the end of the fifteenth century, Ayutthaya launched attacks on Angkor, the classical great power of the region. Angkor's influence eventually faded from the Chao Phraya River Plain while Ayutthaya became a new great power.

The emerging Kingdom of Ayutthaya was also growing powerful. Relations between the Ayutthaya and Lan Na had worsened since the Ayutthayan support of Thau Choi's rebellion In 1451, Yuttitthira, a noble of the Kingdom of Sukhothai who had conflicts with Borommatrailokkanat of Ayutthaya, gave himself to Tilokaraj. Yuttitthira urged Borommatrailokkanat to invade Phitsanulok, igniting the Ayutthaya-Lan Na War over the Upper Chao Phraya valley (the Kingdom of Sukhothai). In 1460, the governor of Chaliang surrendered to Tilokaraj. Borommatrailokkanat then used a new strategy and concentrated on the wars with Lanna by moving the capital to Phitsanulok. Lan Na suffered setbacks and Tilokaraj eventually sued for peace in 1475.

However, the kingdom of Ayutthaya was not a unified state but rather a patchwork of self-governing principalities and tributary provinces owing allegiance to the king of Ayutthaya under The Circle of Power, or the mandala system, as some scholars suggested .[5] These principalities might be ruled by members of the royal family of Ayutthaya, or by local rulers who had their own independent armies, having a duty to assist the capital when war or invasion occurred. However, it was evident that from time to time local revolts, led by local princes or kings, took place. Ayutthaya had to suppress them.

1686 French Map of Siam

Due to the lack of succession law and a strong concept of meritocracy, whenever the succession was in dispute, princely governors or powerful dignitaries claiming their merit gathered their forces and moved on the capital to press their claims, culminating in several bloody coups.[6]

Beginning in the fifteenth century, Ayutthaya showed an interest in the Malay Peninsula, but the great trading ports of the Malacca Sultanate contested its claims to sovereignty. Ayutthaya launched several abortive conquests against Malacca which was diplomatically and economically fortified by the military support of Ming China. In the early fifteenth century the Ming admiral Zheng He had established a base of operation in the port city, making it a strategic position the Chinese could not afford to lose to the Siamese. Under this protection, Malacca flourished, becoming one of Ayutthaya's great foes until the capture of Malacca by the Portuguese.[7]

First Burmese wars

Starting in the middle of 16th century, the kingdom came under repeated attacks by the Taungoo Dynasty of Burma. The Burmese–Siamese War (1547–49) began with Burmese an invasion and a failed siege of Ayutthaya. A second siege (1563–64) led by King Bayinnaung forced King Maha Chakkraphat to surrender in 1564. The royal family was taken to Bago, Burma, with the king's second son Mahinthrathirat installed as the vassal king.[8][9] In 1568, Mahinthrathirat revolted when his father managed to return from Bago as a Buddhist monk. The ensuing third siege captured Ayutthaya in 1569 and Bayinnaung made Mahathammarachathirat his vassal king.[9]

King Naresuan enters an abandoned Bago, Burma in 1600, mural painting by Phraya Anusatchitrakon, Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya.

After Bayinnaung's death in 1581, uparaja Naresuan proclaimed Ayutthaya's independence in 1584. The Thai fought off repeated Burmese invasions (1584–1593), capped by an elephant duel between King Naresuan and Burmese heir-apparent Mingyi Swa in 1593 during the fourth siege of Ayutthaya in which Naresuan famously slew Mingyi Swa (observed 18 January as Royal Thai Armed Forces day). The Burmese–Siamese War (1594–1605) was a Thai attack on Burma, resulting in the capture of the Tanintharyi Region as far as Mottama in 1595 and Lan Na in 1602. Naresuan even invaded mainland Burma as far as Taungoo in 1600, but was driven back.

After Naresuan's death in 1605, northern Tanintharyi and Lan Na returned to Burmese control in 1614.[10]

The Ayutthaya Kingdom's attempt to take over Lan Na and northern Tanintharyi in 1662–1664 failed.[11]

Foreign trade brought Ayutthaya not only luxury items but also new arms and weapons. In the mid-seventeenth century, during King Narai's reign, Ayutthaya became very prosperous.[12] In the eighteenth century, Ayutthaya gradually lost control over its provinces. Provincial governors exerted their power independently, and rebellions against the capital began.

