วันเสาร์ที่ 3 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn graciously gave her permission for the first public display of five ancient maps out of 17 discovered in the Grand Palace in 1996. These royal Siamese maps give an insight into the socio-cultural conditions of the past and reflect the intrinsic wisdom of Siamese people and their cartographical skills.All the maps are large and are believed to have been made in the early Rattanakosin period between the reigns of kings Rama I and IV (1782-1868). The maps, which are hand-drawn arid hand-colored on cotton cloth that might have been produced in China or India, depict strategic routes of war with the Neighbor Country like Burmese or Khamen and trade with the Chinese. They alsoinclude some details of towns, forts, important religious places, ethnic minorities, indigenous plants and animals, population, distance and traveling time, and major events in certain areas.All names indicated on each map, such as Khamen Nai Ni, Tavoy, Saiburi, Kwangtung (Canton), and others, are written in Thai. Only maps showing trade routes to China have names and the ancient system of measurement written in Chinese as well. In making these maps, it is likely that a drawing was made first: then a survey of the sites was probably undertaken.The 17 rolled maps were discovered, for the first time, in the mansion of Princess Apphantripacha, a daughter of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), within the Grand Palace. They were unframed and nobody knows where they came from. Fortunately, the person who discovered them has extensive knowledge of art and is a student of Achan Julthusana Ryachrananda, a member of the Royal Institute.Achan Julthusana had the maps photographed and informed Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who came to look at them later directing they be sent to the Fine Arts Department for preservation. When the princess learned that the maps would fade if unrolled frequently, she instructed the Royal Thai Survey Department to have them copied. The renovation work took 1-2 years.According to historical records, old maps such as these have rarely been found in Asia, so this discovery revises cartographical history and is considered one of the greatest discoveries in Thai history.Dr. Santanee Phasuk, who was sponsored by Her Royal Highness to study the maps for her doctorate, conducted an in-depth study of the maps, with her adviser Professor Dr. Philip Stott and doctors Henry Ginsburg. The researcher gained information from chronicles and their inspections of places marked on the maps."If asked what I've studied, I would say that my study was in response to Her Royal Highness's wishes. She told me to find out who made the maps, and why and when they were drawn. We found that the maps had been drawn in the court secretary style.There are short statements on each map and we used chronicles and historical documents to ask learned people likes Colonel. Dr. Khun Neon Snidwong and study them. Moreover, we also studied the evolution of names mentioned in the maps with the presentdocuments."When compared with the maps drawn by Westerners wishing to trade with Thailand, the royal maps are more accurate and have more details. Western maps are accurate where they involve coastal areas, since Westerners traveled to Thailand by sea and survey the way of trade. But their accounts of places inside Thailand are not correct. For example. the Mekong river flows from the north and when it reaches Loei province, it turns to the east. But in old Western maps, the Mekong river was drawn in a straight line from the north to the south and almost of its details were wrong."I have selected nine ancient maps for my study, as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of His Majesty's accession to the throne. The largest map among the five is the map of Tavoy, which is five meters long. Out of all 17, three sets of maps are in pairs.Historians maintain that Thai people in the old days were careful, as they made a copy of documents. One of the docu-ments might be used in planning, while the other would be used on the field of battle and for records. From further checks, we found that the three sets were strategic maps, named `Mortama-KaraburiL Although they are in sets. they have different names and details are also different."Although only five maps are on public display, details of each map are numerous and they are quite attractive to look at, sometimes reflecting the humor of the cartographer. For instance, in the Kwangtung map, there are large fish eating smaller ones; and female fish seem to have cute eyelashes. There is a figure of a sawfish, which Thai people believed to be the enemy of navigation. The map also indicates areas where there are plenty of fish, or there is a strong current, or the waters are calm. The drawings of many temples imply that Thailand is a Buddhist country. In telling about the lifestyle the map also features a Karen village in the ancient Thai style.Dr. Santanee added that organizing the exhibition 'Siam in Trade and War - Royal Maps of the Nineteenth Century' was meant to provide an opportunity for people to appreciate the itinherent wisdom of ancient Thais; she also wanted academics to provide comments on the research, stating that the maps are national treasures and everyone should take pride in them and help with their preservation.