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Taksin the Great
King of Thonburi
Statue of King Taksin at the Wang Derm Palace, Thonburi (western Bangkok)
King of Siam
Reign November 6, 1767–April 6, 1782
Coronation December 28, 1768
Predecessor Ekkathat (prior to fall of Ayutthaya)
Successor Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke
Spouse Bathabharija (Sorn)
Issue
30 sons and daughters[1]
House Thonburi Dynasty
Father Hai-Hong
Mother Nok-lang (later Somdet Krom Phra Phithak Thephamat)
Born April 17, 1734(1734-04-17)
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Died April 7, 1782 (aged 47)
Wang Derm Palace, Thon Buri, Thailand
Religion Theravada Buddhism

Taksin (Royal Institute: Somdet Phra Chao Taksin Maharat; Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช About this sound listen or Somdet Phra Chao Krung Thonburi; Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้ากรุงธนบุรี; Chinese: 鄭昭pinyin: Zhèng Zhāo; Teochew: Dênchao) (April 17, 1734 – April 7, 1782) was the only King of the Thonburi Kingdom. He is greatly revered by the Thai people for his leadership in liberating Siam from Burmese occupation after the Second Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, and the subsequent unification of Siam after it fell under various warlords. He established the city Thonburi as the new capital, as the city Ayutthaya has been almost completely destroyed by the invaders. His reign was characterized by numerous wars, fought to repel new Burmese invasions and to subjugate the northern Thai kingdom of Lanna, the Laotian principalities, and a threatening Cambodia. He was succeeded by the Chakri dynasty and the Rattanakosin Kingdom under his long time friend King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke. In recognition for what he did for the Thais, he was later awarded the title of Maharaj (The Great).

Contents

Early life and career

King Taksin's painting from the museum of Italy.

The future ruler was born on April 17, 1734 in Ayutthaya. His father, Hai-Hong (Thai:ไหฮอง), who worked as a tax-collector,[2] was a Teochew Chinese immigrant with from Chenghai County.[3] His mother, Lady Nok-lang (Thai:นกเอี้ยง), was Thai (and was later awarded the feudal title of Somdet Krom Phra Phithak Thephamat).[4]. Impressed by the boy, Chao Phraya Chakri (Mhud), who was the Samuhanayok (prime minister) in King Boromakot's reign, adopted him and gave him the Thai name Sin, meaning "money or property". When he was 7, he was assigned to a monk named Tongdee to began his education in a Buddhist monastery called Wat Kosawas (later Wat Choeng Thar) (Thai:วัดโกษาวาส ต่อมาเปลี่ยนชื่อเป็น วัดเชิงท่า).[5] After 7 years of education he was sent by his stepfather to serve as a royal page, he studied Chinese, Annamese, and Indian languages with diligence and soon he was able to converse in them with fluency. According to legend, when he and his friend Tong-Duang were Buddhist novices they met a Chinese fortune-teller who told them that they both had lucky lines in the palms of their hands and would both become kings. Neither took it seriously, but Tong-Duang was later the successor of King Taksin, Rama I.[6]

After taking the vows of a Buddhist monk for about 3 years, Sin joined the service of King Ekatat and was first deputy governor and later governor of the Tak,[7] which gained him his name PhrayaTak (Sin)or Sin the Govenor of Tak. Tak was exposed to danger from Burma); though his official noble title was Phraya Tak. When he was promoted to be governor of Kamphaeng Phet, he had to return to Ayutthaya. The Burmese attacked at that time and besieged the Thai capital. Taksin took a leading part in the city's defense. On January 3, 1766, shortly before Ayutthaya fell in 1767, Taksin cut his way out of the city at the head of 500 followers to Rayong,on the east coast of Gulf of Thailand.[8] This action was never adequately explained, as the Royal compound and Ayutthaya proper was located on an island; how Taksin and his followers fought their way out of the Burmese encirclement remains a mystery.

On April 7, 1767, Ayutthaya was facing the full blast of the Burmese siege. After the destruction of Ayutthaya and the death of the Thai king, the country was split into six parts, with Taksin controlling the east coast. Together with Tong-Duang, now General Chao Phraya Chakri, he eventually managed to drive back the Burmese, defeat his rivals and reunify the country.

Resistance and independence

Due to his courage and skill in fighting the enemy, he was promoted to be the governor of Khampaeng Phet with the title of Phraya Vajiraprakarn (Thai:พระยาวชิรปราการ), but he was populaly referred as Phraya (Lord) Tak(Sin). He carried out the defence of Ayutthaya in its last days. Perhaps Sin( Thai people called him "Taksin") saw the situation of the kingdom was in great despair. Therefore before the end of Ayutthaya came, he decided to cut his way out from the city and travelled first to Chon Buri, a town on the Gulf of Thailand's eastern coast, and then to Rayong, where he raised a small army and his supporters began to address him as Prince Tak.[9] He planned to attack and captured on Chantaburi, according to a popular version of oral history, he said "We are going to attack Chantaburi tonight, and all the food that we have left just throwing it away and destroy all of the utensils that we have. As we are going to have breakfast together at Chantaburi otherwise we would rather be dead."

