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Taksin

Taksin the Great (สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช) ; ; Teochew: Dênchao; was born in April 17, 1734 in the reign of Borommakot. Taksin was the only king of the Thon Buri Period. He has been recognized as one of the great Thai kings, for his prowess in warfare, his leadership in liberating the country after Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese in 1767, and his ability in unifying the country after it had been split up into many factions.

Taksin was put to death on April 6,1782 at the age of 48 after a 15-year reign. After he was executed, his remains were buried at Wat (Temple) Bang Yireua Tai, in 1785, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke had the remains disinterred and cremated at the same temple. A tomb containing Taksin's clothes and a family shrine were found at Ching Hai district in Teochew province in China in 1921. It is believed that a descendant of 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.

Taksin had accomplished so much for the Thais in his short reign. Without his leadership, the country would not have been rid of the Burmese and become unified so soon. In recognition of what he had done for the country, the government has declared December 28 a day of homage to the King. A state ceremony has been held annually at the memorial to Taksin in Wongwian Yai in Bangkok since 1954. On October 27, 1981, the cabinet passed a resolution to honor him as "King Taksin the Great."

Early life and career

He was born in Ayutthaya in the reign of Borommakot of Ayutthaya and given the name Sin (Treasure). His father Hai-Hong, who worked as a tax-collector, was a Teochew Chinese immigrant with roots from Chenghai District, and his mother Lady Nok-lang was Thai. When aged 7 he started his education in a Buddhist monastery. After 7 years of education he was sent by his father to serve as a royal page. 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.

Sin was first deputy governor and later governor of the Tak province, which gained him his name Tak-Sin, "Treasure of Tak," (or Treasure Exposed, as Tak (Exposed) is exposed to danger from Burma); though his official noble title was Phraya Tak. When he was promoted to be governor of Kamphaeng Phet province, 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. Shortly before Ayutthaya fell in 1767, Taksin cut his way out of the city at the head of a small army. 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.

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 managed to drive back the Burmese, defeat his rivals and reunify the country.

In 1765, Phraya Tak came to Ayutthaya to help defend the capital. He fought valiantly and earned great recognition. He was promoted to the title and rank of Phraya Wachira Prakan, Governor of Kamphaeng Phet. It is believed, that prior to the fall of Ayutthaya, he got out of the capital by fighting his way through the Burmese seige with the aim of assembling men to liberate the country.

According to the royal Thai chronicle, Phraya Tak and his followers, after breaking out of Ayutthaya, headed for the east coast. On the way, they encountered many Burmese troops but were able to defeat them all. He became widely known for his military prowess and many came to pledge their service.

In the fifth lunar month of the year 1767, Ayutthaya was lost to the Burmese and the attitudes of high ranking officials changed with the situation. Some thought of setting themselves up as heads of state. Even Phraya Chantaburi, who had promised friendship to Phraya Tak, revoked his promise. The latter, therefore, led his army to capture Chantaburi and Trad and returned to make a stand at Chantaburi, making it his headquarters for collection of provisions and arms. In the meantime, other commanders and officers came to join him. The most important was Nai Sudchinda, an officer of the Royal Pages Department, who later became Khrom Phra Ratchawang Bawon Sathan Monkon in the Reign of Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke.

At the end of the monsoon season, Phraya Tak led his forces from Chantaburi to the Chao Phraya River delta in the twelfth lunar month of the same year. After he had taken Thon Buri, he attacked the Pho Sam Ton Camp in Ayutthaya and was able to seize the camp in two days. His triumph over the Burmese at the Pho Sam Ton Camp was symbolic of the liberation of the country. After capturing the camp, he tried to put the country back in order. Then he brought people back to Thon Buri and established it as his capital because the site was more appropriate than Ayutthaya. In 1768 he was crowned king. After the coronation, King Taksin proceeded at once to unify the country . Besides waging war to drive the Burmese out of the country, the king had to subdue the Thais who set themselves up as heads of various factions. His military successes resulted in the country being united once again

Before the fall of Ayutthaya

Hsinbyushin of Burma sent two armies to attack Ayutthaya from two directions, via the northern route to the mouth of the Prasop River and via the southern route to the Thung Phu Koa Thong (Golden Mountain field). He also had all the supply routes cut off with the aim of destroying the kingdom completely so that it could no longer afford to help the Burmese vassal states.

