Thailand offers a variety of cultural and historical testimonies from 700 years of history, as well as an enigmatic world of myths and legends that is close to the ancient Indian. Much of it is still unexplored. Accordingly, the Thais come from a “northern, cold mountainous country” (possibly from the Altai Mountains in northwestern Mongolia), which they left in order to hike in long stages across China east and especially south. The first migrations are said to be around 2700 BC. have taken place.
Here the emergence of the kingdoms Aliao and Nanchao is described, which are considered to be the forerunners of the later Sukhothai empire. Regarding the time before the founding of the Sukhothai Empire, there are unsatisfactory sources about the emergence of Thai nationality and the formation of states. Most of the Thai chronicles were destroyed when Ayuthaya was destroyed, so we have to rely on Chinese sources.
The most important sources of the history of Nan-chaos are Chinese reports, especially the Manshu cultural work. These accounts also tell of an empire called To-lo-po-ti, probably the Dvaravati empire of the Mon.
The small kingdom of Aliao may only have been a collection of individual village communities.
Since there were two developments in the later state formation, one in southern China and one in what is now northern Thailand, there were repeated attempts at interpretation and discrepancies as to which of the two developments was the decisive one. Today it is certain that the essential phases of development originated in the kingdom of Nanchao (Chinese: southern country), which later resulted in the first large and perfect community of Thai people in Sukhothai.
Under the Chinese Emperor Hwang Ti, the Chinese conquerors succeeded in driving the widely dispersed Thai tribes out of their tribal areas. According to a report of Chinese historiography from the year 2637 BC, however, nine Thai tribes had banded together to resist the Chinese expansion.
Around 2457 BC Both the Chinese and the Thai tribes were threatened by invading Mongols in their areas. Over the centuries, the Thai tribes allied with the Chinese in order to be able to drive out the Mongols.
Around 2000 BC. the actual formation of the first ethnic groups began in South China, which are considered the forerunners of today’s Thais. Different tribes, still divided, are spreading in the Jünan area (West Yünnan) in southern China. Another theory assumes that the Kwangsi province further to the east was also home to various tribes. Earlier Chinese sources tell of the wild tribes of the Pa, Lung and Mung, all related to the Thais today, and are the only historical sources of reference from that time.
During the reign of the Chinese Emperor Tai Ayh (Häh Dynasty, 1860 – 1763 BC), the borders of China were redefined and documented diplomatic relations were established with a Thai prince named Chung Ging, who ruled the city of Nakorn Pa . The Chinese called the area of the Thais Law Tai Mung (Thai area).
More than a thousand undocumented years have passed since around 800 BC. the Tartar people oppressed the areas in south China and drove isolated tribes of the Lung to the east. At this time, the Chinese Zhou dynasty (1100 – 220 BC) existed, which strengthened the Chinese national feeling and as an independent culture increasingly separated itself from the other tribes. The Zhou rulers continue to promote this independence of the Chinese people and consider all non-Chinese people to be barbarians. The time of suspicion and persecution begins in the area where Han Chinese and Thai tribes once lived in harmony. Han Chinese armies expand their sphere of influence to the southern borders of China and India.
As between 221 – 207 BC. When the Chinese Qin dynasty took over power, a large Chinese culture had already developed. The Qin dynasty still unites all existing Chinese principalities into one state. The newly won independence of the Thais is suppressed and their lands are annexed. Large parts of the Thai population are shifting their settlement area ever further south.
Around this time the Thais who immigrated from southern China founded the city of Phrae. Later Phrae becomes a city-state and is also called the Principality of Wiang Kosai.
It takes a hundred years before the Thais can shake off Chinese bondage and found the Kingdom of Aliao in southern China. This small kingdom becomes a magnet for all the scattered Thai tribes, but can only expand further south under pressure from its Chinese neighbors. However, all Thais are still not united under one kingdom.
The establishment of the first Thai state in South China initially developed independently of the other autonomous principalities and state foundations in today’s area of Thailand. The majority of the ethnic group still lives as a minority in the Chinese sphere of influence or has been assimilated. Other Thai tribes with the names Dai and Bai are mentioned in the Chinese chronicles.