With his soldiers he moved to Chantaburi, and being rebuffed by the Governor of the town for his friendly overtures, he made a surprise night attack on it and captured it on June 15, 1767, only two months of after the sack of Ayutthaya.[10] His army was rapidly increasing in numbers, as men of Chantaburi and Trat, which had not been plundered and depopulated by the Burmese, naturally constituted a suitable base for Taksin to make preparations for the liberation of his motherland.[11].[12]

Having thoroughly looted Ayutthaya, the Burmese did not seem to show serious interest in holding down the capital of Siam, since they left only a handful of troops under General Suki to control the shattered city. They turned their attention to the north of their own country which was soon threatened with Chinese invasion. On November 6, 1767, having mastered 5,000 troops and all in fine spirits, Taksin sailed up the Chao Phraya River and seizes Thonburi opposite present day Bangkok, executing the Thai governor, Thong-in, whom the Burmese had placed over it.[13] He followed up his victory quickly by boldly attacking the main Burmese camp at Phosamton near Ayutthya. The Burmese defeated, and Taksin won back Ayutthaya from the enemy within seven months of its destruction.[12][14]

Taksin took important steps to show that he was a worthy successor to the throne. He was said to take an appropriate treatment to the remnants of ex-Royal Family, arranged a grand cremation of the remains of King Ekatat, and tackled the problem of locating the capital.[15] Possibly, Taksin realized that Ayutthaya city had suffered such vast destruction that to restore it to its former state would undoubtedly have strained his resources. The Burmese were quite familiar with the various routes leading to Ayutthaya, and in the event of renewal of a Burmese attack on it, the troop under the liberator would be inadequate for the effective defence of the city. With these considerations in mind, he established his capital at Thon Buri, nearer to the sea than Ayutthaya.[16] Not only would Thon Buri be difficult to invade by land, it would also prevent an acquisition of weapons and military supplies by anyone ambitious enough to establish himself as an independent prince further up the Chao Phraya River. As Thon Buri was a small town, Prince Tak's available forces, both soldiers and sailors, could man its fortifications, and if he found it impossible to hold it against an enemy's attack, he could embark the troops and beat a retreat to Chantaburi.[10][17]

The successes against competitors for power were due to Taksin’s fighting ability as a warrior, splendid leadership, exemplary valor and effective organization of his forces. Usually he put himself in the front rank in an encounter with the enemy, thus inspiring his men to brave danger. Among the officials who threw in their fate with him during the campaigns for the recovery of national independence and for the elimination of the self-appointed local nobles were two personalities who subsequently played exceptionally important roles in Thai history. They were the sons of an official bearing the title of Pra Acksonsuntornsmiantra (Thai:พระอักษรสุนทรเสมียนตรา), the elder of whom named Tongduang (Thai:ทองด้วง) was born in 1737 in Ayutthaya and later to be the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, while the younger one, Boonma (Thai:บุญมา), born six years later, assumed the power second to him. The two brothers joined the royal service.

Tongduang in Ayutthaya time was soon ennobled as Luang Yokkrabat, taking charge of royal surveillance, serving the Governor of Ratchaburi, and Boonma had a court title conferred upon him as Nai Sudchinda. Luang Yokkrabat (Tongduang) was therefore not in Ayutthaya to witness the horrors arising from the fall of the city, while Nai Sudchinda (Boonma) made his escape from Ayutthaya. However, while King Taksin was assembling his forces at Chantaburi, Nai Sudchinda brought his retainers to join him, thus helping to increase his fighting strength. Due to his previous acquaintance with him, the liberator was so please that he promoted him to be Pra Mahamontri. Just after his coronation, Taksin was fortunate to secure the service of Luang Yokkrabut on the recommendation of Pra Mahamontri (Thai:พระมหามนตรี) and as he was equally familiar with him as with his brother, he raised him to be Pra Rajwarin. Having rendered signal service to the King during his campaigns or their own expeditions against the enemies, Pra Rajwarin (Thai:พระราชวรินทร์) and Pra Mahamontri rose so quickly in the noble ranks that a few years after, the former was created Chao Phraya Chakri, the rank of the Chancellor, while the latter became Chao Phraya Surasih.[16]

Ascension to the throne

Statue of King Taksin the Great at Wongwian Yai.

