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Thailand Travel Information: Thai History

Literally means "Land of the Free", Thailand can boast its distinction being the only one country in Southeast Asia that has remained independent and never been colonized throughout its history. Thailand's 800-year-history can be divided into five major periods, each of which has founded typical characteristics of Thai culture today.


Nanchao Period (A.D.650-1250)

According to Chinese historical records, Thai people founded Nanchao Kingdom in the southern part of China which is the present-day Yunnan, Kwangsi, and Canton provinces. Later, due to the invasion of people from the north, a flood of Thai people migrated southwards into Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, and as far as Chao Praya Basin. They settled down in the peninsula's Central Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire whose culture influenced on the fundamental Thai culture in those early times. After a course of time, Thai people accumulated its power and finally founded their independent state of Sukhothai around A.D.1238 which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Period.


Sukhothai Period (A.D.1238-1378)

While the two existing Khmer and Mon Kingdoms were facing their waning power, the Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the 13th century, and finally set up the independent city-state in the upper area of central Thailand, given the name as "Sukhothai" or "the Dawn of Happiness". During the Sukhothai Period, Thai cultures came to its golden age, particularly under the reign of King Ramkamheng the Great. He led Sukhothai to its prosperity of power, economy, religion, and arts. The state's territory under him extended to most of Malaya, Laos, eastern and central Thailand as well as some vassals of the Mons in Burma. Theravada Buddhism was also introduced to the kingdom. Trades with China and other parts of region prospered. On the top of things, Thai alphabet was invented in this period, marking the first written historical record of Thailand and also the typical Thai civilization. However, under the successive kings after Ramkamheng, Sukhothai declined and was eventually subdued to the mightier state of Ayutthaya in 1350.


Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767)

Established by King U Thong (renamed King Ramathibodi I), Ayutthaya came into its dominance over other Thai principalities in the mainland Southeast Asia. Ayutthaya kingdom is centered on the western side of the Chao Praya River basin, expanding its territory to the whole central Siam, from Sukhothai to the north to Malay Peninsula in the south. For the next 417 years, Ayutthaya had been a capital of Thai state in which Thai people had strengthen their identity both as a unique group of people and as a nation through language, art, and culture. In the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and commercial relations with the western countries. However, in parallel of flowering age, Ayutthaya had experienced constant struggles for the throne inside the court itself as well as the external conflicts with its neighbors among which Burma was the chief enemy. The conflicts came to the head in 1767 when Burmese troops invaded Ayutthaya and succeeded in capturing the capital. Despite their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for long. A young general named Phraya Taksin and his followers broke through the Burmese encirclement and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.


Thonburi Period (1767-1772)

After breaking through the Burmese siege, Praya Taksin united his force and decided o transferred the capital from Ayutthaya to the site closer to the sea for a reason of more defensive position and benefits from trades that were then necessities for the re-establishment of the kingdom; hence the new capital of Siam-Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Praya River, just opposite the present-day Bangkok. Due to the aftermaths of disunity and chaos of Ayutthaya's collapse, Thonburi could not avoid the constant battles both with Burma and also the uprising rebellions throughout the kingdom. Despite the unification of most provinces, Thonburi, as a capital of Siam lasted only 15 years. Taksin, reportedly go insane, was forced to abdicate the throne by his ministers and generals, and eventually executed. The event marked the beginning of a new shift which oversaw the present-day Thailand.


Rattanakosin Period (1782-present)

After Taksin's death, the former general of Thonburi, Chao Praya Chakri, ascended to the throne, claiming himself, King Rama I, the first king of Chakri Dynasty of Rattanakosin Period. Fearful of Burmese attack, King Rama I transferred his capital from Thonburi across the Chao Praya River to the present site of Bangkok, and gave it a Sanskrit name as "Krung Tep" or the "City of Angels". The kingdom with its re-established capital and its boundary secured from warfare paved the way for arts, architecture, and culture to flourish again. The Grand Palace, magnificent temples and many other constructions are a result of the attempt of King Rama I to revive the splendor of Ayutthaya in his new capital. The succeeding kings also led Siam to its prosperity of religion, arts and international trades.

During the reign of King Rama IV and King Rama V, Thailand entered the modernization and the diplomatic relations with the western world, overseeing the dramatic development of the nation. Even in certain volatile situations in the worldwide globe such as during the Colonialism, Thailand with its rulers' shrewdness in diplomacy could manage to retain its independence through that era. Thailand changed from the absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 1932; the country's was also changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of democratic government in 1939. The present king of Chakri Dynasty is King Rama IX, King Bhumipol Adulyadej.




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