One military hero that emerged was Phraya Tak. He was originally a commoner of Chinese descent but because of his intellectual ability and expertise in law, he was accepted into government service. He worked so well for the benefit of the country that the king appointed him governor of Tak, with the title of Phraya Taksin. Upon learning of the Burmese attack on the capital, Phraya Tak rushed to help defend it. He was ordered to lead a division to fight the Burmese near Wat Pa Kaew, or Wat Yai. He defended the capital to the best of his ability and became known as one of the greatest warriors.

Though Phraya Tak fought valiantly, he could not repel the Burmese army. He was only able to prevent them from entering the capital. What made the situation worse was the desertion of army captains and commanders guarding the city. Chaos ruled everywhere and Phraya Tak became discouraged by the court weaknesses.

The Burmese besieged Ayutthaya for about two years. Phraya Tak, who made a stand at Wat Phichai camp, outside the city wall, realized that the city would soon be lost. Moreover, his army suffered greatly from a shortage of food and the Burmese outnumbered his men. If he went on fighting, he would lead them to death for no good reason. The future king then decided to lead his troops, together with those who came for his protection, about 500 Thai and Chinese, and fought his way through the enemy line at Wat Phichai on Saturday, January, 1767. He headed for towns on the eastern coast, which were free of Burmese influence, and which were centers of communication with other major provinces in the kingdom, using them as bases for assembling men and weapons to liberate the country.

Soon after Phraya Tak broke through the enemy line with his troops. Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese on April 7, 1767. That day the capital was engulfed in smoke and flame, with thunderous roars as if the earth was falling apart. Hsibyushin of Burma wanted to completely destroy the Kingdom of Ayutthaya so orders were issued to burn the whole city, all the palaces as well as the temples, pagodas, Buddha images and the city wall, and to take the king together with everyone in the royal family, and all the treasures to Burma. Ayutthaya was reduced to ruins.

Phraya Tak, who was in Rayong at the time, summoned officials and townspeople for a meeting and announced his firm determination to cherish and uphold Buddhism, liberate the country, and restoring the kingdom to its former glory. All the officers and men who heard the declaration unanimously asked Phraya Tak to be their leader and called him Chao Tak. He then led his troops, consisting of Thai and Chinese, to coastal towns in the east, waiting for an opportune moment to liberate the country.

Important step to liberate the country

The various steps taken by King Taksin to liberate the country at that time show his ingenuity in warfare. He shrewdly made plans for both fighting on land and at sea.

From Ayutthaya to eastern towns

The morning after he broke through the enemy line at Wat Phichai in January, 1768, Phraya Tak headed for Ban Pho Sanghan, where he clashed with Burmese garrison and defeated them. The general then led his exhausted men, to Ban Phran Nok for a rest. One group was sent out to find food. By chance it came upon 200 Burmese soldiers, who pursued them to Ban Phran Nok. Phraya Tak divided his men into two groups and ordered them to lie in ambush while he and four other officers on horseback fiercely charged thirty Burmese cavalrymen. The Burmese were surprised and retreated only to collide with their own infantry. This gave the men who were hiding on both sides of the path the opportunity to outflank the Burmese and kill them all.

Seeing that Phraya Tak could overcome the Burmese, people who had previously been in hiding submitted themselves and help persuade heads of various groups to acknowledge his leadership. Those who refused to do so were forcefully suppressed, their elephants, horses, vehicles, provisions, and weapons confiscated. Then Phraya Tak proceeded by way of Na Reung in Nakhon Nayok, passed through the Kob Chae outpost, crossed the Prachinburi River, and settled at the edge of Si Maha Pho on the east side. At that time, a group of Burmese forces stationed at the mouth of the river followed Phraya Tak's troops and attacked. The Burmese were killed and none dared trail Phraya Tak's army again.

