Siam's Tribal Dresses1 พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Major Erik Seidenfaden.   

SEIDENFADEN, ERIK. SIAM'S TRIBAL DRESSES 1. JSS. VOL.31 (pt.2) 1939. p.169-175.




                                  SIAM'S TRIBAL DRESSES 1.


                                    Major Erik Seidenfaden.


       The Siam Society has to-day invited you to inspect a collection of
national and tribal dresses gathered from all over the Kingdom dur-
ing the last few years, and it is hoped that you will take this rather
unique opportunity to acquaint yourselves with these interesting
costumes, many of which are quite pretty, besides showing no mean
ability and artistic sense in the execution of the different patterns
and the composition of the colours used.

       A few years ago I got the idea of collecting, as far as possible, all
the national costumes of the various branches of the Thai people, as
well as all the dresses of the non-Thai communities who are mostly
domiciled in the hills on the western boundary of the kingdom and in
the mountainous North. My thought was really to have all these
dresses executed in a size to suit models of a height of not more than
fifty centimetres.

       These models, clothed correctly to represent all the various elements
of the population of the kingdom of Siam were to be placed in air-
tight glass show cases and placed on the top of the book cases of our
Library. It is my hope that it will still be possible to do so, though
the better solution would of course be that the National Museum
establish a Folk Museum or an ethnographical branch, where all the
national and tribal costumes of Siam would be exhibited on full size
models, wearing the traits of the respective branches of the great
Thai nation and of the many lesser tribes, whether of Mongolian,

       1 Paper read before the members of the Siam Society on the 20th Decem-
ber 1937 (The lecture being illustrated by the national and tribal dresses

                              exhibited in the lecture hall).






170                     MAJOR ERIK SEIDENFADEN                       [VOL. XXXI.


Môn-Khmer or Negrito stock.1 As you will see, the dresses exhibit-
ed here are of varying sizes, some in full size and some in reduced
size, due to the instructions not being followed by all the contributors.
       During my frequent travels in the provinces in these latter years
I have noticed to my sorrow how the picturesque and time-honoured
national and regional costumes, nearly all over the land, are fast dis-
appearing, to be replaced by dresses of a more or less international
fashion. To cite examples : in the town of Chiengmai to-day one
rarely sees a girl or woman, with the exception of the quite old
women, wearing the pretty yellow phā-sin with the black horizontal
stripes ; the same is the case with the girls of the North-Eastern
Thai. It has been rightly said that the honk of the motor lorry
with its load of cheap foreign textiles sounds the death knell of the
national costumes, while the radio and the cinematograph are rapidly
exterminating provincial dialects and ancient manners and customs.

       Therefore if future generations are not to be kept in ignorance as
to how their ancestors clothed themselves, it is high time now to
collect all the various dresses still worn by the inhabitants of this
picturesque and beautiful land, and to keep them carefully preserved
in our museums for future information and study.

The exhibition you see to-day gives a fairly good impression of
that richness of national and tribal costumes which is Siam's. It is,
however, not complete, as some tribes in the North as well as some
in the North-east are still unrepresented. In all some seventy-two
distinct national and tribal dresses are exhibited, though some of
them only represent septs or clans of the same tribe.

       The bringing together of this rich collection is first of all due to
His Serene Highness Prince Varnvaidyakorn's unstinted and generous
assistance. As a matter of fact, without the help of His Serene
Highness this exhibition would not have been possible. I take this
opportunity to tender the sincerest thanks of the Council and the
Members of the Siam Society to His Serene Highness for his very
kind and interested succour.

       Though this is not a lecture on ethnology it may be useful just
in a few words to outline the history of the racial migrations in this
part of the world.


     1 The dresses were handed over to the National Museum in 1938 and are
now in part on exhibition there.






PT. II]                             SIAM’S TRIBAL DRESSES                          171


       The earliest inhabitants of Indochina, including Siam, were pro-
bably Negritoes, the scattered remnants of whom are still to be
found in the Malay Peninsula. In Siamese territory they are met
with in the provinces of Pattani and Patalung, but their skulls have
been found as far away in the north as in the caves in Upper Tong-

       The Negritoes were followed by the Proto-Australians, i.e., the
forefathers of the natives of Australia who hail from the shores of
the Mediterranean, their skeletons having been found at the foot of
Mt. Carmel in Palestine. The Proto-Australians probably did not
spread over the Central and Eastern parts of Indochina but, coming
via India and the littoral of Burma, wandered down through the
Malay Peninsula and over the East Indian Archipelago till they
reached Australia.1 Some students of ethnology are inclined to believe
that the Proto-Australians arrived before the Negritoes, who may
also have come from India.