On December 28, 1768, he was crowned king of Siam at Wang Derm Palace in Thonburi, the new capital of Siam.[18] He assumed the official name of Boromraja IV, but is known in Thai history as King Taksin, being a combination of his popular name, Phya Tak, and his first name, Sin, or the King of Thonburi, being the only ruler of that capital. At the time of his coronation, was only 34 years of age. His father was Chinese or partly Chinese, and his mother Siamese. He believed that even the forces of nature were under his control when he was destined to succeeded, and this faith led him to attempt and achieve tasks which to another man would seem impossible. He never had time to build Thonburi into a great city, as he was fully occupied with suppression of internal and external enemies, as well as territorial expansion throughout his reign.[19]

Five separate states

After the sack of Ayutthaya, the country had fallen apart, due to the disappearance of the central authority. Besides King Taksin, who had organized his force in the south-eastern provinces, Prince Teppipit, King Boromakot's son, who had been unsuccessful in a diversionary action against the Burmese in 1766, had set himself up as the ruler of Phimai holding sway over the eastern provinces including Nakhon Ratchasima or Khorat, while the Governor of Phitsanulok, whose first name was Ruang (Thai:เรือง), had proclaimed himself independent, with the territory under his control extending to the province of Nakhon Sawan. North of Phitsanulok was the town of Sawangburi (know as Fang in the provice of Uttaradit), where a Buddhist monk named Ruan had made himself a prince, appointing his qualified fellow monks as army commanders. He had himself pursued Buddhist studies at Ayutthata with such excellent results that he had been appointed the chief monk of Sawangburi by King Boromakot. In the southern provinces up to Chumphon, a Pra Palad who was the acting Governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat declared his independence and raised himself to the princely rank.[20]

Having firmly established his power at Thonburi, King Taksin set out to crush his rivals so as to effect the reunification of the Kingdom. After a temporary repulse by the Governor of Phitsanulok[21], he concentrated on the defeat of the weakest one first. Prince Teppipit of Phimai was quelled and executed in 1768.[22] In dealing with the Prince of Nakhon Si Thammarat, who was taken prisoner by the loyal Governor of Pattani[23], the King not only pardoned him but also favoured him with a residence at Thonburi. Chao Narasuriyawongse, one of Taksin’s nephews, was substituted for him as Governor. King Taksin himself led an expedition against him and took it, but the Prince disappeared and could not be found again.[24]

Wars and rebellions

Needless to say, Hsinbyushin of Burma never abandoned his plan to force Siam to its knees, and as soon as he had been informed of the foundation of Thonburi as King Taksin's capital, he commanded the Governor of Tavoy to subjugate him in 1767. The Burmese army advanced to the district of Bangkung in the province of Samut Songkram to the west of new capital, but was routed by the Thai king himself.[25]

Peace having been concluded with China, the Burmese king sent another small army of 5,000 to attack Siam in 1774. It was completely surrounded by the Thais at Bangkeo in Ratchaburi, and eventually starvation compelled the Burmese to capitulate to King Taksin. It would be no exaggeration to say that he could have massacred all of them if he wished to do so, but the fact that he took them alive was to promote the morale of Thai people.[26] The Burmese reinforcements who had encamped themselves in the province of Kanchanaburi were then mopped up. Undaunted by this defeat, King Hsinbyushin tried again to conquer Siam, and in October 1775 the greatest Burmese invasion in the Thonburi period began under Maha Thihathula, known in Thai history as Azaewunky. He had distinguished himself as a first rate general in the wars with China and in the suppression of a recent Peguan rising.[27]

After crossing the Thai frontier at Melamao Pass, the Burmese marched towards Phitsanulok, capturing Phichai and Sukhothai on the way. In his interrogation of two Phichai officials, Azaewunky referred to Chao Phraya Surasih who was the Governor of Phisanulok as "Phraya Sua" or "The Tiger", thus testifying to his boldness and decisiveness. The Burmese then besieged Phitsanulok which was defended by the brother generals, Chao Phraya Chakri and Chao Phya Surasih, and as the result of the stubborn resistance on the part of Thai soldiers, they were checked outside the city ramparts for about 4 months.[28] Hearing about Chao Phraya Chakri's successful assaults which drove back the Burmese to their well fortified camp, Azaewunky arranged a meeting with him, in the course of which he extolled his generalship and advised him to take good care on himself. He prophesied that General Chakri would certainly became king. Was he really honest in his prediction? No definite answer was has been found for it. Anyhow he was at that time seventy two years of age, while his opponent was only thirty nine. Any doubt about Azaewunky's stratagem to sow discord between King Taksin and Chao Phraya Chakri should be dismissed, since they collaborated closely in subsequent military expeditions.[27][29]

In spite of King Taksin's endeavour to attack the Burmese from the rear, Chao Phraya Chakri and Chao Phraya Surasih could not hold Phitsanulok any longer, due to lack of provisions. Having collected most of the inhabitants, they successfully fought their way through the enemy lines and made Phetchabun their headquarters. Azaewunky led his army into the deserted city at the end of March 1776, but was soon confronted with the same problem of the shortage of food. At this juncture he was instructed by the new Burmese King, Singun Min or Chingkucha (1776-1782) to evacuate Thai territory. So Azaewunky's army left Siam, but the remnants of the Burmese forces continued the war until they were pushed out of the country in September of that year.[27][29]