87 BC The kingdom of Aliao became too influential for the Chinese rulers. Within a short time, the young Aliao empire was conquered bloody, the rulers driven out or subjugated. The Thais will not recover from this blow for the next hundred years. Many small vassal principalities rule over the Thais in South China at this time. A first large migration to the area of northern Thailand begins, thereby strengthening the power centers there.
Migrations also began to the west of Thailand, where as early as 43 BC. BC first ethnic groups of the Thais settled. Writings carved on stone tablets, King Rama Khamheng reports on the Suwannapum areas (gold mining areas), with the capital Suwannapum Raschatanie (Nakhon Pathom) and four other cities Ratchaburi, Singburi (near the Kwae River, Kanchaburi), Pethburi and Dtranausr, the as early as 43 BC Should be founded by the Thais.
In 9 AD, the Aliao Kingdom regained its independence. Since China has to resolve internal political unrest and withdraw troops inland, the renewal of the Thai empire is tolerated. Forty years later, however, the Chinese conquer the Aliao Empire again. However, it is no longer integrated into the Chinese Empire, but remains an independent vassal state that has to pay tribute to the Chinese.
In the Chinese Age of the Three Kings (220-280), Chinese troops conquer Aliao again and finally incorporated it into the Kingdom of Szechuan. At that time there was no central government in China. North China was ruled by Turkish conquerors, South China fell into three kingdoms. These three kingdoms formed an alliance of convenience to protect their kingdoms from further intruders. Although China is a divided country, the Empire of the Three Kings has enough power to keep all non – Chinese subjugated. As a result of this development, the Thais continue to migrate towards the southeast.
Around 650 the Thais rebelled against the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907) and regained their independence against the still weakened China. The Thai principalities in southern China unite to form the new kingdom of Nanchao. The ruling Chinese emperor Kao Tsung finally accepts the independence of the Thais and signs a friendship treaty with them. Both empires become close allies. The Thais adopt a lot from Chinese culture and organize their kingdom according to Chinese models.
At this time another people appeared on the stage of world history. The Khmer founded the Kingdom of Chenla in the 6th century in what is now Isan and Cambodia. They are still building their own kingdom and have little influence on Thai development.
A new conqueror now threatens southern China and the young Thai empire. In 733, the continued expansion of Tibet is viewed with concern, which would destroy the long peace in the region. The Chinese Emperor Ming Li from the Tang Dynasty mobilized his and all allied tribes of southern China at an early stage in order to be able to counter the great threat. Nanchao is also opposing the threatened expansion of Tibet and is entering into a military alliance with Emperor Ming Li.
Two years later, King Pilaoko of Nanchao, the first king of Nanchao, allied with China. The preparations to be able to oppose Tibet are proceeding. The appointment of King Pilaoko as Prince of Jünan is solemnly sealed in 738 at the court of Beijing. The reorganization and mobilization of the joint armed forces and their training takes many years to complete. Nanchao is made a military base. Fortresses and other defenses are built. Watchtowers and scouts provide King Pilaoko with every step of the Tibetan conqueror and military machinery. Tibet is not yet a direct threat, but expansion towards the south is evident.
After years of preparation, the Chinese Kair commissioned 745 to cut up enemy troops and thus inflict severe damage on the scattered units and even occupy Tibetan territories.
King Pilaoko dies five years later. His son, Prince Kolofeng, is his successor, but, unlike his father, strives for his own large empire. When Kolofeng felt offended by the governor of the Chinese province of Hunan, he terminated all contracts with China. Inspired by his father’s successes, he lets his troops march into Chinese areas. Knowing that this was a strategic balancing act, he sealed a secret alliance with the archenemy Tibet.
This was fine with the Tibetans, who were still preoccupied with their own military defeats. For them it was an alliance of convenience with King Kolofeng so as not to expose their current weaknesses. The Chinese government was also aware of this weakness, so that it waged war against the kingdom of Nanchao from 752 to 754, but could not ultimately win. King Pilaoko had militarized his empire to such an extent that even the clumsy Kolofeng could still benefit from it. Since China could do nothing against Kolofeng, it began to expand its border fortifications and viewed Nanchao as an archenemy.