Second Burmese wars

In the mid-eighteenth century, Ayutthaya again became ensnared in wars with the Burmese. The Burmese–Siamese War (1759–60) begun by the Konbaung Dynasty of Burma failed. The Burmese–Siamese War (1765–67) resulted in the sack of the city of Ayutthaya and the end of the kingdom by debellatio in April 1767.

Kingship of Ayutthaya Kingdom

Ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya after Burmese invasion.

The kings of Ayutthaya were absolute monarchs with semi-religious status. Their authority derived from the ideologies of Hinduism and Buddhism as well as from natural leadership. The king of Sukhothai was the inspiration of Inscription 1 found in Sukhothai, which stated that King Ramkhamhaeng would hear the petition of any subject who rang the bell at the palace gate. The king was thus considered as a father by his people.

At Ayutthaya, however, the paternal aspects of kingship disappeared. The king was considered the chakkraphat (Sanskrit chakravartin) who through his adherence to the law made all the world revolve around him.[13] According to Hindu tradition, the king is the avatar of Vishnu, destroyer of demons, who was born to be the defender of the people. The Buddhist belief in the king is as righteous ruler (Sanskrit: dharmaraja), aiming at the well-being of the people and who strictly follows the teaching of Gautama Buddha.

The kings' official names were reflections of those religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. They were considered as the incarnation of various Hindu gods: Indra, Shiva or Vishnu (Rama). The coronation ceremony was directed by brahmins as the Hindu god Shiva was "lord of the universe". However, according to the codes, the king had the ultimate duty as protector of the people and the annihilator of evil.

According to Buddhism, the king was also believed to be a bodhisattva. One of the most important duties of the king was to build a temple or a Buddha statue as a symbol of prosperity and peace.[13]

For locals, another aspect of the kingship was also the analogy of "The Lord of the Land" or "He who Rules the Earth" (Phra Chao Phaendin). According to the court etiquette, a special language, Rachasap (Sanskrit: Rājāśabda, "Royal Language"), was used to communicate with or about royalty.[14][15] In Ayutthaya, the king was said to grant control over land to his subjects, from nobles to commoners, according to the Sakna or Sakdina system[16] codified by King Borommatrailokkanat (1448–88). The Sakdina system was similar to, but not the same as feudalism, under which the monarch does not own the land.[17] While there is no concrete evidence that this land management system constituted a formal palace economy, the French François-Timoléon de Choisy, who came to Ayutthaya in 1685, wrote, "the king has absolute power. He is truly the god of the Siamese: no-one dares to utter his name." Another 17th-century writer, the Dutchman Jan van Vliet, remarked that the King of Siam was "honoured and worshipped by his subjects second to god." Laws and orders were issued by the king. For sometimes the king himself was also the highest judge who judged and punished important criminals such as traitors or rebels.[18]

In addition to the Sakdina system, another of the numerous institutional innovations of Borommatrailokkanat was to adopt the position of uparaja, translated as "viceroy" or "prince", usually held by the king's senior son or full brother, in an attempt to regularise the succession to the throne—a particularly difficult feat for a polygamous dynasty. In practice, there was inherent conflict between king and uparaja and frequent disputed successions.[19] However, it is evident that the power of the Throne of Ayutthaya had its limit. The hegemony of the Ayutthaya king was always based on his charisma in terms of his age and supporters. Without supporters, bloody coups took place from time to time. The most powerful figures of the capital were always generals, or the Minister of Military Department, Kalahom. During the last century of Ayutthaya, the bloody fighting among princes and generals, aiming at the throne, plagued the court.

Social and political development

Painting of Ayutthaya, ordered by the Dutch East India Company, Amsterdam

The caste system was not adopted.[21]

The sixteenth century witnessed the rise of Burma, which had overrun Chiang Mai and Laos and made war on the Thai. In 1569, Burmese forces, joined by Thai rebels, mostly royal family members of Thailand, captured the city of Ayutthaya and carried off the whole royal family to Burma. Dhammaraja (1569–90), a Thai governor who had aided the Burmese, was installed as vassal king at Ayutthaya. Thai independence was restored by his son, King Naresuan (1590–1605), who turned on the Burmese and by 1600 had driven them from the country.[22]

