Some notes about the Chaubun. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Major E. Seidenfaden   


Seidenfaden, Erik. Some Notes About The CHAUBUN. JSS. Vol.12 (pt.3) 1918. p.1-11.


                        SOME NOTES ABOUT THE CHAUBUN.



            Major E. Seidenfaden of the Provincial Gendarmerie.



            When on a tour of inspection to the Ampheu district of Paktung-
chai ( ปักธงไชย์ ) in the month of March this year (1918) I had the
opportunity of meeting some members of the above named tribe and
from long conversations with two of their village elders I gathered the
following information which might be of interest both to ethnologists
and philologists :—

The Chaubun, or as they call themselves Nia-kuol, lived until
some 60 years ago mostly as hunters and nomads roaming in the big
virgin forests on the northern slopes of the Dungrek hills, which form
the boundary between the Korat and the Pachin provinces. The
limits of their roamings were to the west the ill-famed Dung Phya Fai,
and to the east the sources of the Lam Plai Māt, a tributary to the
Mūn river. This part of the Dungrek chain, generally called Pu
Khao Kampēng Müang, represents the highest and wildest part of the
whole chain and is clothed in luxuriant virgin forests. Some mountain
passes, only practicable for pedestrians and pack animals, lead down
to the Pachin plains from the Korat plateau, the best known of these
passes being Chōng Sakaerat, due south of Paktung-chai. In former
days before the construction of the Korat railway, heavy traffic passed
through this last pass, untold numbers of pack bullocks bringing down
produce from Korat and returning with merchandise from Muangs
Krabin or Pachin, the nearest river ports to Bangkok. Nowadays
all this has been altered, the passes are rarely visited by man with
the exception of some few cattle thieves or gendarmerie patrols. In the
big mysterious forest all sorts of game abound. The tiger and the wild
elephant are common, sambur, buck and barking deer abound, even
the terrible kating ox is met with here, and sometimes if you are
lucky, as I was once, you may have a glimpse of that rare animal the






                                                          ( 2 )


Among the trees you will find the valuable rosewood (ไม้ พยุง)
and others producing the Mai Luk Put, Mai Tom and Mai Jum Nām
used for the fabrication of the fragrant tōbs and joss-sticks. Among
the clinging lianas the rattan and rubber-liana, and then all sorts of
beautiful orchids, abound too. Down the mountain slopes between
towering moss-clad rocks roll and twist myriads of crystal-pure brook-
lets, which all go to feed the waters of Mun far away in the plains.
In these surroundings lived and hunted the Nia-kūols, planting their
rais with rice, Indian corn, tobacco and gourds and dwelling under
primitive leaf shelters until some 60 years ago, when they were induced
to come down from their mountain fastnesses to the plain and settle in
orderly built villages like other people. They are now mainly to be
found in the tambon of Dakrup, about 15 miles S. W. of Paktung-chai,
forming here 5 villages numbering about 500 Nia-kuol-speaking souls.
There are also to be found Nia-kuols in Bān Dalingchan, tambon
Konburi, S. E. of Paktung-chai, and in Bān Mābkrāt, tambon Chae

(เชะ) Ampheu Kratok (กระทอก). In B. Dalingchan they number at
most 20, in B. Mābkrāt the number given to me was about 200 persons.
According to this the whole tribe should number about 700 individuals,
but the number of Niakuol-speaking is not more than 500 to 600, as
these people are rapidly becoming assimilated by the surrounding Tai
and losing their characteristic peculiarities. The children in some
villages are already ignorant of the language of their parents, and for
the rest most of the members of the tribe prefer now to be called Tai
for fear of being termed "savage". [Exactly the same thing is met within
the Ubon-province, where the Sui or Kui like to call themselves Lāo
or Khmēr instead of their proper names.] Aymonier in his book
" Voyage dans le Laos" (1883-84) cites several other names of villages
besides B. Mābkrāt in tambon Chae as peopled by Nia-kuols. I have
not been able to identify these names and doubt if this author was
correctly informed. The purest Nia-kuol tongue is spoken in tambon
Dakrup ; in other places the language is getting mixed up with

Tai-icisms. The name Chau-bun (ชาว ปน) given to these poeple
by the Tai people signifies of course " people from the upper
parts " on Hill people, the significance of the name given by
themselves, Nia-kuol, being the same, the term "kūol" standing for
mountain, Nia for people.