Phraya Tak then traveled through Chacheongsao and entered Chonburi. He learned that a certain leader called Nai Thongyu Nok lek opposed him and tried avoid joining him. When Phraya Tak confronted him, however, Nai Thongyu Nok Lek feared for his life and submitted himself without further ado. Phraya Tak's army moved on to Na Kloe and Bang Lamung and finally to Rayong where the governor of Rayong, who had heard about Phraya Tak, humbly invited him to enter the city. From the day Phraya Tak broke through the enemy line from Ayutthaya to the entry into Rayong took less than one month. This shows that Phraya Tak's faction was a power of greater potentiality than other factions.

Strategic Importance of Chantaburi

From Rayong, Phraya Tak marched his army past Klaeng to Bang Kracha with the aim of taking Chantaburi, a major province, as his base, to build public morale. The governor of Chantaburi, however, refused to submit. Phraya Tak then devised a psychological strategy, ordering all his men to finish their evening meal, throw away the left overs, and smash all the pots and pans. He declared that they would take Chantaburi that night and eat breakfast in the city. This display of confidence that he would win Chantaburi meant either victory or death for him and his troops.

That evening Phraya Tak ordered the Thai and Chinese troops to surround the city and hide and waiting for the signal to attack from all sides. They were instructed not to utter a sound until the city was taken. The first group that entered the city would cheer as a signal to others. The army lay in wait until three o'clock in the morning. Then Phraya Tak mounted his elephant, called Phang Khiri, ordered a shot to be fired as a signal, and drove his elephant to break down the city gate. When the guards manning the fortifications realized what was going on, they showered gunfire on the troops. The mahout, fearing that Phraya Tak would be hit, pulled the elephant back. Phraya Tak was so exasperated that he pulled out his sword to strike the man. The mahout then pleaded for his life and rushed the elephant against the gate until it fell down. The troops rushed into the city and the townspeople dispersed. Phraya Chantaburi and his family fled to Bantaimat in a boat. Phraya Tak took the city on Sunday, June 15, 1767, only two months after the fall of Ayutthaya.

After taking Chantaburi, the general headed for Trat. City officials and people who heard the news were afraid and humbly came out to surrender.

At that time, there were Chinese junks moored at the month of Trat river. Phraya Tak asked their captains to come and see him but they refused, and fighting ensued. He devised a plan whereby fighting vessels fromed a circle around the junks. The Chinese retaliated by firing their cannons. After half a day of fierce naval engagement, Phraya Tak was able to seize all the Chinese junks together with a lot of weapons and ammunition.

It should be noted that Phraya Tak's war vessels were only small long boats, about the size of present day racing boats. They were, however, able to engage in a battle and seize larger junks equipped with cannons.

Effective planning back to Ayutthaya

After the Trat battle, Phraya Tak went back to his base in Chantaburi and ordered that more fighting vessels be built and more weapons assembled. The future king devoted three months to training men and building war boats so that his mighty fleet would be ready to go into combat right after the monsoon season. He realized that moving troops by land would be disadvantageous. The distances were too far and they would be unable to keep the journey a secret. The Burmese would retaliate and fighting would delay the troops who would be tired by the time they reach Ayutthaya. Phraya Tak also knew two weaknesses of the Burmese, they were only good at fighting on land and they do not have fighting boats.

When all the preparations were made, the future king chose to leave Chantaburi with his fleet in October at the end of the monsoon season, when the areas around Ayutthaya were flooded. He entered the Chao Phraya estuary, attacked the enemy camp at Thon Buri, and took the town after defeating Nai Thong In, who was put in charge of defense there by the Burmese.

Phraya Tak then moved on to Ayutthaya to surprise the Burmese. They did not have time to make any plan. The general was able to land his troops, crush the Burmese at the Pho Sam Ton Camp completely and liberate the country on November 7, 1767, only seven months after Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese.

Establishment of Thon Buri as a capital

Thon Buri at that time was the right size for Taksin. Located in the middle of a mud plain, the city was easy to defend and its proximity to sea made it feasible to escape to coastal town in the east in an emergency. Moreover, the city was near Ayutthaya, making it convenient to guard the old capital against the influence of other factions. With these strategic considerations, Thon Buri was established as the new capital called Krung Thon Buri Si Mahasamut, or Thon Buri the Glory of the Ocean. The king also had a palace built on the west bank of the Chao Phraya in the vicinity of the Wichaiprasit Fort.

