Version: $Id: culture,v 2.2 1996/10/31 07:50:03 trin Exp trin $
The "soc.culture.thai Frequently Asked Questions" periodic postings are
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or update can be made by posting a public message or follow-up to this
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
History and Culture
* History and Culture
C.1) An introduction to Thai history and culture
C.2) Bangkok's full name
C.3) Buddhism and Thai culture
C.4) Thai buddhism information
C.5) Traditional Thai calendar system
C.6) Use of "Khun"
C.7) Thai Cuisine
CULTURAL INFORMATION (HISTORY/CULTURE)
This part provides information on the social sciences fields including
history, culture, etc aspects.
Subject: C.1) An introduction to Thai history and culture
Thai History/Culture at a Glance.
No one really knows when and where the Thai civilization originated.
If the current popular theory, that the Thai people have been here
in their present location from the very beginning, is correct then the
Thai civilization is a very ancient one, as is attested by the various
recently unearthed artifacts. The bronze artifacts at Ban Chiang,
a small village in Northeastern Thailand for example, have been
dated to be as much as 1,000 years older than those of Mesopotamia.
Written record of the Thai people started in the 13th Century A.D.
when King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai Kingdom invented Thai alphabets
by an adaptation from Pali, the language used in Buddhist Scriptures.
Some scholars, however, contend that a similar script had already
been in use in the area long before the supposed invention.
Sukhothai's power gradually eroded and was superseded by the Southern
principality centering at Sri Ayudhaya. Under the Sri Ayudhaya
Kingdom, the Thai people had strengthen their identity both as a
unique group of people and as a nation through language, art, culture,
trades and warfares with neighboring countries.
In 1782, after Sri Ayudhaya was demolished for the second time by the
invading Burmese, the capital was relocated briefly at Thonburi and
then to Bangkok, where it has survived and prospered up to the present.
With the central capital established and the Kingdom's boundary secured
from warfare, art, architecture, and culture once again flourish.
Trades and contacts with the West also increased dramatically during this
period. Thailand's long acquaintance with the West together with her
shrewdness in diplomatic maneuvering and her strength had contributed
to her being the only country in South/Southeast Asia to have preserved
independence through the Colonial Era.
Despite her relative small size, Thailand is very diversified.
There are many ethnic groups within the country. But in general,
there are four major dialects (and hence subcultures) within Thailand:
the Central, the North, the Northeast and the South. Thai language
in particular is very rich, unique, subtle and poetic. It is no wonder
that poem has been an integral part of the Thai culture. Varieties
of Thai poems are as many and as tasty as Thai foods.
Buddhism has flourished in this area for a long time, as is evidenced
by the findings about the Suwannaphumi and the Srivijaya Kingdoms.
By the time of the Sukhothai Era, the Thai people had already accepted
Theravada Buddhism as their national religion, though sometimes mixed
with Hinduistic and animistic beliefs. In the deep South, however, Islam
has been the dominant religion. There are roughly 96% Buddhists and
4% Muslims in the Kingdom of Thailand. There has never been an incident
of religious or ethnic clash in Thailand, an indication of high
toleration among her diversified people.
There are about 10% ethnic Chinese in the Kingdom -- The result of years
of migration to escape poverty and famines from mainland China.
Inter-marriage, similarity in religious beliefs and high toleration
on both sides have all contributed to the peaceful co-existence
of the Chinese and the mainstream Thais, so much so that both sides
seem to completely forget about their differences. It is safe to
assume that the second and later generation Chinese think and act
like Thais and that they love Thailand and are proud to be Thais.
The traditional Thai ways of life have also been modified to some
extent by those of the Chinese, especially in the urban area.
Absolute Monarchy system was abolished by a bloodless coup d'etat
in 1932 and a Constitution Monarchy form of government was established.
Since then, Thailand has been struggling with the Western ideal of
democracy and economy; many coup d'etats had alternated with
elected civilian governments. The past 60 years have seen the Thai
people tried to reshape their country to survive and to be respected
in the world community. Through all this, the ancient ways of life have
still largely been preserved as is attested by: the famous Thai smiles,
the serene Buddhist monks walking their alms rounds in early morning,
the water-throwing festival in April, the respect for the elderly,
the graceful Thai manner, Thai classical music and dances, etc.
