Life and Ritual in Old Siam: Three Studies of Thai Life and Customs

Life and Ritual in Old Siam: Three Studies of Thai Life and Customs

Life and Ritual in Old Siam: Three Studies of Thai Life and Customs

Life and Ritual in Old Siam: Three Studies of Thai Life and Customs

Excerpt

I will tell about farming, which everyone knows and can tell about. It seems at first glance that farming is a simple matter; everyone knows about it, just as everyone knows how to cook rice, the daily duty of the housewife. If anyone wants to know about it, he can ask questions himself; it is not necessary to explain it. Therefore no one has written a book on this subject, since no one would want it. It is true that there are books on auspices, or textbooks on modern agriculture and its superiority to old farming methods. But these do not help us to understand the life of the farmer, and so I have written a book about farmers as they were in the old times.

I feel that no story is so hard to tell as the story of farming. If one were to make comparison, it is like telling the story of oxen and buffaloes; if you make an error, even children know you are wrong. Moreover it is a simple, unexciting subject, which everyone knows. It is much better to tell about lions or nymphs, because if you make a mistake, no one knows it, for these exist only in legends and no one would dare say you were wrong. Or if you tell about camels or seals it is still better than telling about oxen and buffaloes, because these animals do not exist in our country. Even if we have never seen them, we have books written by others, and it is easy to write from them without being afraid of making a mistake. Also people prefer to listen, because it is unusual, whereas the subject of oxen and buffaloes is like "grass at the gate of the pen"; it is easy and yet it is difficult.

But let us try. We will tell the story of farming from the point of view of the observer, not from the point of view of one who knows or one who performs. Those of you who were once farmers, but have long ago abandoned farming to seek your fortune in the city, when you hear the story of farming which I, who have never been a farmer, am telling here, it may remind you of the past and refresh your memory to some extent. Also, you will undoubtedly know where my account is deficient or mistaken. I beg that you be so kind as to inform me; I will be very grateful. This is the situation. One might say that it is as if I who have never given birth to a child, and am one who will absolutely never have an opportunity to, were to be so bold as to tell women about childbirth. It feels rather odd, and so I must make my excuses in advance.

For the story of farming, Phrá Thewa Phinimmit (Chaaj Theewaaphínimmíd) has kindly noted down his memories of farming among the people of Nakhon Ratchasima. I have used these notes as data for relating the story of farming, together with the verbal accounts of many other friends who have seen farming and have been kind enough to explain farming to me. I wish to thank all of these people at this time.

Fine Arts Department Phya Anuman Rajadhon
Bangkok, Thailand
11 February, 1948 . . .

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