The counter-theory holds that the Thais originated in Thailand and were driven northwards by numerically superior Khmers and Mons. There, in Yunnan, the Thais developed their own distinctive culture. Later, under pressure from China’s 11th and 12th century Mongolian conquerors, the Thais moved steadily south-wards again. Half of them, the Thai Yai (greater Thai) traveled across southern China to settle on Hainan island. The rest, the Thai Noi (lesser Thai) slowly moved directly southwards to fill the vacuum left by the Khmer and Mon empires’ decline.
Certainly by the 13th century, the Thais, in the fourth and final major immigration tide into Thailand, had successfully established themselves among the Khmers and Mons and had a firm foothold in the North. Bringing with them the advanced rice technology they had developed in Nanchao, the Thais industriously built extensive dikes and irrigation systems to trans-form form fetid marshes into green ricefields. Their Chinese connections provided markets for surplus rice and enabled them to import Chinese inventions and implements to strengthen their own culture.
Thus by the early 1200s, several small, independent Thai states were firmly en-sconced in what is today northem Thailand thereby setting the scene for that most momentous of Thai historical events : the creation of the first truly independent Thai kingdom of Sukhothai.
Shaping a Nation
Thai history is as complex as a slow Thai classical dance. Thai beliefs, attitudes, political structures and customs have been moulded by a remarkable series of dynamic scholar, innovator and warrior-kings who led the nation through severe tests to emerge as one of Asia’s more potent forces. The paramount feature which has distinguished their efforts is the Thais’ genius for absorbing outside influences while retaining their own identity and fiercely guarding their treasured independence.
Thai history falls into four distinct periods. The Dvaravati period, which lasted from the 6th to the 13th centuries saw the Thais gradually migrate from southern China into the fertile Chao Phya river basin. Their emergence as a nation begins with the Sukhothai period of the 13th and 14th centuries when, assertively, the Thais rejected the authority of the Khmer empire centred in Angkor in today’s Cambodia and created the first independent Thai kingdom.
During the Ayutthaya period (14th to 18th centuries) Thailand rose to become the central kingdom is Southeast Asia. Envoys came to its courts to seek relations with the powerful kings, merchants sought to trade for its fabled riches, scholars came to study its administrative methods and artistic achievements. It waned in the 17th century and was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.
The Bangkok period (from the mid 18th century until the present day) saw the Thais rise from their devastated kingdom and re-build the country into a modern state, a major power in the region, with cultural, spiritual and socio-political values uniquely their own.
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Article Added on Sunday, November 22, 2009
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