       The next wave was, anyhow, the Melanesian. The Melanesians
seem to be a mixture of Proto-Australians and Negritoes and origi-
nated in India, from where they spread all over Indochina, and via
the Indonesian Archipelago, migrated to New Guinea and the neigh-
bouring island groups. The negroid blood is clearly visible to-day
in the Malays of Pattani, the Chong in Trat and also in the Cambo-
dians and many of the so-called Khā or Moi tribes. Melanesian skulls
have been found in the limestone caves in Upper Tongking and in

       A new wave of peoples called the Austro-Asiatic, represented in
Indochina by the Môn-Khmer, next displaced and absorbed the
Melanesians in Indochina. As far as we can gather from linguistic
evidence, the Austro-Asiatics came from the west, though some
students argue that they came from the north and some even deny
the existence of such a race at all. However, this does not concern
us just now. What we know is that there certainly exists a group
of Môn-Khmer peoples that stretch from Burma in the west right
east over to the southern confines of China. To this group, which
was civilized by Indian immigrants at about the time of the birth of
Christ, belongs the credit of having evolved a really high civilization


     1 The lecturer is, however, now convinced that they did spread right over
to the east coast of Indochina where Mlle. Colani has found their skeletons
in many limestone caves.






172                      MAJOR ERIK SEIDENFADEN                    [VOL. XXXI


inspired and moulded by the great religions of India, Brahmanism
and Buddhism. Their greatest monuments are visible among us to-
day in the shape of the wonderful temples of Angkor.

Perhaps somewhat later than the Austro-Asiatic immigration, took
place an invasion from the north-west of Indonesians or the so-called
Proto-Malays who, starting from the confines of Tibet, wandered
down south through Burma and the Malay Peninsula, from where
they crossed over to Sumatra and the other East Indian isles. A
reflux from Malaya spread along the shores of the Gulf of Siam to
Cambodia and Annam. In the latter country they settled and be-
came mighty, founding the highly civilized Hinduized Kingdom of

We now come to the last great migrations, those of the Thai and
the Burmese. You will of course all know that the Thai people
came down from China, and well over a thousand years ago they
must have penetrated into the present British Shan States and Upper
Burma as well as into North Siam and Tongking. About the middle
of the 13th century we see them as the masters of the whole of the
territory of present-day Siam and far down in the Malay Peninsula.

The Annamites, who really are of Thai stock but profoundly im-
pressed with ancient Chinese culture, customs and manners, came
down from the coastlands of South-East China and conquered Annam
and Cochinchina from the Chām and the Khmer respectively. The
Burmese coming down from Tibet conquered Burma and have succeed-
ed in almost annihilating the Môn, who, however, civilized these rude
and savage mountaineers. Siam proper was also formerly peopled by
Mon, who about the 5th-6th century A.D. had organized themselves
in the so-called Dvaravati kingdom.

You will be aware that there is quite a considerable Môn element
living among us in present-day Siam. These Môn are, however not
the Môn of the Dvaravati era, who were absorbed long ago by the
conquering Thai, but emigrants from Burma of only a few hundred
years standing.

The Siamese or Thai of Siam must number at least ten millions and
may be divided into several branches, such as the Thai Khôm or Thai
proper of the Menam plain and the South and the Lāo or Thai of the
North-East, called Thai Klāng in Khorat, Thai Gāo in Ubon and Roi
Ett, and Thai Vieng in Udorn. A considerable number of Lāo or
Thai from the North-East live in the Sak valley and the provinces of







PT. II]                             SIAM’S TRIBAL DRESSES                           173


Nakhon Sawan and Phitsanulok as well as in the former Prachin
Circle. Northern Siam is peopled by the Thai Yuan. The Thai Yuan
are of a fairer skin than the Thai of the North-East, who, on the
other hand, are of a stouter build.

In former days it was quite easy to differentiate between the women
of the Northern Thai and those of the North-East by help of their
phā-sins, which in the case of the Northern people were striped
horizontally, while those of the North-East were striped vertically.
Then again their men folk were differently tattooed. The men of the
North are tattooed on their bellies and are therefore called Lāo phung
while those of the North-East are tattooed on their thighs and
called Lāo phung khāo. Spread round about in the North, at Savan-
kaloke and Nakhon Sawan, in the West, at Rajahuri and Petchaburi,
and right down to Bandōn in the South, are settlements of the
so-called Lāo song dam. They hail from the region east of Luang
Phrabang, and they are recognized by their black dresses with silver
buttons, their women wearing black phásins with thin vertical white

The Khmer people of Siam, living mostly in the changvats of
Buriram, Surin and Khukhan and some in Chantaburi, dress like the
Siamese. Their women wear mostly the pha-nung. The Môn women
of Paklat, Pakret and Sam Kok wear both pha-nung and a skirt or
sarong called pha-thung.

