BRIEF HISTORY OF THONBURI | BRIEF HISTORY OF THONBURI
BRIEF HISTORY OF THONBURI

BRIEF HISTORY OF THONBURI

Written by Assoc.Prof. Tipawan Chandrashtitya

Translated by Asst.Prof. Chiraporn Matungka

Dedicated to late Christopher Hinkle.(Edited)

          Thonburi was the third capital city of Thailand from 1767 until 1782. In the Ayutthaya period, the city was named Thonburisrimahasamut, but it was already known by western merchants as "Bangkok"

          The word "Bangkok" originally meant the community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River where the land was bent into a horseshoe shape, which looked like an island surrounded by water. The area covered the land between the Bangkok Noi and the Bangkok Yai (or Bang Luang) canals. One hypothesis (as to the origins of the name is) that the word Bangkok came from "Bang Koh", meaning "island village" in Thai.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THONBURI

          Bangkok was the first community of Thonburi, to which people had been coming to settle since the Ayutthaya period. Because its location was convenient for transportation  both domestic and outbound, it was a storage point for goods before theywere shipped further to Ayutthaya. During the reign of King Borommarajathirat II (Chao Sam Phraya), in 1433, Bangkok was a customs duty port of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. The rank of the person incharge was "NaiPhraKhanonThonburi" which is the earliest documented appearance of the name"Thonburi" in the history of Bangkok.

          In 1522, during the reign of King Chairajathiraj of Ayutthaya, the king commandedthat a canal be dug in order to make a shortcut in the Chao Phraya River between the mouthof the Bangkok Noi canal and the old river in front of the Temple of the Dawn, forming astraight shoreline for the convenience of the international cargo ships that sailed to Ayutthaya.As a result, the old river became a canal while the new manmade section became a part ofthe river. With this new streamlined shore, Thonburi 's importance increased continuouslyup to 1557.

          In 1767, Ayutthaya was invaded and conquered by the Burmese for the second time. However, King Taksin the Great gained the country's independence back within 6-7 months. Taking in to account that Ayutthaya had suffered extensive damage and that the city was too large for his army to protect, he moved his people to Thonburi establishing it as the newcapital city.

          The town centre of Thonburi had long been an old town community located at the Old Palace (the Royal Navy Base at present), In 1665 a Fort, "Vichaiprasit" was built by command of King Narai the Great of Ayutthaya, at the mouth of the Bangkok Yai canal. It was designed and constructed by French architects and engineers of King Narai's however, after King Narai's death, The Great PhraPhetraja, the new king, had all theFrench soldiers captured and demolished the fort. King Taksin later had his palace built at the place that was once Vichaiprasit Fort.

          The main strategic reason for making Thonburi the capital city was its outstanding location. This city was a customs duty and seaport outpost, which controlled all inbound and outbound cargo ships. Moreover, it was an old town with many forts already built, as well as a large number of temples. There was no need to waste time for reconstruction, as its location was near the river mouth. And in case of enemy attack, it was easy to escape to the sea.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THONBURI

          During the 14 year reign of King Tasksin the Great, he helped the economy recover and united the land and the people. The capital become replete with wealth and food, whichmade Thonburithe countre ofpolitical and economic power, Itbecame a worthysuccessor toAyutthaya. Afterthe death of KingTaksin in 1782,King Rama I of the Chakkridynasty had the city moved to the East bank of the Chao PhrayaRiver, establishing Bangkok as the new capital. From that time, Thonburi became a part toBangkok metropolis.

          Geographically, Thonburi has area of only 25 square kilometres. The neighburing province to the North is Nonthaburi, to the West is NakomPathom, and the south is Samutprakarn, where some parts reach the Gulf of Siam. East of Thonburi is the Chao Phraya River. Since Thonburi is in the tropics, the weather is hot and humid all year round. Since the land is a delta on the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, the soil is fertile, and suitable for agriculture. As a result, in former time people in Thonburi typically worked in agriculture, notably cultivating orchards. The land at the mouth of the river where Thonburi is located was once a sea and later became a fertile delta with several waterways, which made constructing canals in this area easy to do. Consequently, there are so many canals in Thonburi that this city has been called "the Venice of the East."

          Even though Thonburi was the capital city for only 15 years, this place had long been an old city community which was economically important as a tax collecting gateway town. It has also been a fertile land for agriculture. Moreover, Thonburi has long been a multi-cultural community of different ethnic groups of people: the Chinese, Mon, Indian, Japanese and Dutch merchants were present since the Ayutthaya period. One of this distinguished proof is a Dutch Warehouse in Bang Pakok district, being called New Amsterdam.

          The identity of Thonburi is entirely different from Bangkok. Besides having several canals, this city is the centre for arts, architecture as well as Thai ways of life in Thonburi from past to present are generally peaceful and happy ,ones due to the simple slyle of livingon the river and canal banks with the cool atmosphere, all make Thonburi a surprisinglyfascinating city.


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