Through the alliance with Tibet he succeeded in conquering the valley of the upper Irrawaddy between 757 and 763, and was thus able to establish a connection with the empires in the west. In 766 he had a stele with a Chinese inscription set up in Thai-ho. This inscription commemorated his victories over the Chinese, which he had won as an ally of the Tibetans; for this the Tibetans awarded him the title “Emperor of the East”.
The stele shows that Nanchao not only used the Chinese script, but also built up the kingdom based on Chinese models.
At this time, many Thais migrate further south. The Thai Yai, the great Thais, settled in the valley of the Salween, and are therefore probably the forerunners of the Shan. The Thai Noi, the little Thais, settled in Laos and Siam and formed the core of today’s Laotian and Siamese peoples.
In 779 Kolofeng dies and his grandson Imoshun ascends the throne. After his accession to the throne, he continues the war against southern China, but has no success with it. The two equally strong opponents of the war get closer and exchange diplomatic talks. King Imoshun finally signed a peace and friendship treaty with the Chinese emperor Tai Tsang in 794. Both states become trade and alliance partners.
A war against Tibet, which Imoshun started alone in the same year, was unsuccessful. The three equal powers China, Tibet and Nanchao swap bilateral agreements and are henceforth occupied with domestic politics. The following three decades was a time of peace in the region.
When King Imoshun dies in 829, his successor continues the family’s military doctrine and switches fronts again. He undertakes an insidious robbery against southern China. His goal is to destroy the strong border fortifications, which he largely achieves. The capture of Chinese skilled workers meant that Nanchao could improve his technical level and thus integrate further Chinese achievements into his empire. The Thais could catch up with the Chinese, especially in fortress construction.
In 832 the kingdom conquered the city of Pagan, the capital of the Mon, whom they plundered. They took thousands of prisoners with them to Yunnan Fu (another spelling is Arimmaddanapura), the eastern capital of Nan-chaos.
This raid has consequences 30 years later. Meanwhile, King Tsuiling is crowned King of Nanchao. Since China has regained its old strength and was able to expand its border fortifications more strongly than before, border conflicts are increasingly emerging that cannot be resolved even through talks.
Then King Tsuiling raised an army and marched against Chengdu, the capital of the southern Chinese empire of Szechuan, but was unable to take the heavily fortified city. He lets his troops march into northern Vietnam, which at that time was largely under Chinese rule, in order to destroy the Chinese outposts. However, without being able to record a great military success, his army finally returns.
In the year 870 Tsuiling tried again to conquer Chengdu, but failed this time too. Five years later he was able to attack the city again and besieged it for a while, but never conquered the city.
Tsuiling’s successor was King Taiking, also referred to as King Fa in the Chinese chronicles. King Taiking was a level headed man and made peace with China. From then on, both kingdoms lived as peaceful neighbors for centuries
is mentioned in the Chinese chronicles, it is believed that both empires lived in such peaceful coexistence that the Chinese historians had little reason to write about the kingdom of Nanchao. Thai sources about the ancient kingdom of Nanchao were destroyed in the conquest of Ayuthaya.
In 1096 the little important Thai city-state Phayao was founded. Another small city-state was established in what is now Chiang Saen.
If by then Nanchao and individual Thai principalities had developed in southern China and in what is now northern Thailand, apart from various migrations of peoples, there was no unification of all Thai empires. The decline of Nanchao began.
The Thais formed further administrative districts and principalities. Since they were still without a significant culture and script of their own and could neither compete with the strong southern empire of Angkor nor with the strong northern empire of the Chinese, they also put themselves regularly in their service. You can see them on the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat as scouts for the Cambodian troops.
An important factor is the penetration of the Mon empire of Dvaravati during the 11th and 12th centuries. The Thais mix with the Mon, from whom they take many cultural elements.