In King Taksin's opinion, so long as Chiang Mai was ruled by the Burmese, the north of Siam would be constantly subjected to their incursions. The prerequisite for the maintenance of peace in that region would therefore be the complete expulsion of the Burmese from Chiang Mai.[30] In 1771, the Burmese Governor of that city moved his army southwards and laid siege to Phichai, but he was driven out. Taksin followed the Burmese with a view to studying their strength, and his army was thus not prepared for a direct assault on their city fortress. After meeting with stubborn resistance, he retired, presumably believing in an ancient prophesy to the effect that two attempts were required for the capture of Chiang Mai[31]. King Narairaja had tried twice to seize it before it fell into his hands.[32]

The Burmese failure to take Phichai formed a prelude to Taksin's second-expedition to Chaing Mai[33]. In 1773, a Burmese army which threatened Phichai was drawn into an ambush and was heavily routed. Phraya Phichai, Phichai Governor, engaged the Burmese in a hand to hand fight until his two long swords were broken, and thus won the name of "Broken Sword."[34] When a Thai army under the command of Chao Phraya Chakri and Chao Phraya Surasih reached Lampang, Phraya Chaban and Phraya Kawila, the two leading officials who had deserted the Burmese joined him in laying siege to Chaing Mai and soon King Taksin arrived on the spot. The city fell to the Thai armies in January 1775, but the Burmese Governor and the commander managed to escape with their families. Before his departure for Thonburi, the King conferred honours and distinction on those who had contributed to success of his campaign. Phraya Chaban was made Governor of Chaing Mai with the title of Phraya Wichienprakarn, while Phraya Kawila and Phraya Waiwongsa governed Lampang and Lamphun respectively[35]. Chao Phraya Chakri was directed to prolong his stay in order to assist them in the pacification of the north, which included the Laotian states. However, the Burmese King considered that as the Laotian states constituted his base for the maintenance of Burmese power in the territory further east, namely, Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Chiang Mai must be taken back, and so a Burmese army of 6,000 men was sent there to carry out its mission in 1776. The Burmese entered the city, but were forced out by a Thai army under Chao Phraya Surasih which had marched to its relief. Chaing Mai had suffered from the recent campaigns so badly that its population was greatly reduced and impoverished, and in the even of a new Burmese attack, it could not defend itself. For these reasons, King Taksin abandoned the city and its remaining inhabitants were transplanted to Lampang. Chiang Mai thus became a deserted city and continued to be in this state for fifteen years.[36] Over the next few years, Taksin managed to gain control over Chiang Mai, and put Cambodia under the vassalage of Siam by 1779 after repeated military campaigns.[37]

Closeup of Emerald Buddha in summer season attire

Expansion to the Outer Zone

The annexation of Champasak Province indirectly led King Taksin to send an expedition against Vientiane. In 1777, the ruler of Champasak, which was at that time an independent principality bordering on the Thai eastern frontier, supported the Governor of Nangrong, who had rebelled against the Thai king. A Thai army under Chao Phraya Chakri was ordered to move against the rebel, who was caught and executed, and having received reinforcements under Chao Phraya Surasih, he advanced to Champasak, where the ruler, Chao O and his deputy, were captured and were summarily beheaded. Champasak was added to the Kingdom of Siam, and King Taksin was so pleased with Chao Phraya Chakri's conduct of the campaign that he promoted him to be Somdej Chao Phraya Mahakasatsuek Piluekmahima Tuknakara Ra-adet (Thai:สมเด็จเจ้าพระยามหากษัตริย์ศึก พิลึกมหึมาทุกนคราระอาเดช) (meaning the supreme Chao Phraya, Great Warrior-King who was so remarkably powerful that every city was afraid of his might)[38]—being the highest title of nobility that a commoner could reach. It would be equivalent to the rank of a Royal Duke.

In Vientiane, a Minister of State, Pra Woh, had rebelled against the ruling prince and fled to the Champasak territory, where he set himself up at Donmotdang near the present city of Ubon. He made formal submission to Siam, when he annexed Champask, but after the withdrawal of the Thai army, he was attacked and killed by troops from Vientiane. This action was instantly regarded by King Taksin as a great insult to him, and at his command, Somdej Chao Phya Mahakasatsuek invaded Vientiane with an army of 20,000 men in 1778. It would be useful here to briefly summarise the history of Laos which had been separated into two principalities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane since the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Prince of Luang Prabang, who was in enmity with the Prince of Vientiane, submitted to Siam for his own safety, bringing his men to join Somdej Chao Phya Mahakasatsuek in besieging the city.[39] After a siege of Vientiane about four months, the Thais took Vientiane and carried off the image of the Emerald Buddha to Thonburi. The Prince of Vientiane managed to escape and went into exile. Thus Luang Prabang and Vientiane became Thai dependencies. Nothing definite is known about the origin of the celebrated Emerald Buddha. It is believed that this image was carved from green jasper by an artist or artists in northern India about two thousand years ago. It was taken to Ceylon and then to Chiang Rai, a town in the north of Siam where it was, in 1434, found intact in a chedi which had been struck by lightning. As an object of great veneration among Thai Buddhists. it was deposited in monasteries in Lampang, Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Thonburi, and eventually in Bangkok.[40][41]