Let's hope that Thailand will continue to be unique in her evolution
path so that she can faithfully do her parts in enhancing lives
on this planet earth.
Subject: C.2) Full name of Bangkok
According to the Committee for Rattanakosin Bicentennial Celebration
to Commemorate the Rattanakosin Bicentennial who author the book,
kab'pra'chaa-chon-, or THE CHAKRI MONARCHS AND THE THAI PEOPLE: A
SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP, the English title as given by the authors
themselves, after King Rama I, took throne on April 6, 1782, his first
task was to find the new site for the capital city. He didn't not want
to continue using Thon-bu'rii- as the capital citing the fact that as
the wall of the city was on jaaw"phra^yaa- River which could be hard
to defend in time of war. Besides, Thon-bu'rii- was in the bottom of
the River's curve and the land on its bank eroded. The palace itself
was constrainted by two wats: wat^a'run- and wat^thaay^ta'laad'. He
believed the other side of the River was better as the city would be
situated on the top of the curve. The River itself could serve as a
natural kuu-muang- on the western side. On the eastern side, a
kuu-muang- (man-made water reservoir created to protect the enemy)
could be easily dug.
The site was at the time occupied by the Chinese who then were
relocated to the new site between Kloong-wat^saam+plUm" and
Kloong-wat^sam+pheng-. On Sunday of the sixth month, khUn"sip'kam"
(the 10th day of the rising moon period), at 15 minutes after
midnight, the City's pillar was erected. The date is translated to the
western calendar as April 21, 1782.
The new city was named by King Rama I as:
King Rama IV (Kung Mongkut) had the term bOO-wOON- changed to a'mOOn-
as the name now appears.
King Rama I ordered a canal to be dug connecting to the River at
Baang-lam-phuu- on the northern side and at wat^saam+plUm" on the
southern side. Then wall was built along the canal inner side for more
than 7 kilometers. Along this wall, there were 14 forts.
Within this wall, the Grand Palace was constructed. There were many
halls and a wat, wat^phra^sii+rad"ta'na^saad'sa'daa-raam- (wat
phra^kAAw"). The palace was cosmologically designed to be the center
of the new city. From the name one could see the term a'yut^tha^yaa-
which was from, as was that of krung-sii-a'yud^tha^yaa-, the former
capital, the legendary a'yoo-tha^yaa- where the Rama was born, as
appeared in the Ramayana (or Raam-ma"kian- ...its Thai version).
The canal is actually two klongs attached to each other in the inland
at pOOm^phra^kaan- (phra^kaan- Fort). The northern one is
klOOng-baang-lam-phuu- and the southern one is klOOng-ong'aang'.
(ibid, pp. 20-27)
Speaking about the cosmology of Thai kingship, Tambiah, a Harvard
anthropologist, writes a book in which the term "galactic polity" is
used to typify the nature of Thai kingship. The king was concieved as
the reincarnation of Naa-raay- or Phra^raam- whose duty was to get rid
of the evils. The god stays at the top of phra^su'mee-ru". No wonder,
the roof of the palace halls often are in mountain-liked shape (with
its pointy top). The throns where the king sits is typically
characterized by legendary domains, namely oceans (naa-kaa-...big
snake), forest (singha...big lion) and sky (krut".. or garuda as
called by Indonesian...the half-man-half-bird being). The su'mee-ru"
is surrounded by seven oceans, the Himmapan, and high up in the sky.
These mythical animals also appears in the royal river procession
Thai kingship is regarded as tham-ma^raa-chaa- as compared to
thee-wa^raa- chaa- of Khmer. However, architects of the kingship have
not been reluctant to add elements that draw the institution closer to
the thee-wa^raa-chaa-. For those who are not familiar with these
terms, please note that the former one is referred to the system that
the king is to balance between being the warrior and the religious
figure. The latter is closer to the Brahminism as the king belong to
ka'sat' caste and the Brahm belong the the Brahm caste.