Life as King

On December 28, 1768, he was crowned king of Siam in the new capital at Thonburi. Two years later, 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. Over the next few years, Taksin managed to gain control over Chiang Mai and putting Cambodia under the vassalage of Siam by 1779, after repeated military campaigns.

In order to legitimize his claim for the Kingdom, he sent a diplomatic envoy to China which then was ruled by Qianlong Emperor. China recognized King Taksin as the rightful ruler of Siam, and Taksin began the reunification of Siam. During this time he actively encouraged the Chinese to settle in Siam, principally those from Chaozhou, partly with the intention to revive the stagnating economy and upgrading the local workforce at that time.

King Taksin 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 Bunnags, a trader-aristocrat family of Persian origins.

In 1775, Siam faced the most lowest economic, thus he donated his fund to buy rice and clothes costly for his people. Later, Siam's economic recovered and boomed. King Taksin supported all kind of trading faithfully, no corruption.

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 madness. He believed himself to be a future Buddha, and he flogged monks who refused to worship him as such. Several historians have suggested that this tale may have been created 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.

Defense the country and expansion of the kingdom

Taksin the Great considered the defense of the country his main mission in life. He devoted all his time to the unification of the kingdom and the defense of the land.

Unification of the Kingdom

After the destruction of the 400 year-old kingdom of Ayutthaya, provincial governors became bold and set themselves up as kings. Chao Phraya Phitsanulok, Chao Phimai, Chao Phraya Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Chao Phra Fang were four major factions.

Taksin planned to subdue the heads of these major factions to unify the country and restore stability to the kingdom as in Ayutthaya times. Campaigns to unify the country started after the king was crowned in 1768.

Defense of Border Towns

Another undertaking to which Taksin had committed himself all his life was defending the kingdom against all enemies.

Taksin often had to wage war to defend border towns and in all fought eight battles with the Burmese. With his ingenious strategy and military prowess, he emerged victorious every time. In 1767 he attacked the Burmese camps at Pho Sam Ton district and successfully freed the country from Burmese domination. In the same year a battle was fought at Bang Kung in Samut Songkhram Province ; the king led his troops in a fierce fight with the Burmese, who had to retreat by way of Tavoy. He seized all their provisions, boats and weapons. In 1774 he was able to capture Chiang Mai and rid the north of Burmese influence. Thus, Thai territory was, therefore, extended to include the whole of Lanna with the exception of Chiang Saen.

Expansion of the Kingdom

The Thai kingdom under Taksin extended much further than it did in Ayutthaya times as Phutthaimat and Cambodia also acknowledged Thai suzerainty. In 1776 Thon Buri extended its territory as far as southern Laos, with Champasak, Seethandon, Attapue, and Cambodian jungle towns, namely Surin, Sangkha and Khukhan as vassal states. In 1778 Vientiane and Luang Phrabang were captured and the Emerald Buddha was brought to Thon Buri. It can be said that the many battles that he fought to protect and extend the kingdom firmly established our independence and stability up until today.

The Thai Kingdom in the Thon Buri Period After Phraya Tak was crowned king, 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, Chacheongsao, Prachinburi, Nakhon Nayok, Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi, Trat, Nakhon Chaisi, Nakhon Prathom, Suphanburi, Ratchaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Petchaburi, Kanchanaburi, and Prachuab Khirikhan.

Throughout his reign, Taksin carried out his policy of extending the kingdom of Thon Buri far and wide:

In the north, including the whole of Lanna

In the south, including Sai Buri and Trengganu

In the east, Including Cambodia adjoining South Vietnam

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

In the west, as far as Mergui and Tenasserim leading to the Indian Ocean

Law and administration of justice

The country was at war all through Taksin's reign, so there was barely time to revise laws and court regulations for judging legal cases. Laws from Ayutthaya times continued to be used in this period. The Department of the Palace Affairs or the Ministry of the Royal Household had the responsibility of deciding in which court a case should be tried and sent it accordingly.