In 1770, King Taksin launched a war against the Nguyen Lords over their control of Cambodia. After some initial defeats, the joint Siamese-Cambodian army defeated the Nguyen army in 1771 and 1772. These defeats helped provoke an internal rebellion (the Tay Son rebellion) which would soon sweep the Nguyen out of power. In 1773, the Nguyen made peace with King Taksin, giving back some land they controlled in Cambodia.[42]

In 1769, Cambodia was in turmoil again, due to the rivalry for the throne by two royal brothers, the elder of who was King Ramraja (Non). Having suffered defeat at the hands of his brother (Ton) who was aided by Annamite troops, he sought shelter in Siam. Prince Ton proclaimed himself as King Narairaja. This struggle afforded an opportunity to King Taksin to resuscitate Thai suzerainty over Cambodia as in the days of Ayutthaya. An army was dispatched to assist the ex-King Ramraja to regain his power, but met with no success.[43][44]

In 1771, however, the Thai forces won back the Cambodia throne for him, but Narairaja retreated to the east of the country. In the end, Ramraja and Narairaja came to compromise, whereby the former became the first King and the latter was the second King or Maha Uparayoj, and Prince Tam was Maha Uparat or Deputy to the first and the second King. This arrangement proved to be unsatisfactory. Prince Tam was murdered, while the second King died suddenly. Believing that King Ramraja was responsible for their deaths, many prominent officials under the leadership of Prince Talaha (Mu) revolted, caught him and drowned him in the river in 1780. Prince Talaha put Prince Ang Eng, the four year old son of the ex-King Narairaja, on the throne with himself acting as Regent, but he soon leaned too much Annam, thus coming into conflict with King Taksin’s policy to support a pro-Thai prince on the Cambodia throne. The Thai King therefore decided on an invasion of Cambodia. A Thai army of 20,000 under Somdej Chao Phraya Mahakasatsuek moved into Cambodia, and in the event of his success in subduing the country, he was to assist in crowning Taksin’s son, Prince Intarapitak, as King of Cambodia. With the aid of an Annamite army, Prince Talana was prepared to take his stand against the Thai forces at Phnom Penh, but before any fighting started, serious disturbances which had broken out in Siam made Somdej Chao Phraya Mahakasatsuek decided on a hasty return to Thonburi, after handing the command of the army to Chao Phraya Surasih.[35]

Economy, culture and religion

After King Taksin established Thonburi as his capital, people were living in abject poverty, and food and clothing were scarce. The king was well aware of the plight of his subjects, so in order to legitimize his claim for the Kingdom, he considered solving economic problems as the main priority. He paid high prices for rice from his own money to induce foreign traders to bring in adequate amounts of basic necessities to satisfy the need of the people. He then distributed rice and clothing to all his starving subjects without exception. People who had been dispersed came back to their homes. Normalcy was restored. The economy of the country gradually recovered. King Taksin sent three diplomatic envoys to China in 1767, which then was ruled by Qianlong Emperor, After six years (1772), China recognized King Taksin as the rightful ruler of Siam[1], and the record dating from 1777 states: "Important goods from Thailand are amber, gold, colored rocks, good nuggets, gold dust, semi-precious stones, and hard lead." During this time the king actively encouraged the Chinese to settle in Siam, principally those from Chaozhou[45], partly with the intention to revive the stagnating economy[46] and upgrading the local workforce at that time.[47] He had to fight almost constantly for most of his reign to maintain the independence of his country. As the economic influence of the immigrant Chinese community grew with time, many aristocrats, which he took in from the Ayutthaya nobility, began to turn against him for having allied with the Chinese merchants. The opposition were led mainly by the Bunnag, a trader-aristocrat family of Persian origins.[48] Coupled with the tax revenues that these activities provided—helped restore the kingdom’s devastated economy.

Thai galleons travelled to Portuguese colony of Surat, in Goa, India. However, formal diplomatic relations were not formed. In 1776, Francis Light sent 1,400 flintlocks along with other goods as gifts to King Taksin. Later, Thonburi ordered some guns from England. Royal letters were exchanged and in 1777, George Stratton, the Viceroy of Madras, sent a gold scabbard decorated with gems to King Taksin.[49]

In 1770, natives of Terengganu and Jakarta presented King Taksin with 2,200 shotguns. At that time, Holland controlled the Java Islands.[50]

Simultaneously King Taksin was deeply engaged in restoring law and order in the Kingdom and in administering a programme of public welfare to his people. Abuses in the Buddhist establishment, and among the public, were duly rectified, and food and clothes as well as other necessities of life were hastily distributed to those who needed them, thus bringing respect and affection to him.[16]

King Taksin was also interested in other branches of art, including dance and drama. There is evidence that when he went to suppress the Chao Nakhon Si Thammarat faction in 1769, he brought back Chao Nakhon's female dancers. Together with dancers that he had assembled from other places, they trained and set up a royal troupe in Thonburi on the Ayutthaya model. The King wrote four episodes from the Ramakian for the royal troupe to rehearse and perform.[51][52]

When he went north to suppress the Phra Fang faction, he could see that monks in the north were lax and undisciplined. He invited ecclesiastical dignitaries from the capital to teach those monks and brought them back in line with the main teachings of Buddhism. Even though King Taksin had applied himself to reforming the Buddhist religion after its period of decline following the loss of Ayutthaya to Burma, gradually bringing it back to the normalcy it enjoyed during the Ayutthaya kingdom, since his reign was so brief he was not able to do very much.