The ambition to compromise between the warrior (who kills, and hungers
for power) and the religious being (who does not kill and less
attached to the worldly materials) is not an easy job. The attempt is
seen in symbolic form. The King could be regarded as
phra^buddha'chaaw"luang+ (King Rama V).
At the end of Sukhothai period, the kings leaned toward the notion of
tham-ma^raa-chaa-. One of the kings even had his named representing
the idea, e.g. phra^tham-ma^raa-chaa-li"thay-. Tambiah argues that
unlike thee-wa^raa-chaa-, the tham-ma^raa-chaa- tends to be weak and
will finally lost the interest in conquering the world.
Subject: C.3) Buddhism and Thai culture
Orthodox Buddhism According to Me
Canonical Buddhism has often been explained in terms of the 4 Noble
Truths and the 8-fold Noble Path. It can also be explained in terms of
The Dependent Origination Theory or the Three Characteristics or other
unorthodox ways. I will now summarize basic Buddhism as I know it,
using the Three Characteristic approach.
Central to buddhism is the concept of Three Characteristics
(Trilaxana) which proposes that all composite things (matter or mind,
i.e. everything excluding Nirvana) are:
1. Impermanent (anicca)
2. Of suffering/unsatisfactory nature (Dukkha)
3. Without Self entity/Empty (Anatta/Sunyata)
(1) is by now almost universal in the scientific world. But sciences
only address the materialistic part of things whereas Buddhism claims
anicca in the mental world as well. Implicit in this is also that
there is no (permanent) soul in Buddhism.
(2) is a corollary of (1). If things are changing every moment then
they are not as they appear to be (permanent) , thus they are
unsatisfactory by nature. Both material and mental entities change
continually according to causes and conditions. This is buddhist's
objective way of looking at things as they are; it's not pessimistic
nor optimistic. If one doesn't see 'sufferings' in all these changing
conditions of things then one is not mentally suit to be a buddhist.
To see 'sufferings', however, does not mean that one has to feel
suffered for that. A true buddhist will enjoy life in a much more
objective way than others because s-he realizes that happiness itself
is the result of interplays of causes and conditions which are bound
to change over time. Suffering will definitely ensue if one does not
understand the ever changing nature of causes and conditions of
(3) is unique to Buddhism and is very difficult to understand. There
are two types of Emptiness: Ontological and Psychological. Buddhism
claims that a thing cannot exist INHERENTLY by its own self. Its
existence depends on the existences of other things, ad infinitum. In
other words, there is no permanent, pure element as a basis for the
existence of anything. Things exist because of the inter-dependency on
one another. This is the basic argument behind 'ontological
Emptiness'. It should be clear now that Emptiness in Buddhism is not
'nothingness.' In fact, Emptiness means All and Everything being
co-dependent, co-arising. On the coarsest level, one can argue that
material thing exists only if mind exists first. Material is thus
dependent on mind. Mind is also dependent on its own self. Some
buddhists refer to the primordial Truth as 'the original mind.' This
is simply a mind devoid of all attachments, which is often regarded as
the 'core' of a living entity or 'Buddha nature'; but this is just a
way of language and should not be confused with Self or Atman in
Hinduism for even the Buddha nature is also Empty.
It should not be too hard to imagine that this core is interacting
with the outside world through the brain, and that it is partially
conditioned by the brain itself. To discover the state of the original
mind then (certain functions of) the brain must be bypassed initially
so that it will be able to correct itself (of wrong views) in the end.
Only when certain portions of the brain is bypassed can the mind
perform its task OBJECTIVELY to realize the Three Characteristics.
[Note: This paragraph is purely author's own speculation.]
The second type of Emptiness is psychological; this one is more
important than ontological Emptiness and is more relevant to Buddhism.
Psychological Emptiness is the state of the mind Empty of all
attachments to all dualistic thinkings. In fact, Buddhism asserts that
all human's sufferings are due to attachments to dualistic thinking.