Besides the Môn-Khmer and Thai peoples there are a great number
of tribes both of Môn-Khmer and Mongolian origin. To the former
belong the Lawā in North Siam, the Chaobon, the Sô, Sek, Kalüng
and Kui in North-East Siam and the Chông in South-Siam. Some of
these tribes are represented here to-day by their dresses. The Lawā
are cousins of the Man and populated formerly the whole of North
Siam. There are many tribes of Tibetan and Chinese blood living
on the hills in North Siam such as the Karén, on the great Tenas-
serim chain that divides Siam from Burma. The Karén are the best
known of all these mountain people. They are divided into white and
red Karén and in the southernmost part they are called Karang. The
white Karén are again divided into the septs of Pwo and Bghai.

We have several beautiful Karén dresses on exhibition which I shall
show you presently. Nobody knows from where the Karen came,
but they have been here for a very long time and arrived no doubt
prior to the Thai. The Maeo, Yao, Mussö Lahu, Kô and Lissaw are






174                         MAJOR ERIK SEIDENFADEN                      [VOL. XXXI


all new-comers who have arrived in Siamese territory during the last
sixty or seventy years from Southern China. With the exception of
the two first named they are of Tibetan stock.

Finally there is to mention the utterly uncivilized and shy savages
called the Khā dông lüang, who were visited by Dr. and Mrs. Ber-
natzik last winter. They live on the jungle-coverëd crests of the hills
in the north-north-east. We possess no dresses of this tribe for the
simple reason that they generally go round quite naked. The hill
tribes of Southern China are well known for their often very artistic
and tasteful dresses of which I shall show a few examples.

And now I shall conclude this rather rambling but perhaps not
quite uninteresting talk and explain to you the origin of the various
dresses exhibited here. In doing so I am going to take you on a
long journey, from the extreme south to the extreme north, thereafter
going east and south-east till we have covered the whole of the ter-
ritory of the kingdom.

Before departing on this journey I shall just point out on the map
the route we are to follow and the areas of the various groups of people
we are to visit by the medium of their national or tribal costumes.

             List of the National and Tribal Dresses Collected.


Southern Thai        from     Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Trang and Surat.

Thai Yuan                   „        Chiengmai, Phrae, Nan and Lablae.

Thai Vieng                  „         Paknam Pho, Kampbengphet, Prachinburi.

Thai Phoau                „          Nakhon Sawan, Udorn.

Thai Glāng                 „          Nakhon Rajasima.

Thai Gao                    „          Ubon, Khonkaen.

Lao Song Dam         „          Pichitr, Sawankaloke, Nakhon Sawan,

                                                Nakhon Pathom, Rajaburi, Petchaburi,


Lao Ti                         „           Rajaburi.

Shan or Thai Yai      „           Mae Hongsorn, Chiengmai, Mae Sot,


 Thai Ngio                  „           Mae Hongsorn.

Thai Lü                      „           Chieng Khong.


Semang                   „             Pattalung.







PT. II]                      SIAM’S TRIBAL DRESSES                      175



Malay                                     from Pattani,                 Yala.

Chāo Nām or Selöting          „     Ranong.


Môn                                           „     Paklat, Pathumthani, Rajaburi.

Khmer                                      „     Trat.

Chong                                      „     Trat.

Chao Bon                                „     Chaiyaphum.

Saek                                         „     Nakhon Panom.

Tin „ Nān.

Lawā                                        ,,     Bô Luang, Mae Sarieng.

Khamu                                     „     Chiengmai.


White Karén                        from   Tāk, Mae Sarieng, Khun Yuam.

Red Karén                               „      Tāk, Muak Tô (Mae Hongsorn).

Red Mussö                              „      Müang Fang.

Black Mussö                            „      Müang Fang.

White Maeo                              „      Nān, Loei.

White Maeo                              „      San Mahaphon (Chiengmai), Nān.

Black Maeo                               „      San Mahaphon (Chiengmai), Nān.

Yao „ Nān.

Hô                                              „       Nān.

Chinese                                    ,,      Puket.

Annamite                                   „      Chantaburi.

Many of the above are represented by both male and female,
and a few by children's dresses, besides turbans, scarves, bags and
various jewelry.

A complete collection of Siam's national and tribal dresses should
include those of the Thai Yo, Thai Yüei and Puthai of N. E. Siam,
those of the Sô, Kalüng, Khá Brao, Khá Hinhao and Kui also in
N. E. Siam, and the dresses of the Lissaw (Müang Fang) and more
dresses of the septs and clans of the white and red Karéns and of
the Karangs.

































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