Tales of old Thailand and Japan

AyutthayaIt’s the stuff of high adventure: Warrior kings, mysterious ships from far-off Japan, thriving trade across oceans and generations.

All part of the real-life tale of Thailand’s King Naresuan, who sat on the Thai throne more than 400 years ago when adventurous Japanese traders and samurai first settled in Thailand. And, you can read all about it in English thanks to Kennon “Ken” Breazeale, a projects coordinator at the Center. Here’s the story:

Those key events in Thailand’s history were remembered recently when Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn traveled to Ayutthaya, the old capital of the Kingdom where she opened a new section of the national historical park there. The Princess, many remember, was just at the Center in Honolulu where she rededicated the Thai Sala and accepted Center’s Asia Pacific Community Building Award on behalf of her father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The new section of the park, known as Nihonmachi, is the site where Japanese traders and samurai settled around the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. To mark the occasion, the Toyota Thailand Foundation published a book on the period, written by Thailand’s best-known historian, Prince Damrong, who is a great-uncle to the present King. An English-language edition of his work, titled A Biography of King Naresuan the Great has just been translated by Breazeale, a projects coordinator at the Center. To complement the book, the Textbooks Foundation of Thailand has just published another book, written by Breazeale, titled The Writings of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab: A Chronology with Annotations.

Both books were presented to the Princess during the dedication of Nihonmachi.

7 thoughts on “Tales of old Thailand and Japan

  1. These sound interesting. Do you know if the Center’s library will have them?

    I found a review of the translation on the Bangkok Post website that contains this praise of Breazeale: “The biography has been translated by Kennon Breazeale, one of the most knowledgeable historians of Ayutthaya, who also wrote a thesis on Damrong’s historical work. He has turned Prince Damrong’s often heavy Thai prose into light and lucid English. In the original, Damrong gave no indication of his sources but Breazeale has added 166 footnotes, which tracks down the sources, corrects a few obvious slips, decodes the dates, and gently points out where Prince Damrong is indulging his imagination.”

  2. Good day. I heard about an Ayutthaya Agricultural State University. I am interested to visit said school, together with my class of 15 students. Can i please have an email address and a Name i can write to. Thank you,

  3. Hi Neri,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have contact information for the Ayutthaya Agricultural State University. If any readers out there has the information Neri is looking for please post the answer as a comment.

  4. Dear Neri,

    Sorry for the long delay. I could not find any information about the agricultural college in Ayutthaya in English. I have only the address and other basic contact information:

    College of Agriculture and Technology
    Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre
    Tambon Pho Daeng, Bang Sai District
    Ayutthaya Province 13290, Thailand
    Tel. 035-366305

    They have a website, but it is in the Thai language only:

    website : kasetbangsai.com

    For information about a visit for students, you might try the email address listed on the website:

    e-mail: kasetbangsai@gmail.com

    Best of luck,
    Ken Breazeale

  5. Dear Ken Beazeale,

    Thank you for sharing such inspiring work. I was very excited to see this blog page, having shared a life long passion about Ayutthaya history, particularly King Naresuan’s reign. I have been looking for your book A Biography of King Naresuan the Great”, a direct translation of Praya Damrong’s masterpiece and best know historical record of this era of Thai history. The book is not available on amazon.com Can you advise me of where to get a copy of your translated version?

    I have read many historical accounts of King Naresuan, all in Thai by MR Kikrit Pramoj and the most recent publication by Banyong Bunrit. I would be really interested in obtaining a copy of Praya Damrong’s version for reference.

    It’s sad to see recurring patterns of Ayutthaya’s demise in modern Thai history.

  6. Dear Reader (28 August 2008 message),

    The book about King Naresuan and Ayutthaya is sold by the Textbooks Foundation. Proceeds go to their educational and charitable work.

    The book should be available in the academic bookstores, such as Chula and Thammasat. Or you can order the book through the Foundation website:

    Look under BOOKS LIST (and FOREIGN LANGUAGE sublist).

    Or send an email to Khun Kitsunee at the Foundation:

    One of our Hawaii graduates, Cesare Polenghi, has written a book that continues the story with a focus on the Japanese community in Ayutthaya, which became established during King Naresuan’s reign. This book will be published in the near future by White Lotus Press (Bangkok) with the title “Samurai of Ayutthaya: Yamada Nagamasa, Japanese Warrior and Merchant in Early Seventeenth-century Siam”.

    Best regards,
    Ken Breazeale
    29 August 2008

  7. Dear Ken,

    Thanks so much for your reply. I just checked the website and didn’t see your book “Biography of King Naresuan the Great” listed: http://www.textbooksproject.com/bookslistForieng.html

    I also live in the US so access to Thai books is quite limited. But I will definitely look it up in Chula bookstore on my next trip back at the end of the year. I find it fascinating to read different versions of Ayutthaya history as there are different renditions of the same event subject to interpretation by modern historians and scholars.

    I look forward to read “Samurai of Ayutthaya: Yamada Nagamasa, Japanese Warrior and Merchant in Early Seventeenth-century Siam” that you mentioned. There has been some controversy in Thai historical record as to Japanese influence in that era. Some claim that armours and swords used by ancient Ayutthaya warriors were clearly influenced by samurai weaponry. I would be interested to explore evidence presented by modern scholars that either prove or present the contrary.

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