After all, it is the discriminating mind that tell us that things are
impermanent and of suffering nature. An enlightened buddhist is said
to not attach even to the Ultimate Truth which s-he attained. To be
permanently Empty is to attain buddhist enlightenment (Nibbana,
Nirvana). Buddhist values wisdom so much that the pure form of which
is said to be the one that drives an enlightened buddhist. The wisdom
uses all the dualistic thinking to its advantage without being
attached to them in the same manner as the lotus plant deriving its
existence from the water in which it embeds , without being wetted by
it. To work with an Empty mind should be the most productive and
creative way to work.
It is the mind who attains Nirvana. Both the mind and Nirvana are
Empty. It cannot be said whether a enlightened person exist or
not-exist after the physical death, because that state transcends all
dualities. For the sake of discussion, Nirvana can be termed
'Cessation Element' (Nirodha Dhatu). Buddhadasa had explained the
state of Cessation Element and the rest very succinctly in terms of
controllability. He said that all things are uncontrollable because
they lack any 'Self' entity to be controlled. The mundane elements are
uncontrollable because they change along according to their causes and
conditions which also are uncontroll- able. The supreme element (i.e.
Cessation Element) is also uncontrollable because it is BEYOND causes
Some evolved schools of Hinduism (e.g. Vedanta) is now very similar to
Buddhism in both the practice and the philosophy; the only major
difference seems to lie on this final state. Hinduism claims that the
state of purified mind is the enlightenment and that the mind enjoy
eternal bliss by becoming one with the Ultimate Reality known by
various names such as Param-Atman and Brahman. Buddhism claims no
attachment even to this state of bliss. Buddhist does not claim to be
attached to the non-attachment state either. As Buddhadasa once said:
All the 84,000 discourses of the Buddha can be summarized into one
sentence: Do not attach in ANYTHING.
There has been a lot of confusions about Kamma (action) and rebirth in
Buddhism. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, a noted Thai buddhist monk whom many
including myself believe to be a buddha, mentioned that Buddha Gotama
(the historical Buddha) never taught about physical rebirth. Rebirth
in Buddhism means instant mental rebirth due to craving and
attachment. The fruit of Kamma (Vibahk or reaction) in Buddhism is
also instantaneous , at the same moment as when the Kamma (action) is
done. Buddhist should do kammas that will end all kammas so that there
will be no 'rebirth' which is the basis for sufferings. We should not
be too obsessive with the long-range kammas (especially the
after-death ones) for they are at best uncertain and depend on other
interfering factors. Instantaneous kammas is exactly action = reaction
and is completely relevant to the Buddhist's Art of Living at the
The buddhist way of attaining Nirvana is to 'observe mental
phenomena.' We should try to be objective with our own mind and
observe how do our mind interacts with the external world and with
itself internally to come up with attachment to dualistic thinkings.
Bit by bit we will learn to let go of attachments. This process can
often be enhanced by right-meditation techniques. Buddhist meditation
is nothing but the process of objective observation of the nature of
the mind. This process would be efficient only when the mind is calm
enough, but not too calm. A naturally calm person thus has no need to
go through all the formal technique of meditation. Meditative
observation should ideally be done at every opportunity, even when
answering the calls of nature. Logical reasoning alone is not good
enough but it is the initial kamma needed to develop trust so that
more insights can be gained through the practice.
Buddhism does not concern itself with metaphysics and cosmology. All
Buddhism cares about is how to live a life at the present moment as
free from sufferings as much as possible. As such, Buddhism can be
regarded as 'The Art of Living.'
Buddhism can also be viewed from a short statement by the Buddha: "To
avoid evil deeds, To perform good deeds, To purify the mind." To do
good deeds alone is not good enough. The mind should also be purified
so that it does not attach even to good deeds or whatever. In
practice, however, Buddhism is not as pure as it should be. People
often 'accumulate' meritorious deeds in a spiritualistically
materialistic fashion. This practice is implicitly tolerated so that
less spiritually advanced people will not go astray.
Hatred is possible only if there is love, and vice versa.
Subject: C.4) Thai buddhism information
Partial list of Buddhism monasteries in the United States is available
for anonymous FTP from:
The list is maintained by Sorrayut Ratanapojnard (email@example.com).
