King Ramkhamhaeng Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, there have been many great rulers of many great ancient civilizations. Some of them might be Julius Caesar, Ramses II, Hammurabi, or Octavian Caesar. The list of them could go on forever. One of the most influential of his civilization, known for his wisdom, was King Ramkhamhaeng or Rama the Valiant, of the Thai people. He claimed to be the ?sovereign lord of all the Thai.? Researchers guess that he lived from 1239 AD to after 1317 AD. During his lifetime, King Ramkhamhaeng invented the modern Thai script, expanded his kingdom far and wide, and made the Sukhothai Kingdom one of the greatest in Thai history.
When the ancient Thai people moved into mainland Southeast Asia, they came across a people speaking the Mon-Khmer languages who had inhabited the region for a long period before then. During the first millennium, strong Indian and China influences brought Hindu and Buddhist beliefs to the area. Some of the groups that adopted these beliefs were the Mon of Myanmar who were the first people of Southeast Asia to adopt Buddhism. Between the sixth and ninth centuries, the Mon established several small Buddhist civilizations within modern-day Myanmar and Central Thailand. From their two ?capitals,? Nakhon Pathom and Lop Buri, they extended their power east across the Khorat Plateau and north as fat as Chiang Mai. They extended their civilization northeast to present day Laos. This period was known as the Dvaravati period of Thailand. It was a period that was noted for its artwork; particularly its Buddhist sculptures made of terra cotta or stucco.
When the Thai people moved south into the mainland of Southeast Asia, they also came across the Khmer from Cambodia. Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Khmer rulers expanded their civilizations from their capital of Angkor, establishing an empire that at its height, extended over approximately half of modern Thailand. This kingdom was under the ruler Jayavarman VII. He ruled from 1181 to 1220. While Mon kingdoms were predominantly of Buddhist influence, Khmer civilization–which found its expression in the great temple at Angkor–was heavily influenced by the Hindu people of India. Tai contacts with the Khmer led to many Hindu elements entering Tai culture, particularly in royal ceremonies or classical dance and literature. Many of these aspects are still found in modern Thai culture today.
By the beginning of the 13th century, the Thai were starting to put pressure on both the Mon and Khmer empires. The Thai lived and worked throughout the Chao Phraya basin, and a Thai ruler was established as far south as the great city of Nakhon Si Thammarat, on the Malay Peninsula. Through Nakhon Si Thammarat, a new form of Buddhism–Theravada–had emerged in mainland Southeast Asia from Sri Lanka. Monks brought Theravada Buddhism not only to areas under Mon or Khmer rule but also to the new Thai cities that were beginning to emerge. Sukhothai and Lan Na (Lanna), the first major Tai kingdoms in Thai history, were Theravada Buddhist.
King Ramkhamhaeng made Sukhothai one of the greatest kingdoms in Thai history. King Ramkhamhaeng started his rule during the 13th century AD. During his rule, King Ramkhamhaeng invented a Thai script, or form of writing, very similar to the form that is used today. It was known as the Sukhothai script. He drew together Mon, Khmer, and early Thai to form it. It was first recorded in 1292 in an inscription that portrays the king as a wise and benevolent ruler. The inscription said, ?-This Muang Sukhothai is good. Th the water there are fish, in the field there is rice. The ruler does not levy a tax on the people who travel along the road together, leading their oxen on the way to trade and riding their horses on the way to sell. Whoever wants to trade in elephants, so trades. Whoever wants to trade in horses, so trades. Whoever wants to trade in silver and gold, so trades-.? The Sukhothai Script was derived from a form of the ancient Brahmi script from Southern India called Grantha. The Sukhothai script was used until 1357. In that year, King Li Thai, grandson of Ramkhamhaeng, invented a new, yet similar, form of writing. For the most part, the shapes of the letters of the King Li Thai script resemble those of the Sukhothai script. However, some of them seem to be considerably modified. Many reforms of the Sukhothai script were made before the modern Thai script that is used today came to be.
, he extended his power and influence much farther than anyone could have dreamed possible. When he died, the Sukhothai rule extended east into present-day Laos, west to the Andaman Sea, and south to the Malay When King Ramkhamhaeng came to power, he inherited a rather small area of land; it was only an area of 6,596 square kilometers. It is two hundred and sixty seven miles north of Bangkok. He came to power around 1279. Over the next twenty years, by careful diplomacy, shrewd alliances, and military campaigns, he extended his power and his land farther than anyone could have dreamed. He united this area through a popular religion in the time known as, Theravada Buddhism, of which he was a generous patron. Throughout his life, Ramkhamhaeng pursued an active diplomatic and commercial policy with his northern neighbors and states as far away as Ceylon, which is now present-day Sri Lanka. Some think that he may have gone as far Beijing, China during his rule. King Ramkhamhaeng expanded the Sukhothai kingdom all over what is now Southern Asia.