The administration of the Sangha during the Thonburi period followed the model established in Ayutthaya,[53] and he allowed French missionaries to enter Thailand, and like a previous Thai king, helped them build a church in 1780.

Territorial expansion

The kingdom under his rule was much bigger than it was in Ayutthaya times. It included the following provinces : Thon Buri, Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, Singburi, Lopburi, Uthai Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chachoengsao, Prachinburi, Nakhon Nayok, Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi, Trat, Nakhon Chai Si, Nakhon Pathom, Suphanburi, Ratchaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi, Kanchanaburi, and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Throughout his reign, King Taksin carried out his policy of expansion.

In the north, including the whole of Lanna. Burmese was driven out. local allies became Thonburi's subjugation.

In the south, including Syburi (today is Kedah) and Trengganu in Malaysia.

In the east, Cambodia was subjugated. His forces even attacked South Vietnam

In the northeast, including Vientiane, Phuan, Luang Phrabang, and Hua Phan Ha Thang Hok.

In the southeast, including Phutthaimat (Hà Tiên in Vietnam today).

In the west, as far as Mergui and Tenasserim in Myanmar today leading to the Indian Ocean.[54]

Final years and death

Thai historians indicate that the strain on him took its toll, and the king started to become a religious fanatic. In 1781 Taksin showed increasing signs of mental trouble. He believed himself to be a future Buddha, expecting to change the colour of his blood from red to white. As he started practising meditation, he even gave lecture to the monks. Sometimes he flogged monks who refused to worship him as such.[55]

Economic tension caused by war was serious. As famine spread, looting and crimes were widespread. Corrupt officials were reportedly abundant. Taksin himself executed several officials harshly. Discontent among officials could be expected.

Several historians have suggested that the tale of his 'insanity' may have been reconstructed as an excuse for his overthrow. However, the letters of a French priest who was in Thonburi at the time support the accounts of the monarch's peculiar behavior. Thus the terms 'insanity' or 'madness' possibly were the contemporary definition describing the monarch's actions. With the Burmese threat still prevalent, a strong ruler was needed on the throne. Due to some sources, many oppressions and abuses made by officials were reported. King Taksin punished them harshly, some high officials were even tortured and executed. This might cause discontent among officials. Finally a group of powerful officials, led by Phraya San, seized the capital, and forced the king to step down.

According to the following Rattanakosin era accounts, King Taksin was described as 'insane.' The disturbance in Thonburi widely spread. Killing and looting were everywhere. People all over the kingdom were suffering, living in great despair. Thus a coup d'état removed him from the throne consequently took place.[56] Although he requested to be allowed to join the monkhood. When the coup occurred, General Chao Phraya Chakri was away fighting in Cambodia, but he quickly returned to the Thai capital following being informed of the coup. Upon having arrived at the capital, the General extinguished the coup through arrests, investigations and punishments. The peace was then restored in the capital.

According to the Royal Thai Chronicles, General Chao Phraya Chakri decided to put the deposed Taksin to death. The Chronicles stated that, while being taken to the executing venue, Taksin asked for an audience with General Chao Phraya Chakri but was turned down by the General. Taksin was beheaded in front of Wichai Prasit fortress on Wednesday, April 10, 1782, and his body was buried at Wat Bang Yi Ruea Tai. General Chao Phraya Chakri then seized control of the capital and declared himself king together with establishing the House of Chakri.[57]

While the Official Annamese Chronicles stating about the death of Taksin that he was ordered by General Chao Phraya Chakri to be put to death at Wat Chaeng through being sealed in a velvet sack and was beaten to death with a scented sandalwood club.[58] There was an account claiming that Taksin was secretly sent to a palace located in the remote mountains of Nakhon Si Thammarat where he lived until 1825, and that a substitute was beaten to death in his place.[59]

Leaving aside how King Taksin died, his ashes and that of his wife are to be found at Wat Intharam (located in Thonburi). They have been placed in two lotus bud shaped stupas which stand before the old hall.[60]. Lonely Planet also makes the same observation [61]. The same tale of King Taksin ashes with pictures was described in a recent article (8/10/09)in the Bangkok Post newspaper (http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/25248/)

Critics over the coup

Another contradicting view of the events is that General Chakri actually wanted to be King and had accused King Taksin of being Chinese. The late history was aimed at legitimizing the new monarch, Phraya Chakri or Rama I of Rattanakosin. According to Nithi, Taksin could be seen as the originator, new style of leader, promoting the 'decentralized' kingdom and new generation of the nobles, of Chinese merchants-origin, his major helpers in the wars. On the other hand, Phraya Chakri and his supporters were of 'old' generation of the Ayutthaya nobles, discontent with the previously said changes.