List of meditation center in Thailand from the DharmaNet International
is available for anonymous ftp from sunsite.unc.edu in directory
/pub/academic/religious_studies/Buddhism/DEFA/Theravada/ as file
thai_94.zip and also from
Subject: C.5) Traditional Thai Calendar System
This writing came out of a need to understand Thai calendar to
explain to a foreigner. I must state that I am not an expert in
this matter but it turns out that many Thais that I asked did not
know much about their own traditional calendar system either. So
this writing may be more beneficial to a Thai than to a foreigner.
This material is intended only to introduce the traditional Thai
calendar concept to readers. There are many other aspects
of temporal information used in Thai language. Many other time
keeping terms such as "Moang", "Yam", "Toom", "Tee", or short-
term time keeping such as "Yok" (based on coconut water clock)
are not covered here because I am not qualified to discuss them
in linguistics terms.
Please help correct any errors you find, especially in the
spellings of Thai and Pali/Sanskrit words.
Department of Computer Science
Faculty of Science, Ramkhamhaeng University
THAI CALENDAR SYSTEM
Rom Hiranpruk compiled and translated from:
1. Siam Almanac 2529, Siam Bann Ltd., Bangkok, 1986.
2. Kloy Songbandhit, One Hundred Year Calendar, Silpabannakarn
3. So Sethaputra, New Model Thai-English Dictionary, So
Sethaputra Press, 1965.
4. Royal Academy, Thai Dictionary, Aksorncharoentasana Press,
THAI NAGASATRA (Thai Year Names)
There are twelve Year Names in Thai: Chuad (Rat), Chalu (Bull),
Khal (Tiger), Toa (Hare), Maroang (Big Snake), Maseng (Little
Snake), Mamia (Horse), Mamaae (Goat), Wog (Monkey), Raga
(Rooster), Jau (Dog), Goon (Pig).
These names cover twelve-year cycle but can be extended to cover
one-hundred-and-twenty-year cycle by adding a counter suffix
after the name: ek (one), to (two), tri (three), jatawa (four),
benja (five), cho (six), satawa (seven), attha (eight), noppa
(nine), samriti (ten). Then add the word Sok (year). For example,
Pi Chuad To Sok is the second Chuad year in the 120-year cycle.
THAI CHANTARAKATI CALENDAR (Lunar Calendar)
Chantarakati is the way to keep dates by using the Moon's orbital
cycle around the Earth. Each cycle is 29 days, 12 hours, 44
minutes. Chantarakati month is therefore 30 days or 29 days
alternately for the whole year.
Each month begins on Wan Kuen Nueng Kham (first day of the waxing
moon). Wan Kuen Sib Ha Kham (day of the full moon) is the middle
of the month. Wan Dub is last day of the month which is either
Wan Ram 15 Kham or Wan Ram 14 Kham depending on whether that
month has 30 or 29 days.
Because each month is 30 or 29 days long, the Lunar-year days
will be shorter by about 12 days than the actual time the Earth
circles the Sun. To be synchronous with the seasonal changes,
every two or three years another month is added to Duen Pad (the
Eighth month) and called Duen Pad Lung (the latter Eighth month).
Such year with two Duen Pads is called ATHIKAMAS.
The Chantarakati months are named from one to twelve: ai (one),
yi (two), sam (three), si (four), ha (five), hok (six), jed
(seven), pad (eight), kao (nine), sib (ten), sib-ed (eleven),
sib-song (twelve). The first month on Prokatimas year (ordinary
year) falls in November but in Athikamas year (year with two Duen
Pad's) it falls in December.
Chantarakati date is stated by the moon-position/lunar-month-
name/year-name, for example: Kuen Sib Kham/Duen Sib-ed/Pi Mamia
Cho Sok which is 7th October B.E. 2497. If the day is not
provided, finding the day in this dating system requires a
Furthermore, to compensate for the still missing days, every 4 or
5 years another day is added to Duen Jed (the Seventh Month)
to make it a 30-day month. This added day is called ATHIKAWARA
and cannot occur on Athikamas year.
THAI CALENDAR TERMINOLOGY
The date system based on solar year which is currently the
international date system based on Gregorian Calendar with
January 1st as the first day of year.