Determined to prevent another treason like his father's, Naresuan set about unifying the country's administration directly under the royal court at Ayutthaya. He ended the practice of nominating royal princes to govern Ayutthaya's provinces, assigning instead court officials who were expected to execute policies handed down by the king. Thereafter royal princes were confined to the capital. Their power struggles continued, but at court under the king's watchful eye.[23]

To ensure his control over the new class of governors, Naresuan decreed that all freemen subject to phrai service had become phrai luang, bound directly to the king, who distributed the use of their services to his officials. This measure gave the king a theoretical monopoly on all manpower, and the idea developed that since the king owned the services of all the people, he also possessed all the land. Ministerial offices and governorships—-and the sakdina that went with them—-were usually inherited positions dominated by a few families often connected to the king by marriage. Indeed, marriage was frequently used by Thai kings to cement alliances between themselves and powerful families, a custom prevailing through the nineteenth century. As a result of this policy, the king's wives usually numbered in the dozens.[23]

Even with Naresuan's reforms, the effectiveness of the royal government over the next 150 years was unstable. Royal power outside the crown lands-—although in theory absolute—was in practice limited by the looseness of the civil administration. The influence of central government and the king was not extensive beyond the capital. When war with the Burmese broke out in late eighteenth century, provinces easily abandoned the capital. As the enforcing troops were not easily rallied to defend the capital, the city of Ayutthaya could not stand against the Burmese aggressors.[23]


Buddha head overgrown by fig tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya historical park

Ayutthaya's main religion was Theravada Buddhism. However, many of the elements of the political and social system were incorporated from Hindu scriptures and were conducted by Brahmin priests.[21] Many areas of the kingdom also practised Mahayana Buddhism, Islam[24] and, influenced by French Missionaries who arrived through China in the 17th century, some small areas converted to Roman Catholicism.[25] The influence of Mahayana and Tantric prractices also entered Theravada Buddhism, producing a tradition called Tantric Theravada.

Economic development

The Thais never lacked a rich food supply. Peasants planted rice for their own consumption and to pay taxes. Whatever remained was used to support religious institutions. From the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, however, a remarkable transformation took place in Thai rice cultivation. In the highlands, where rainfall had to be supplemented by a system of irrigation[note 2] that controlled the water level in flooded paddies, the Thais sowed the glutinous rice that is still the staple in the geographical regions of the North and Northeast. But in the floodplain of the Chao Phraya, farmers turned to a different variety of rice—-the so-called floating rice, a slender, non-glutinous grain introduced from Bengal—-that would grow fast enough to keep pace with the rise of the water level in the lowland fields.[26]

The new strain grew easily and abundantly, producing a surplus that could be sold cheaply abroad. Ayutthaya, situated at the southern extremity of the floodplain, thus became the hub of economic activity. Under royal patronage, corvée labour dug canals on which rice was brought from the fields to the king's ships for export to China. In the process, the Chao Phraya Delta—-mud flats between the sea and firm land hitherto considered unsuitable for habitation—-was reclaimed and placed under cultivation. Traditionally the king had a duty to perform a religious ceremony blessing the rice plantation.[26]

Although rice was abundant in Ayutthaya, rice export was banned from time to time when famine occurred because of natural calamity or war. Rice was usually bartered for luxury goods and armaments from westerners, but rice cultivation was mainly for the domestic market and rice export was evidently unreliable. Trade with Europeans was lively in the seventeenth century. In fact European merchants traded their goods, mainly modern arms such as rifles and cannons, with local products from the inland jungle such as sapan (lit. bridge) woods, deerskin and rice. Tomé Pires, a Portuguese voyager, mentioned in the sixteenth century that Ayutthaya, or Odia, was rich in good merchandise. Most of the foreign merchants coming to Ayutthaya were European and Chinese, and were taxed by the authorities. The kingdom had an abundance of rice, salt, dried fish, arrack and vegetables.[27]

Trade with foreigners, mainly the Dutch, reached its peak in the seventeenth century. Ayutthaya became a main destination for merchants from China and Japan. It was apparent that foreigners began taking part in the kingdom's politics. Ayutthayan kings employed foreign mercenaries who sometimes entered the wars with the kingdom's enemies. However, after the purge of the French in late seventeenth century, the major traders with Ayutthaya were the Chinese. The Dutch from the Dutch East Indies Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC), were still active. Ayutthaya's economy declined rapidly in the eighteenth century, until the Burmese invasion caused the total collapse of Ayutthaya's economy in 1788.[28]

Contacts with the West

Memorial plate in Lopburi showing King Narai with French ambassadors

In 1511, immediately after having conquered Malacca, the Portuguese sent a diplomatic mission headed by Duarte Fernandes to the court of King Ramathibodi II of Ayutthaya. Having established amicable relations between the kingdom of Portugal and the Kingdom of Siam, they returned with a Siamese envoy with gifts and letters to the King of Portugal.[29] They were the first Europeans to visit the country. Five years after that initial contact, Ayutthaya and Portugal concluded a treaty granting the Portuguese permission to trade in the kingdom. A similar treaty in 1592 gave the Dutch a privileged position in the rice trade.