However, this overlooks the fact that Chao Phraya Chakri was himself of partly Chinese origin as well as he himself being married to one of Taksin's daughters. No previous conflicts between them were mentioned in histories. Reports on the conflicts between the king and the Chinese merchants were seen caused by the control of the rice price in the time of famine.[62] However, prior to returning to Thonburi, Chao Phraya Chakri had Taksin's son summoned to Cambodia and executed.[63] All in all, Phraya Chakri was, in fact, the highest noble in the kingdom, charging the state affairs as the Chancellor. Therefore he was of the greatest potential to be the new leader.

Another view of the events is that Thailand owed China for millions of baht. In order to cancel the agreement between China, King Taksin decided to ordain and pretend to die in an execution.[64]

Legacy

The Entrance of King Taksin's tomb in Chenghai, Guangdong, China

King Taksin was seen by some radical historians as a King who differed from the Kings of Ayutthaya, in his origins, his policies, and his leadership style, as a representative of a new class. During the Bangkok Period right up till the Siamese Revolution of 1932 King Taksin was, said, not as highly honoured as other Siamese Kings because the leaders in the Chakri Dynasty were still concerned about their own political legitimacy. After 1932, when the absolute monarchy gave way to the democratic period, King Taksin become more honoured than ever before. Instead, King Taksin became one of the national heroes. This was because the leaders of that time such as Plaek Pibulsonggram and even later military junta, on the other hand, wanted to glorify and publicise the stories of certain historical figures in the past in order to support their own policy of nationalism, expansionism and patriotism.[65]

King Taksin statue was unveiled in the middle of Wongwian Yai (the Big Traffic Circle) in Thonburi ,at the intersection of Prajadhipok/Inthara Phithak/Lat Ya/Somdet Phra Chao Taksin Roads. The king is portrayed with his right hand holding a sword, measuring approximately 9 metres in height from his horse's feet to the spire of his hat, rests on a reinforced concrete pedestal of 8.90 x 1.80 x 3.90 metres. There are four frames of stucco relief on the two sides of the pedestal. The opening ceremony of this monument was held on April 17, 1954 and a homage-paying fair takes place annually on 28 December. The king today officially comes to pay respect to king Taksin statue.[66]

The monument featuring King Taksin riding on a horseback surrounded by his four trusted soldiers; Pra Chiang-ngen (later Phraya Sukhothai), Luang Pichai-asa (later Phraya Phichai), Luang Prom-sena (later Maha Sura Singhanat), Luang Raj-saneha. It is placed on the groung of Toong na-chey public park on Leab muang road, just opposite the City Hall, Chantaburi.

In 1981 the Thai cabinet passed a resolution to bestow on King Taksin the honorary title of the Great. The date of his coronation, December 28, is the official day of homage to King Taksin, although it is not designated as a public holiday. The Maw Sukha Association on January 31, 1999 cast the King Taksin Savior of the Nation Amulet, which sought to honour the contributions of King Taksin to Siam during his reign.[67]

The Na Nagara (also spelled Na Nakorn)[68] family is descended in the direct male line from King Taksin.[69]

A tomb containing King Taksin's clothes and a family shrine were found at Chenghai district in Guangdong province in China in 1921. It is believed that a descendant of King Taksin the Great must have sent his clothes to be buried there to conform to Chinese practice. This supports the claim that the place was his father's hometown.[70]

King Taksin the Great Shrine is located on Tha Luang Road in front of Camp Taksin. It is an important place of Chantaburi in order to demonstrate binding of People in Chanthaburi to King Taksin. It is a nine-sided building. The roof is a pointed helmet. Inside of this place enshrined the statue of King Taksin.[71]

Issue

King Taksin had 21 sons and 9 daughters named[1]

  • HRH Front Palace Krom Khun Intarapitak
  • HRH Prince Noi
  • HRH Prince Ampawan
  • HRH Prince Tassaphong
  • HRH Princess Komol
  • HRH Princess Bubpha
  • HRH Prince Singhara
  • HRH Prince Sila
  • HRH Prince Onica
  • HRH Princess Sumalee
  • HRH Prince Dhamrong
  • HRH Prince Lamang
  • HRH Prince Lek
  • HRH Prince Tassabhai
  • HRH Princess Chamchulee
  • HRH Princess Sangwal
  • HRH Princess Samleewan
  • HRH Prince Narendhorn Raja Kumarn
  • HRH Prince Kandhawong
  • HRH Prince Makin
  • HRH Prince Isindhorn
  • HRH Princess Prapaipak
  • HRH Prince Subandhuwong
  • HRH Prince Bua
  • HRH Princess Panjapapee
  • Chao Phraya Nakorn Noi
  • HRH Prince (name unknown)
  • HRH Prince Nudang
  • HRH Princess Sudchartree
  • Chao Phraya Nakhonratchasima Thong In