In 1215 the Thais founded the Principality of Modaung in northern Bhamo and in 1223 the Principality of Muong Nai on a tributary of the Salween. In 1229 they conquered Assam.
This changed, however, when two Thai princes rebelled against the Khmer in Sukhothai in 1238.
1253 will be the decisive year for the future development of Thai history. The Mongolian military leader and Chinese emperor, Emperor Kublai Khan, conquered the kingdom of Nanchao with his war machine and completely destroyed its armed forces. The kingdom of Nanchao no longer existed.
A large expulsion and migration of peoples began again towards the south and southeast of Thailand. They follow the valleys as they were able to use the floodplain rice cultivation they brought with them from their homeland. Some large ethnic groups of the Thai lek, (small) who are understood today as the actual Thais, unite with principalities in the area of what is now northern Thailand, in particular with the small kingdom of Chiang Mai. Most of the refugees settled in the Sukhothai area, which decisively strengthened Sukhothai’s population and power base. Larger groups of the Shan (Thai jaj) also settle in the Upper Burma area.
During their forays and migrations, the Thais encountered the high-standing cultures of the Khmer and Mon, which by this time had already passed their peak. So it was easy for the Thais to first settle in the outskirts of these former powers. Eventually they were able to drive the weakened Khmer out of the city of Sukhothai in 1257. Sukhothai is being developed as the new capital of a young new Thai state and can establish itself as a new power.
The Sukhothai Empire eventually became the epitome of Thai independence and the germ of the later Thai Kingdom of Siam.
Other empires and their developments in Siam
The area between the Burmese heartland and central Thailand had already been settled in the 5th century by the Mon, a people from India who mixed with the indigenous people. From a number of principalities the Dvaravati empire developed there, which at the height of its cultural and political power in the 8th and 9th centuries was able to expand its sphere of influence into northern Thailand. The Mon practiced Theravada Buddhism and made sure that it could spread in their domain. They founded the first significant Buddhist culture on Thai soil, which was later suppressed by the Khmer. Only a few testimonies testify to the former flourishing culture. One of the most important testimonies is the imposing restored Wat Kukut in Lamphun.
The heartland of the Khmer was eastern Thailand with the fertile Mekong valley. In the 11th century they conquered most of the Dvaravati Empire and made Lopburi and Phimai their political and religious centers of power.
Haripunchai Empire – Lamphun
Lamphun (spoken = Lam puhn) is one of the oldest cities in Thailand. It was founded in 660 as the capital of the Haripunchai Kingdom. The first regent was Queen Chama Devi, who is still highly revered today. In 660 the city was founded by the legendary hermit Suthep from the Lawa people. He invited Chama Devi, a Mon princess from Lopburi, to be her first queen.
The first empire of the north was founded by the Mon in Lamphun. In 897 the Mon began building the great chedi of Wat Phrathat Haripunchai in Lamphun, which is still today the
greatest temple in the north. The temple on the Kuang River has a large area dominated by a high viharn e and a golden chedi, and a purple pavilion on the right supports a bronze gong that is said to be the largest in the world.
In 1275, King Mengrai dispatched his best spy, Ai Fa, to Haripuncha to find a way to conquer the city. Ai Fa turned out to be a brilliant agent: within six years he became a town clerk, then minister of defense and finally even viceroy. He raised taxes, cut defense spending, and squandered money on pointless projects. When the city was bankrupt and the population was ready to revolt, Ai Fa’s mission had achieved its goal – in 1281 King Mengrai attacked the defenseless city and took it by surprise.
Development in Phuket
Mon (a Khmer tribe) are said to have been the first residents of Phuket
The region around Phuket must have been of interest to early merchants and seafarers from an early age; not to mention the pirates. On old nautical charts, Phuket is listed under other names: Iunsalan, Iunsalao, Jan-Sylan or Junceylon. These names were nothing but different versions of the Malay Ujong Salang or “Cape of Salang”. The current name Phuket comes from the Malay word Bukii, hill.