Foreigners were cordially welcomed at the court of

Royal house
Ayutthaya Dynasty
Founding year: 1350
Preceded by
Sukhothai Kingdom
Ruling Dynasty of the
Kingdom of Ayutthaya

Succeeded by
Thonburi Kingdom
  • Online Collection: Southeast Asia Visions Collection by Cornell University Library
  • "History of Aythhaya – Your resources on old Siam"
  • ayutthaya
  • ayutthaya

External links

  • Second Voyage du Pere Tachard et des Jesuites envoyes par le Roi au Royaume de Siam. Paris: Horthemels, 1689.

Western account

  • Kham Hai Kan Chao Krung Kao (Lit. Testimony of inhabitants of Old Capital (i.e. Ayutthaya))
  • Kham Hai Kan Khun Luang Ha Wat (Lit. Testimony of the "King who Seeks a Temple" (nickname of King Uthumphon)) - An English translation.
  • Palm Leaf Manuscripts No.11997 of the Universities Central Library Collection or Yodaya Yazawin – Available in English in Tun Aung Chain tr. (2005) Chronicle of Ayutthaya, Yangon: Myanmar Historical Commission

These are Burmese historical accounts of Ayutthaya.

Burmese account

Some of these are available in Cushman, Richard D. (2000). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya: A Synoptic Translation, edited by David K. Wyatt. Bangkok: The Siam Society.

    • Fifteenth-Century Fragment – Michael Vickery version(in English and Thai) and Ubonsi Atthaphan version in pp.215-231 (in Thai)
    • Van Vliet Chronicle (1640) – Translated and compiled by the Dutch merchant. The original Thai manuscripts disappeared.
    • The Luang Prasoet Version (1680) – Ayutthaha History (in Thai)
    • CS 1136 Version (1774)
    • The Nai (Nok) Kaeo Version (1782) - in pp.232-244 (in Thai)
    • CS 1145 Version (1783)
    • Sanggitiyavamsa – Pali chronicle compiled by Phra Phonnarat, generally discussing Buddhism History of Thailand.
    • CS 1157 Version of Phan Chanthanumat (1795)
    • Thonburi Chronicle (1795)
    • Somdet Phra Phonnarat Version (1795) – Thought to be identical to Bradley Version below.
    • Vol.2 – Pali chronicle.Culayuddhakaravamsa - includes other three versions of the chronicle.
    • Phra Chakraphatdiphong (Chat) Version (1808) (in Thai)
    • Brith Museum Version (1807)
    • Wat Ban Thalu Version (1812)
    • 'Sermon (1820) .'Culayuddhakaravamsa - includes other three versions of the chronicle.
    • Bradley or Two-Volume Version (1864) – formerly called Krom Phra Paramanuchit Chinorot Version. Vol.1 Vol.2 Vol.3 or Vol.1 Vol.2
    • Pramanuchit's Abridged Version (1850) (in English)
    • Royal Autograph Version (1855) - Vol. 1, Vol. 2

There are 18 versions of Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (Phongsawadan Krung Si Ayutthaya) known to scholars.(According to )

Phongsawadan Krung Si Ayutthaya

Peerapun, Wannasilpa. "The economic impact of historic sites on the economy of Ayutthaya, Thailand." Diss. U of Akron, 1991.

Subject:Urban planning

Chrystall, Beatrice. "Connections without limit: The refiguring of the Buddha in the Jinamahanidana." Diss. Harvard U, 2004.

Subject: Buddhist literature

Smith, George V. "The Dutch East India Company in the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, 1604–1694." Diss. Northern Illinois U, 1974.

Subject: History

Chrystall, Beatrice. "Connections without limit: The refiguring of the Buddha in the Jinamahanidana." Diss. Harvard U, 2004.