                                                           ( 3 )


I shall now try to cast some light on the origin of this interest-
ing tribe, and I beg beforehand the pardon of those learned in the
antiquities of Indo-China for my perhaps too daring hypotheses. But
as the field, as far as I can gather, is yet untilled my conclusions might
be of interest. In appearance the Niakuols are dark skinned of a
chocolate brown, some even darker, with generally broad features much
resembling the Kamēn-deum or Kūi-nüa in Ubon. In some of them the
features are distinctly negroid with heavy mouths, dilated nostrils and
somewhat curly hair. Their stature is of middle height and as their
language, as will be seen from the list of words attached to this article,
partly resembles Mohn, partly Khmer and partly Kui or Khā, it may
safely be inferred that they belong to the great Mohn-Khmer family.
In his huge work " Researches on Ptolemy's Geography of Eastern
Asia" the lamented Colonel Gerini, in speaking about the legendary
Ho-ton, the black simian-like aborigines of Champa and the Ho-ton-
like Khā-ut in the Annamese cordillera, tells us that he has rediscovered
this legendary people in a tribe living on the southern slopes of the
Korat plateau (vide pages 252, 257 and 785 of the above cited work).
Regarding the correctness of this statement I am not qualified to
express an opinion, but the name Ho-ton or Khā-ut is certainly
unknown in these regions. Besides the Chaubuns, one finds in the
territory of Ampheus Paktung-chai and Kratok exiled Mohns, Lāos
from Wieng-chan, Tai, and a single village peoples by Khâs, former
prisoners of war (from the Attapeu region I believe), who have all
forgotten their language with the exception of one ancient pair. The
name of these Khā is, as far I understand, Katang. [About these
people I intend before long to write another paper.] By reason of the
negroid strains in the Niakuols one might be tempted to affiliate them
to the Chōngs in Chantaburi, about one-twentieth of the last named
tribe being said to be negroid. And looking on the great amount of
Mohn-Khmēr words and expressions, another idea ( not necessarily in
conflict with the first one) forces itself on one's mind. We hear very
often that before the advent of the conquering Tai from the North, the
lower valley of the Mënam Chāo Phya was peopled by Mohn-Khmērs,
the river partly forming the barrier between them, if a barrier it can
be called, because the language spoken by these Mohn-Khmērs was a
a common one. The question is now : Does the Nia-kuol tongue not
represent this former common language out of which the later separate
Mohn and Khmēr languages were shaped ? Not being a philologist







                                                          ( 4 )


myself I do not pretend to solve this question, but would only suggest
that there might be something in the above stated hypothesis.

About the life and manners of the Nia-kuols, and their mode of
gaining a livelihood there is not much to be said. They till the ground,
rear cattle and buffaloes, live in pile buildings like the surrounding Tai
and Lāos, the religion of whom they have embraced too. Their
women differ a little, especially those in B. Dakrup, wearing yet a
peculiar kind of clothing called N'nik consisting of a single very long
piece of homespun cotton which is wrapped round the waist several times
and finally tied in a knot over the right hip. When, travelling the
women carry a basket on their back for putting food and things in.
Small children are borne in a scarf riding on the hip of the mother.
For carrying water the Nia-kuol girl formerly used bamboos like the
Khās; now the common klu or watertight basket is used instead.
Some of the Nia-kuol girls are quite good looking, and are generally
in great demand among the youths of the neighbouring Tai villages.
This intermarrying makes for the rapid assimilation of the whole tribe.
Indeed the disappearance of the Nia-kuols, or at any rate of their
language, is now only a question of time, a very short time too. The
study of the language undertaken by a trained philologist as soon as
possible to preserve it for posterity, seems, therefore, to be a matter
of urgent importance.



















































The above list of words is of course not at all complete, nor do
I claim absolute correctness of spelling as this is my first attempt at
such a philological essay. The reader will easily be able to pick out the
words resembling Mohn ; words resembling Kmêr are designated with
a K and those resembling Kui or Sui with an S. Concerning the
cardinal numbers these are nearly identical in Mohn, Kui, Nia Kuol,
Kmêr and a great number of Khâ languages.

Korat, Sept. the 4th, 1918.


E. Seidenfadex.





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