Thailand adopted the solar calendar officially during the
reign of King Rama V in B.E. 2431 using April 1 as the first
day of year. In B.E. 2483 the government of Field Marshall
Pibulsongkram changed the first day of year to January 1,
therefore B.E. 2431 and B.E. 2483 are shorter than usual.
Last day of a lunar month which is Wan Ram Sib-ha (15) Kham,
or Wan Ram Sib-si (14) kham depending on whether that lunar
month has 30 or 29 days.
Day of the full moon.
Buddhist holy day which falls on the 8th, 15th, 23rd, and
29th or 30th day of the lunar month.
This is a day of special observance of the Sela and
contemplation of Dhamma for Buddhists. Wan Phra occurs 4
times a month on: Wan Kuen Pad (8) Kham, Wan Kuen Sib-ha
(15) Kham (Full moon), Wan Ram Pad Kham, and Wan Dub (last
day of the lunar month).
Day that monks shave which is one day before each Wan Phra.
Day of the full moon and last day of the lunar month (Wan
Phen and Wan Dub) when monks recite Phra Patimokha and
Buddhists laypeople observe Ubosoth Sela (the 8 precepts).
The day when the sun enters Aries; reckoned according to the
Old Indian Solar Calendar to fall on April 13 through 15.
Day of the week named by counting Sunday as 1, Monday as 2,
and so on.
KANG KUEN: (KUEN)
The waxing moon; the period from new moon to full moon.
KANG RAM: (RAM)
The waning moon; the period from full moon to new moon.
Ordinary month, ie. not the extra month (second Duen Pad).
Year with Prokatimas has just 12 months.
Ordinary day, ie. not the extra day added to Duen Jed. Year
with Prokatiwara has 29 days in Duen Jed.
Ordianary February with 28 days.
Extra lunar month added as the second Duen Pad to keep lunar
year in synchrony with the solar year. Lunar year with
Athikamas has 13 months and occur every 2 or 3 years.
Extra day added to Duen Jed to compensate for the missing
hours each year. Lunar year with Athikawara has 30 days in
Duen Jed and occur every 4 or 5 years (not in Athikamas
February with 29 days to compensate for the missing hours
each year in solar year. Year with Athikasuratin (leap year)
occurs every 4 years, except in the last year of the A.D.
century that is not divisible by 400, ie. A.D. 2000 would be
an Athikasuratin year but A.D.2100 is not.
BUDDHIST ERA (B.E.):
The year of the passing of Lord Buddha is counted as B.E. 1.
Therefore the new year is Wan Ram nueng Kham, Duen hok, the
day AFTER Visakapuja Day. King Rama V changed the new year
day to April 1 starting after March 31, 2431. Later the new
year was changed to January 1 starting after December 31,
ANNO DOMINI (A.D.):
The year of the birth of Jesus Christ is counted as A.D. 1.
(A.D. is B.E. minus 543)
A solar calendar that began in the victory year in the reign
of an Indian king in the SAKA dynasty. The new year is the
day the Sun enter Aries, called Songkran.
(Mahasakaraj is B.E. minus 621)
A lunar calendar started by a Burmese king. The new year is
on Kuen Nueng Kham, Duen Ha. But the year count is still at
Songkran as in Mahasakaraj.
(Julasakaraj is B.E. minus 1181)
A solar calendar decreed by King Rama V, counting the first
year of establishing Bangkok as the Capital as R.S. 1. April
1, is the new year day starting after March 31, 2431. This
calendar was abolished by King Rama VI.
(Ratanakosinsok is B.E. minus 2324)
A solar year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.68
seconds. This is the time it takes for the Earth to circle
the Sun. This calendar system keeps the season in step with
the months. There are two major western calendar developments.
Julius Caesar improved the older lunar calendar which has
gone three months out of step with the actual season. Julius
Caesar decreed a year with 365 days and every 4 years a day
is added to February to make it 30 days. This system began
in B.E. 497. The new year is on January 1. Each month has
alternately 31 and 30 days except February with 29 days.