However in this reign, Taksin held the military court very frequently. In passing judgment, though the king handed down the severest sentence, he would have the convict punished in stages, starting with the lightest punishment.

In several cases, it seemed that those who committed serious offenses were spared heavy punishment by being assigned to other activities for atonement.

Royal trade with foreigner

The Thon Buri period is considered a golden age for foreign relations for both Royalty and civilians. Taksin was very much interested in foreign trade because he viewed it as a venue to increase the country's income. The profits also help alleviate the tax burden on his people. Many royal galleons were thus sent out for international commerce creating economic stability for nation.

  • Trade with China Throughout Taksin's reign, Chinese ships sailed for trade with Thon Buri. Royal galleons were also sent to China, which was considered the most important trading partner.

Commercial relations between Thon Buri and China started with rice trading and later included local goods from the Taechew Clan such as ceremic wares, silk, pickled fruits and woven mats. On the return journey, the Chinese would load their ships with local Thai goods such as rice, spices, wood, tin and lead.

The record dating from 1777, the Tai Cheng dynasty in the forty-second year of Emperor Chien Lung's reign, states: "Important goods from Thailand are amber, gold, colored rocks, good nuggets, gold dust, semi-precious stones, and hard lead."

  • Trade with Portugal In the Thon Buri period, there were some trade with the Portuguese. Thai galleons travelled to Portuguese colony of Surat, in the Goa district of India. However, formal diplomatic relations were not formed.
  • Trade with Britain Thon Buri's most important arms trading partner was Great Britain, whose center of operation was India. In the year 1776, Francis Light or Captain Lehk sent 1,400 flintlock guns along with other goods as gifts to King Taksin. Later, Thon Buri ordered some guns from England.

Royal letters were exchanged and in 1777, George Stratton, the Viceroy of Madras, sent a gold scrabbard decorated with gems to King Taksin.

  • Trade with Holland In 1770, natives of Tranganu and Jakarta presented King Taksin with 2,200 shotguns. At that time, Holland controlled the Java Islands.

Foreign affairs

In the reign of Taksin, Relations with foreign countries were as follows:

  • Cambodia When Ayutthaya fell to Burma in 1767, Cambodia, a Thai vassal state from Ayutthaya times, asserted its independence. Several expeditions had been sent to take Cambodia. In 1781 the king wanted to categorically annex Cambodia. His wish had not been realized when the reign came to an arrupt end.
  • China

Relations between King Taksin and the Ching Dynasty can be divided into three periods according to time and situation:

1767-1770 : The Ching Dynasty refused to accept King Taksin's sovereignty due to a false report from Morsuelun of Bantaimat.

1770-1771 : The Ching Dynasty began to realize that Morsuelun's report was false and began to change its attitude towards Taksin.

1771-1772 : Taksin's envoy was warmly received and given special support by the Ching court.

  • Vietnam Thai and Vietnamese relations in the Thon Buri period could be divided into two stages. In the first stage Vietnam cultivated friendship with Thailand because it believed the Thais could help settle its internal problems. Later when Thailand had differences with Vietnam regarding Cambodia, relations between the two countries became so strained towards the end of the reign that they almost came to war.
  • Nakhon Si Thammarat After taking Nakhon Si Thammarat in 1769, Taksin gave the administration back to the local authorities. He raised it to the status of a vassal state. Its governor held the rank of Chao Nakhon Si Thammarat, the equivalent of a king. The vassal state and Thon Buri were on very good terms throughout the reign.
  • Burma During the first ten years of the Thon Buri period, Thailand and Burma were at war eight times. It can be said that Burma was Thon Buri sworn enemy.
  • Malay States Major Malay provinces, namely Pattani, Sai Buri, Peris, Kelantan, and Trengganu had been Thai vassal states since the days of Sukhothai. When Ayutthaya fell, these states became independent. As Taksin was occupied with the war against Burma and the revival of the country, the Malay states were left free from Thai influence until the end of the reign.
  • Lanna Major Lanna states, namely Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun, Phrae, and Nan, governed themselves with their own princes. They were important strategically for both Thailand and Burma that the two nations vied for control these territories since Ayutthaya times.
  • Laos At the time, Laos consisted of three states :- Luang Phrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. Taksin exerted his influence over Laos twice. Troops were sent in 1776 to take Champasak, Khong and Attapeu. It also succeeded in persuading Cambodian jungle towns of Talung, Surin, Songkla, and Khukhan to acknowledge Thai sovereignty. Thus the whole of southern Laos came under Thai influence. A second expedition was sent in 1778 to take Vientiane. The Emerald Buddha and the Phra Bang were brought to Thon Buri. Luang Phrabang, which had conflicts with Vientiane, also pledged loyalty to the Thai monarch. Laos, therefore, became a Thai vassal state until the end of the reign.