The first traders to set up trading posts on the island were Indians from what is now the southern Indian province of Tamil Nadu. They began a flourishing trade in the treasures the island had to offer: coral and ivory, as well as ambergris, a ferment from the stomach of whales, which was used to make perfumes, and rhinoceros powder, which was used as a home remedy for poisoning. Indian traders quickly became a wealthy class of society, who left numerous figures of Hindu deities in the area around Phuket, especially at Takua Pa, an important trading center.
But the island was also known to other peoples. Middle of the 2nd Century AD the Egyptian Ptolemy drew a map of the Malay Peninsula that would only elicit a cynical grin from today’s cartographers, but was surprisingly accurate by the standards of the day.
In the 9th century, Arab sailors mentioned a transhipment point for ivory and wood.
The Srivijaya Empire
From the 7th to the 12th century, the region of what is now Phuket belonged to the Srivijava Empire, which included the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Java. It was an influential Buddhist country that controlled the important trade route from Malacca. It had excellent relations with the great empire of China and was also influenced by China. Through the establishment of Buddhism and the contact with Cylon, the city was renamed Nagara Sri Dharmaraja “City of the Holy Dharma King”. After the fall of Srivijava, it became a Malay-speaking principality that accepted more and more Thai immigrants from the north.
From the middle of the 11th In the 17th century the island was under the kingdom of Pegu, which had been founded by invaders from the south of India; In 1050 Pegu was attacked by Burmese from Pagan, in 1059 finally defeated and subjugated. The general chaos of war was skilfully used by the ruler of Ligord – today’s Nakhon Si Thammarat, who ruled the entire Malay Peninsula. Phuket was now incorporated into this empire, which in turn was a vassal state of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
It was not until the year 1257 that King Rama Khamhaeng ended the domination of the Cambodians and caused the empire a shameful defeat. Now the rule of the Thais began over Phuket.
The Indian past on Phuket
The cultural development of the entire Indochinese peninsula was fundamentally shaped by ancient India, and all social, religious or artistic impulses have their roots in this formative power. In the first decades AD. Indian traders crossed the Bay of Bengal and ventured into the Far East. The rhythm of their voyage was determined not only by the nature of their ships, but also by the winds of the Mosum – seafarers often had to take an involuntary break in the ports of the Indonesian peninsula until the winds blew from a favorable direction again. The process of Indianization took place.
Indian princes founded small states or remarried to local women
Numerous archaeological finds of Indian origin indicate former Indian settlements in the area of today’s provinces of Phuket, Phang-Nga, Krabi and Trang. This probably had its heyday around 900 AD.
Most of the finds were made around Takua Pa, which provided an ideal harbor spot that was protected from both monsoon currents. The abundant tin deposits in the area were probably the real reason for the settlement.
The place name Takua Pa in its current Thai spelling means “lead forest”, probably a misinterpretation of the tin deposits. The name actually comes from the old place name Takkola, which means “cardamom market”. Indian ships continued from here to the southern areas of the Malay Peninsula, to Sumatra and Java. In addition, the otherwise impenetrable hinterland could be easily reached via the Takua Pa River, which was navigable at the time. However, the discovery of a 25 m long ship near the village of Pong (around 1870) indicates that the river then had a different course than it does today. A brass tray and jewelry of Indian origin were also found. In the area around Phang-Nga some Indian figures of gods, jewelry, small plates with Sanskrit inscriptions and a bronze Buddha with Sanskrit inscriptions were found. The settlement of buffalo and cows is also attributed to the Indians.
The Indians were probably also the first to discover and mine the wealth of tin. Old, abandoned tin mines indicate that ore must have been mined on Phuket two millennia ago. The method used was very simple: the workers dug shafts with a side length of approx. 1.5 meters and a maximum depth of 10 meters. When they were finished, a worker dug ore free at the end of the shaft, shoveled it into a bucket, and a second worker, standing above the shaft, pulled it into the light of day. The ore, which was interspersed with clay and stones to different degrees, was now filtered out. To do this, the degradation product was washed under running water. What was left was an ore concentrate of 70-75 percent purity.
Later the Thais mined the tin in opencast mines, but never in pits, which confirms the Indian influence.