Subject: Buddhist literature

Listopad, John A. "The art and architecture of the reign of Somdet Phra Narai." Diss. U of Michigan, 1995.

Subject: Art History

Dissertations retrieved from ProQuest-Dissertations and Theses on Aug.16,2006

  • Smithies, Michael. A Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa 1686: The Odyssey of Ok-Khun Chamman. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1999.

Further reading

  • Original text adapted from the Library of Congress Country Study of Thailand


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Higham 1989, p. 355
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Phayre, pp. 127–130
  11. ^ Phayre, p. 139
  12. ^ Wyatt 2003, pp. 90–121
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b
  27. ^ Tome Pires. The Suma Oriental of Tome Pires. London, The Hakluyt Society,1944, p.107
  28. ^
  29. ^ Donald Frederick Lach, Edwin J. Van Kley, "Asia in the making of Europe", pp. 520–521, University of Chicago Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0-226-46731-3
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b
  32. ^
  33. ^ Ruangsilp 2007, p. 203
  34. ^ Dictionaire geographique universel. Amsterdam & Utrecht: Chez Francois Halma, 1750. p.880.
  35. ^ Harvey, p. 250
  36. ^ a b c Ruangsilp 2007, p. 218
  37. ^ Harvey, p. 253
  38. ^ a b Syamananda 1990, p. 94
  39. ^ a b Wood 1924, pp. 254–264
  40. ^
  41. ^


  1. ^
  2. ^


See also

Image gallery

List of notable foreigners in seventeenth century Ayutthaya

Kings of Ayutthaya

The ruins of the historic city of Ayutthaya and "associated historic towns" in the Ayutthaya historical park have been listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site.[40] The city of Ayutthaya was refounded near the old city, and is now capital of the Ayutthaya province.[41]

One general, Phraya Taksin, former governor of Taak, began the reunification effort.[38][39] He gathered forces and began striking back at the Burmese. He finally established a capital at Thonburi, across the Chao Phraya from the present capital, Bangkok. Taak-Sin ascended the throne, becoming known as King Taak-Sin or Taksin.[38][39]

With most Burmese forces having withdrawn, the country was reduced to chaos. All that remained of the old capital were some ruins of the royal palace. Provinces proclaimed independence under generals, rogue monks, and members of the royal family.

The Burmese rule lasted a mere few months. The Burmese, who had also been fighting a simultaneous war with the Chinese since 1765, were forced to withdraw in early 1768 when the Chinese forces threatened their own capital.[37]

In 1765, a combined 40,000-strong force of Burmese armies invaded the territories of Ayutthaya from the north and west.[35] Major outlying towns quickly capitulated. The only notable example of successful resistance to these forces was found at the village of Bang Rajan. After a 14 months' siege, the city of Ayutthaya capitulated and was burned in April 1767.[36] Ayutthaya's art treasures, the libraries containing its literature, and the archives housing its historic records were almost totally destroyed,[36] and the Burmese brought the Ayutthaya Kingdom to ruin.[36]

According to a French source, Ayutthaya in the eighteenth century comprised these principal cities: Martaban, Ligor or Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Tenasserim, Jungceylon or Phuket Island, Singora or Songkhla. Her tributaries were Patani, Pahang, Perak, Kedah and Malacca.[34]

The last fifty years of the kingdom witnessed a bloody struggle among the princes. The throne was their prime target. Purges of court officials and able generals followed. The last monarch, Ekathat, originally known as Prince Anurakmontree, forced the king, who was his younger brother, to step down and took the throne himself.[33]

After a bloody period of dynastic struggle, Ayutthaya entered into what has been called the golden age, a relatively peaceful episode in the second quarter of the eighteenth century when art, literature, and learning flourished. There were foreign wars. Ayutthaya fought with the Nguyễn Lords (Vietnamese rulers of South Vietnam) for control of Cambodia starting around 1715. But a greater threat came from Burma, where the new Alaungpaya dynasty had subdued the Shan states.[32]

Three pagodas of Wat Phra Si Sanphet which house the remains of King Borommatrailokanat, King Borommarachathirat III and King Ramathibodi II

The final phase

The French presence encouraged by Phaulkon, however, stirred the resentment and suspicions of the Thai nobles and Buddhist clergy. When word spread that Narai was dying, a general, Phetracha, killed the designated heir, a Christian, and had Phaulkon put to death along with a number of missionaries. The arrival of English warships provoked a massacre of more Europeans. Phetracha (reigned 1688–93) seized the throne and expelled the remaining foreigners. Some studies said that Ayutthaya began a period of alienation from western traders, while welcoming more Chinese merchants. But other recent studies argue that, due to wars and conflicts in Europe in the mid-eighteenth century, European merchants reduced their activities in the East. However, it was apparent that the Dutch East Indies Company or VOC was still doing business in Ayutthaya despite political difficulties.[31]

Siamese embassy to Louis XIV in 1686, by Nicolas Larmessin.