Administration

Thon Buri was governed along the same line as Ayutthaya and the administration of the country was divided into three parts:

  • Central Administration This was under the responsibility of ministers of the four departments that dealt with civic, palace, financial, and agricultural affairs.
  • Provincial Administration Provinces in the kingdom were administered in two levels: those that were governed by central officials of the phraya rank and those that were vassal states.
  • Manpower or Phrai Control of manpower, or phrai, was central to the administration of the country. The phrai system broke down when Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese. Titled officials took the opportunity to pass phrai luang (the king's soldiers) off as their own men, depriving the country of labor and tax. King Taksin therefore, had the phrai system revived. He ordered that all phrai luang and phrai som (fresh recruits) have their wrist tattooed. This was the first time that men in every division and department were required to be tattooed.

Religious affairs

It should be noted that though the country was at war most of the time, King Taksin did not neglect his obligations regarding religious affairs. He was determined to restore Buddhism to its former glory from Ayutthaya times.

  • Reorganization of Monastic Order As soon as he established Thon Buri as the capital, the king had the monastic order reorganized. Moreover, 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.
  • Manuscripts of Buddhist Sacred Writings The king assiduously searched for manuscripts of the Tripitaka (collection of Buddhist sacred writings) that survived the fall of the capital to be copied and compiled as the royal version for the new capital. When he went to suppress the Chao Nakhon Si Thammarat faction in 1769, the king asked for a loan of the Tripitaka and had it transported by boat to be copied in Thon Buri. The following year when he went to Uttaradit to suppress Phra Fang faction, another version of the Tripitaka was brought to Thon Buri to be compared with that from Nakhon Si Thammarat, which was most useful in the revision of the Tripitaka in the next reign.Thailand,
  • Reception of the Emerald Buddha When Vientiane was captured, the Emerald Buddha and the Phra Bang were brought to Thon Buri. The king ordered a grand procession of 246 boats to welcome them with himself at the head of the procession. They were enshrined at Wat Arun Ratchawararam, (the temple of Dawn) and the Emerald Buddha has since become the nation's holy symbol.
  • Restoration of Temples The king spent a large part of his own money restoring several monasteries and made them royal temples, such as Wat Intharam, Wat Hong Ratanaram, and Wat Arun Ratchawaram.
  • Promulgation of Monastic Discipline In 1773 Taksin promulgated a law on monastic daily routine in accordance with the Doctrine and the Discipline, this is considered the first Thai law concerning monks. Moreover, the king used Buddhist concepts as the basis for setting up social order at the time.

Literature and fine arts

Literary Works

Taksin's main mission was to unify the country and build a new capital. He therefore did not have enough time to fully revive literature. There are not many literary works from this period but a few that exist are of great value.

Dances and Drama

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 Thon Buri on the Ayutthaya model. The King wrote four episodes from the Ramakian for the royal troupe to rehearse and perform.

Arts and Crafts

The most important work of art of the Thon Buri period is an illustrated manuscript book on the three worlds: Buddha's, Heaven and Hell. The King had it drawn up in 1776, following the content of ancient religious beliefs written in Thai old script called Tri Poom. It can be considered one of the biggest illustrated manuscript books in Thailand. When unfolded, the book is 34.72 meters long. There are paintings in color on both sides of the sheet done by four artists. At present the book is kept at the National Library, Tha Wasuki, Bangkok.