See also

Notes and sources

  1. ^ a b ธำรงศักดิ์ อายุวัฒนะ (in Thai). ราชสกุลจักรีวงศ์ และราชสกุลสมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช. Bangkok: สำนักพิมพ์บรรณกิจ. p. 490. ISBN 974-222-648-2. 
  2. ^ Parkes, p. 770
  3. ^ Lintner, p. 112
  4. ^ Wyatt, 140
  5. ^ Wat Choeng Thar's official website
  6. ^ พระราชวรวงศ์เธอ กรมหมื่นพิทยาลงกรณ์ (in Thai). สามกรุง. Bangkok: สำนักพิมพ์คลังวิทยา. p. 54-58. 
  7. ^ Webster, 156
  8. ^ John Bowman. Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture. Columbia University Press. pp. 514. ISBN 0231110049. 
  9. ^ King Taksin's shrine
  10. ^ a b Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 385
  11. ^ Art&Culture ,100
  12. ^ a b W.A.R.Wood, p. 253
  13. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 401-402
  14. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 403
  15. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 388
  16. ^ a b c Syamananda, p. 95
  17. ^ (Thai) Sunthorn Phu (2007). Nirat Phra Bart (นิราศพระบาท). Kong Toon (กองทุน). pp. 123-124. ISBN 9789744820648. 
  18. ^ "Palaces in Bangkok". Mybangkokholiday.com. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  19. ^ Syamananda, p. 94
  20. ^ W.A.R.Wood, p. 254
  21. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 414-415
  22. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 418-419
  23. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 423-424
  24. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 430
  25. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 411-414
  26. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 462
  27. ^ a b c W.A.R.Wood, pp. 265-266
  28. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 491-492
  29. ^ a b Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 493-495
  30. ^ W.A.R.Wood, pp. 259-260
  31. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 435
  32. ^ W.A.R.Wood, pp. 260-261
  33. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 438
  34. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 444
  35. ^ a b W.A.R.Wood, pp. 263-264
  36. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 530
  37. ^ Norman G. Owen. The Emergence Of Modern Southeast Asia. National University of Singapore Press. pp. 94. ISBN 9971693283. 
  38. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, pp. 531-532
  39. ^ W.A.R.Wood, p. 268
  40. ^ History of the Emerald Buddha. Bangkokmag.infothai.com Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  41. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 534
  42. ^ Barnes, p. 74
  43. ^ W.A.R.Wood, pp. 257-258
  44. ^ Damrong Rajanubhab, p. 427
  45. ^ Lintner, p. 234
  46. ^ Baker,Phongpaichit, p. 32
  47. ^ Editors of Time Out, p. 84
  48. ^ Handley, p. 27
  49. ^ The Madras Despatches, 1763-1764.
  50. ^ 400 years Thai-Dutch Relation: VOC in Judea, Kingdom of Siam
  51. ^ Amolwan Kiriwat. Khon:Masked dance drama of the Thai Epic Ramakien. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  52. ^ Pattama Wattanapanich : The Study of the characteristics of the cour dance drama in the reign of King Taksin the Great, 210 pp.
  53. ^ Sunthorn Na-rangsi. Administration of the Thai Sangha:past, present and fure. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  54. ^ W.A.R.Wood, pp. 251-252
  55. ^ Wyatt, p. 143
  56. ^ Rough Guides. The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia. Rough Guides. pp. 823. ISBN 1858285534. 
  57. ^ Nidhi Eoseewong. (1986). Thai politics in the reign of the King of Thon Buri. Bangkok : Arts & Culture Publishing House. pp. 575.
  58. ^ Prida Sichalalai. (1982, December). "The last year of King Taksin the Great". Arts & Culture Magazine, (3, 2).
  59. ^ Wyatt, p. 145; Siamese/Thai history and culture–Part 4
  60. ^ [www.thailandsworld.com/index.cfm?p=478 see bottom of the page -item 7]
  61. ^ -see page 140 4th paragraph in second column
  62. ^ Hamilton, p. 42
  63. ^ Syamananda, p. 98-99
  64. ^ ทศยศ กระหม่อมแก้ว (in Thai). พระเจ้าตากฯ สิ้นพระชนม์ที่เมืองนคร. Bangkok: สำนักพิมพ์ร่วมด้วยช่วยกัน. p. 176. ISBN 978-974-7303-62-9. 
  65. ^ KING TAKSIN DAY. Webhost.m-culture.go.th Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  66. ^ King Taksin the Great Monument. Tourismthailand.org Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  67. ^ Swearer, p. 235
  68. ^ Dickinson, p. 64
  69. ^ Handley, p. 466
  70. ^ (Thai) Pimpraphai Pisalbutr (2001). Siam Chinese boat Chinese in Bangkok regend. Nanmee Books. pp. 93. ISBN 9744723319. 
  71. ^ King Taksin the Great Shrine

References

External links

Taksin
Born: 17 April 1734 Died: 7 April 1782
Preceded by
Ekkathat
(
as King of Ayutthaya)
King of Siam
1768–1782
Succeeded by
Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke
(
of Rattanakosin (Bangkok))

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