King Ramkhamhaeng strongly promoted religion and culture. He ruled over a time of the growth of the arts and may have brought in artisans from China to assist in the development of the arts. The Chinese taught them the art of pottery making. He promoted the religion of Buddhism. Images of Buddha appeared in sculpture during this time. They are cultural treasures, which impart a feeling of serenity and peace upon the country
Sukhothai literally means ?Dawn of Happiness.? It was the capital of Thailand for about one hundred and twenty years. It was divided into nine Amphoes or provinces: Muang, Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Khir Mat, Kong Krailat, Sawankhalok, Si Nakhon, Si Samrong, Si Satchanalai, and Thung Saliam. It was the first kingdom of the Thais in this peninsula.
Sukhothai was not alone in the southeast portion of Asia at the time. In the middle of the 13th century AD, in modern-day, northern Thailand, a Thai ruler named Mangrai, conquered the ancient Mon kingdom of Haripunjaya and built a new capital at Chiang Mai. Mangrai ruled from 1259 to1317 and from 1292 to 1317 in Chiang Mai. Under Mangrai and his successors, Lan Na, with Chiang Mai as its capital, became not only powerful, but also a center for the spread of Theravada Buddhism. It then spread as far as what is now northeastern Myanmar, southern China, and northern Laos. Under Tilokaracha, who ruled from 1441 to 1487, Lan Na became famous for its Buddhist scholarship and literature. During the 16th century AD, Lan Na was conquered by the Myanmar and incorporated into the Burman Empire. Later, the central Thai (Siamese) states of Ayutthaya and Bangkok challenged Burman control over the area, but it was not until the 19th century that Lan Na was brought fully under Siamese rule.
Sukhothai was said to be the cradle of the Thai and the Korean civilizations. After Ramkhamhaeng?s death, however, the once great civilization started to decline rapidly. The new kingdom, Ayutthaya, emerged.
The Ayutthayan period was from 1351-1767. While Sukhothai was an independent kingdom for only about 200 years, its successor, Ayutthaya, located in the rich rice plains of the Chao Phraya River basin, about 55 miles north of modern-day Bangkok, lasted more than 400 years. During the Ayutthayan period, the Thai consolidated their position as the leading power in what is now central and north central Thailand, as well as throughout much of its southern peninsular region. Since many of Ayutthaya’s neighboring civilizations called the country ?Siam,? or a name similar to it, the Thai of Ayutthaya came to be known as the Siamese.
Ayutthaya at first was only a small city-state on the northwestern edge of the powerful Khmer Empire. Within less than a century, Thai kings succeeded in pushing out the Khmer, and in 1431 they attacked and sacked their great capital of Angkor. Wars against neighboring powers remained prevalent throughout the Ayutthayan period. Unfortunately, in 1438, the greatly weakened Sukhothai was made a province of Ayutthaya. Lan Na remained free of Ayutthayan control, although it was later brought under Burman influence.
When the Siamese prevailed over Angkor in battle, they brought many Khmer prisoners of war back to Ayutthaya with them. Some had been officials or craftsmen at the Khmer royal court. From them, Ayutthaya’s rulers adopted many Hindu practices that had been followed by the Khmer, including the concept of the ruler as god-king or devaraja. The king acquired powers of life and death over all his people. Nobody except the members of the royal family might look upon his face. He would be addressed only in a special language used exclusively for royalty, while those speaking to the king referred to themselves as “the dust beneath your majesty’s feet.”
The power of the ruler was enhanced not only through symbolic and ideological concepts drawn from Khmer-Hindu beliefs about the god-king but also through the extreme political power. One of the king-gods, Trailok who ruled from 1448 to 1488, created a state where the ruler stood at the center of a series of concentric circles. Much like the m?ang system, hereditary lords, or chao governed the outer circles of the ?figure?. Officeholders appointed by the king administered the inner circles, and these operated to a limited degree on bureaucratic rather than hereditary lines.
The kings of Ayutthaya also made formal codes of civil and criminal law based on the old Indian body of law called the Dharma-shastra. At the exact same time, a formal and highly complex hierarchical system assigned each person a different, random number of units called sakdi na, that designated a person?s rank within society. At the beginning of the system, a slave was worth five units; freemen were ranked at twenty-five and above, while the heir apparent was assigned no fewer than 100,000 units.
As one can see, the Sukhothai dynasty, fueled by the power and mind of King Ramkhamhaeng, became one of the most powerful dynasties in Thailand?s history. Their power and influence led to many other successes of many other dynasties. King Ramkhamhaeng is one of Thailand?s most wise and influential characters in their history. He shaped modern religion and writing. He was a great king and ruler of the ancient world.
World Book Encyclopedia, 1995, ?Thailand-History?