In 1664, however, the Dutch used force to exact a treaty granting them extraterritorial rights as well as freer access to trade. At the urging of his foreign minister, the Greek adventurer Constantine Phaulkon, Narai turned to France for assistance. French engineers constructed fortifications for the Thais and built a new palace at Lopburi for Narai. In addition, French missionaries engaged in education and medicine and brought the first printing press into the country. Louis XIV's personal interest was aroused by reports from missionaries suggesting that Narai might be converted to Christianity.[31]

[30] Uthong was responsible for the compilation of a

The Chinese were not obliged to register for corvée duty, so they were free to move about the kingdom at will and engage in commerce. By the sixteenth century, the Chinese controlled Ayutthaya's internal trade and had found important places in the civil and military service. Most of these men took Thai wives because few women left China to accompany the men.[20]

Outside this system to some extent were the sangha (Buddhist monastic community), which all classes of men could join, and the Overseas Chinese. Wats became centres of Thai education and culture, while during this period the Chinese first began to settle in Thailand and soon began to establish control over the country's economic life.[20]

King Trailok, in the early sixteenth century, established definite allotments of land and phrai for the royal officials at each rung in the hierarchy, thus determining the country's social structure until the introduction of salaries for government officials in the nineteenth century.[20]

However, the recruitment of the armed forces depended on nai, or mun nai, literally meaning 'lord', officials who commanded their own phrai som, or subjects. These officials had to submit to the king's command when war broke out. Officials thus became the key figures to the kingdom's politics. At least two officials staged coups, taking the throne themselves while bloody struggles between the king and his officials, followed by purges of court officials, were always seen.[20]

Painting by Johannes Vingboons of Ayutthaya, c. 1665

Wealth, status, and political influence were interrelated. The king allotted rice fields to court officials, provincial governors, military commanders, in payment for their services to the crown, according to the sakdi na system. The size of each official's allotment was determined by the number of commoners or phrai he could command to work it. The amount of manpower a particular headman, or official, could command determined his status relative to others in the hierarchy and his wealth. At the apex of the hierarchy, the king, who was symbolically the realm's largest landholder, theoretically commanded the services of the largest number of phrai, called phrai luang (royal servants), who paid taxes, served in the royal army, and worked on the crown lands.[20]

With ample reserves of land available for cultivation, the realm depended on the acquisition and control of adequate manpower for farm labour and defence. The dramatic rise of Ayutthaya had entailed constant warfare and, as none of the parties in the region possessed a technological advantage, the outcome of battles was usually determined by the size of the armies. After each victorious campaign, Ayutthaya carried away a number of conquered people to its own territory, where they were assimilated and added to the labour force.[20] Ramathibodi II (r.1491–1529) established a corvée system under which every freeman had to be registered as a phrai (servant) with the local lords, Chao Nai (เจ้านาย). When war broke out, male phrai were subject to impressment. Above the phrai was a nai (นาย), who was responsible for military service, corvée labour on public works, and on the land of the official to whom he was assigned. Phrai Suay ((ไพร่ส่วย) met labour obligations by paying a tax. If he found the forced labour under his nai repugnant, he could sell himself as a that (ทาส, slave) to a more attractive nai or lord, who then paid a fee in compensation for the loss of corvée labour. As much as one-third of the manpower supply into the nineteenth century was composed of phrai.[20]

(divine king) was a bodhisattva. The belief in divine kingship prevailed into the eighteenth century, although by that time its religious implications had limited impact. devaraja officiated over by royal court brahmans, part of the Buddhist court retinue. In the Buddhist context, the cult practices of Shiva or Vishnu and became the sacred object of politico-religious incarnation of minor cities. The king ultimately came to be recognised as the earthly tributary rulers (อำมาตย์) and courtiers The lords gradually became [20]

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