Craftsmanship

Taksin realized that there were very few craftsmen left in Thon Buri. He gathered skilled workmen together and revived all the arts and crafts, such as boat building, construction, decorating, and painting. Since these men were new apprentices and there was little time due to war, it is hard to find works of fine craftsmanship in this period. However, there are few exceptional pieces, among them the following:

Taksin's bed : located at Wat Intharam in Thon Buri.

A seat for meditation : located in the small wihara in front of the Prang of the temple of Dawn, in Thon Buri.

A black and gold lacquered cabinet : with the year indicating that it was made in Thon Buri period, located in the Vajirayan section of the National Library, Tha Wasukri, Bangkok.

Phra Racha Wang Derm : the Throne hall that Taksin used when he administered affairs of state. It is in the compound of the present headquarters of the Royal Thai Navy, near Temple of Dawn.

Economic and social welfare

Problem of Famine

When Taksin established Thon Buri as his capital, people were living in abject poverty, food and clothing were scarce. The king was well aware of the plight of his subjects. He therefore considered solving economic problems the main priority. He paid high price for rice with his own money to induce foreign traders to bring in adequate amount of basic necessities to satisfy the need of the people. He then distributed rice and clothing to all his starving subjects without exception. People that had been dispersed came back to their homes. Normalcy was restored. The economy of the country gradually recovered.

Transportation and Communication

Taksin had roads built during the cool season,which was free of war to facillitate travel, transportation of goods and communication. The King also promoted water transportation by speeding up the digging of a canal, Khlong Tha Kham, to provide facilities for cargo boats and naval vessels.

Sea Trade

After peace returned to the country, the king devoted his attention to reviving sea trade with foreign nations for revenues from boat taxes, tariffs and customs duties. The income was used in developing the country and help relieve the burden of tax on the people to a large extent.

Thon Buri money

In the Thon Buri period, bullet coins or Pod Duang were made from pure silver and were of the same weight and value as those of the Pre Sukhothai, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya period. The coins remained in use up to the reign of King Rama IV in the Rattanakosin period. The enblem of the current reign was stamped in front and the symbol of sovereignty, the Chakra, the representation of the God Narai of the Brahmin Sect, was stamped on top of the coin.

The Thon Buri bullet coins carried King Taksin's royal emblem which was the Trisul or Tri, a trident which was the weapon of the God Issawara and Tawiwuth-a two pronged fork framed by a cordial shape. The symbol of power of that period was still the Chakra.

Death

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 exucuted. 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.

King Taksin was declared insane and a coup d'état removed him from the throne in March 1782. Although he requested to be allowed to join the monkhood, the deposed king was executed shortly after the coup on April 7, 1782, along with some of his loyal followers, including Phraya Pichai, within the next few days. He was sealed in a velvet sack and was beaten to death with a scented sandalwood club, in accordance with the ancient tradition that no royal blood should touch the ground. His execution was viewed as necessary in order to prevent the former king's becoming the center of a possible revolt against his successor, the 'tradition' usually happened in Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Another account claimed 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 arranged and beaten to death in his place.

When the coup occurred, General Chao Phraya Chakri was away fighting in Cambodia, but he quickly returned to the Thai capital. When he arrived in Thonburi, the rebels surrendered and offered Chakri the throne. Another view of the events is that General Chakri actually wanted to be King and had accused King Taksin of being Chinese; 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. However, prior to returning to Thonburi, Chao Phraya Chakri had Taksin's son summoned to Cambodia and executed.

Legacy

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.

The monarch remains a favorite of Thai Chinese, and is referred to as the King of Thonburi. Taksin's equestrian statue stands in the middle of Wongwien Yai (the Big Traffic Circle) in Thonburi, and is a well known Bangkok landmark.

Miscellaneous

  • The Na Nakhon (also spelled Na Nakorn) family is descended from King Taksin.
  • Due to the ancient views of medicine and the human mind at the time, King Taksin's peculiar behaviors were often described as madness. With the advent of modern views of the human mind and psychology, many modern historians now believe the symptoms that were recorded in historical records more closely resembles signs of a midlife crisis.

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