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BANGKOK 21 March 2019 04:13


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Dr. Andrew Forbes and Lanna T'ai

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The recent passing of Dr. Andrew Forbes - historian, author, and ThaiVisa member - was as unexpected as it was lamentable. He distinguished himself in his profession and his instinctive civility made relations with him very pleasant.

Dr. Forbes is one of the latest in a long line of Chiang Mai farangs who have chronicled the history and traditional culture of Lanna T'ai.  From the first recorded visit by the Englishman Ralph Fitch in 1587 the city and the region have been written about extensively. While the early visitors left some very interesting accounts, it wasn't until the mid-19th century that American Protestant Missionaries, followed shortly after by British teak wallahs, took up residence in Chiang Mai and began to document the life and times in detail.

The 20th century saw many first-person accounts as well as works of well-researched history. This period also produced translations into English and French of Lanna T'ai manuscripts.  Notably. the Chiang Mai Chronicle, the Nan Chronicle, and Buddhist texts from wats that had become famous as centres of scholarship such as Wat Jet Yod which hosted the 8th Buddhist Council [Sangayana] in 1477 for one year to eliminate discrepancies in the different versions of the Tripitaka.

The early visitors, the 19th century residents, and the 20th century scholars and historians have all contributed to what we know about a kingdom which during its golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries extended its conquests and influence from the Shan States in Upper Burma to Keng Tung and the mountainous borderlands of China, to Luang Prabang in the east, and Sukhothai in the south.

Dr. Forbes and people like him show the truth of what Faulkner is often quoted as having said: "The past isn't dead, it's not even past."

RIP Dru.


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