Roman Emperor Augustus further adapted the Egyptian lunar
calendar to the Julian calendar and reduce February to 28
days. The removed day is added to the month now called
"August" to make it 31 days instead of 30 days.
Although Julian calendar is practical, it is not accurate
enough with 365.2 days a year. The errors will accumulate to
about 1 day every 128 years.
In B.E. 2125, Pope Gregory 33rd of Rome improved upon the
Julian calendar the rule to provide for leap year every four
years except at the of the century A.D. that is not
divisible by 400. This means that A.D. such as 1600, and
2000 are leap years where 1700 and 2100 is not.
This system is a lot more accurate with each year averaging
365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds which is only
about 23 seconds off per year. It takes 3,323 years to be
off by 1 day.
Gregorian calendar was used from October 5, B.E. 2125
onward. The date was compensated for past errors to be
October 15, B.E. 2125. It is the current internationally
accepted calendar system.
Subject: C.6) Use of "Khun"
From: Samart Srijumnong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To me, the word [Khun] could be used in both informal and formal discourse.
The term itself does not serve as a device to hint any gesture of attitude,
positive or negative about the person addressed to, either.
I used this honorific with you for at least one reason. I have not yet known
you in details. I don't know if you are older or younger than me. I don't
know you social status, nor your education. I don't know what kind of job
you have and in what position. All these unknown conditions about you makes
it easy for me to use the honorific term. It is safe for me as a speaker.
If I am having a direct conversation with someone who I have known for some
time, e.g. Khun Tawit, I would not address him as Khun either. Now I am
using Khun with his name as a third person referring to by this very
discussion. It also depends. If this discussion is of an academic one, I would
not need to have any honorific for him. I could simply go ahead referring to
him by just his name (first and last in Thai materials).
The term Khun is originally a title given to anyone by the court. The person
with Khun title will be entitled to hoard land up to a certain rai (500?)
Later this usage has changed. It is now given to single woman who
is entitled by the court as in the level equivalent to that of Khun Ying+
(probably equivalent as that of Lady of the English Court) except that
Khun Ying+ is used with a woman who is married.
Khun is used with anybody but if the person is known to have other kind of
title, e.g. aa-jaan (a teacher), mOO+ (a doctor), aa-sia' (an affluent
and powerful ethnic Chinese merchant), muad' (a police or military man of
captain level), such title could be used instead to show a bit specific
reference to the person.
Many Thais like to use sibling term to call others, e.g. Phii (older brother
or sister). Strangely enough, however, nOOng^ (younger brother or sister) is
not often used except in the North, it is used with a waiter (or waitress).
When the context of kinship arises, to use Khun as an honorific seems to
give a hint that the speaker likes to keep distance between him and the
intended hearer. I remember my sister, who normally called her husband
with phrase like phOO"ai"tung+ (father of Tung, their son), used Khun when
they began some fight. Hence, using Khun does not always suggests close
Please note that the above description is of my own interpretation. I have
not consulted any linguistic authority which might suggest different
connotations for the word. Nonetheless, I believe my usage of the term
more or less shares with other Thais. I may be wrong. Anyone?
Subject: C.7) Thai Cuisine
Joy Aswalap (email@example.com) maintains a collection of Thai Recipes
on a web server. This page can be accessed at the URL:
The first two paragraphs of the web page start as....
As one's culture can be seen through a window of one's kitchen. Thai
cuisine is clearly an inseparable part of Thai culture. The following
not only describes common Thai recipes and cooking by Thai natives but
also proudly shows Thai culture and heritage.
These recipes are taken from Soc.Culture.Thai's Archives. I hope you
enjoy these luscious recipes and cultural tidbits as much as I do.
The original soc.culture.thai FAQ was proposed, put together and initially
maintained by Thanachart Numnonda (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sincere gratitudes for valuable contributions from:
Joy Aswalap (email@example.com) for passing on C.5 and maintaining C.7;
Rom Hirunpruk (firstname.lastname@example.org) for C.5;
Samart Srijumnong (email@example.com) for C.1, C.2 and C.6;
Tawit Chitsomboon (firstname.lastname@example.org) for C.1 and C.3; and
Trin Tantsetthi (email@example.com) for C.4.