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The Sukhothai Kingdom (Thai: สุโขทัย, RTGS: Sukhothai, IAST: Sukhodaya, pronounced [sù.kʰǒː.tʰāj] (listen)) was a post-classical Thai kingdom (mandala) in Mainland Southeast Asia surrounding the ancient capital city of Sukhothai in present-day north-central Thailand. The kingdom was founded by Si Inthrathit in 1238 and existed as an independent polity until 1438, when it fell under the influence of the neighboring Ayutthaya after the death of Borommapan (Maha Thammaracha IV).
|Common languages||Thai (Old Sukhothai dialect)|
|Government||Monarchy (mandala system)|
|Si Inthrathit (first)|
|Historical era||Post-classical era|
|Today part of|
Sukhothai was originally a trade center in Lavo—itself under the suzerainty of the Khmer Empire—when Central Thai people led by Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, a local leader, revolted and gained their independence. Bang Klang Hao took the regnal name of Si Inthrathit and became the first monarch of the Phra Ruang dynasty.
The kingdom was centralized and expanded to its greatest extent during the reign of Ram Khamhaeng the Great (1279–1298), who some historians considered to have introduced Theravada Buddhism and the initial Thai script to the kingdom. Ram Khamhaeng also initiated relations with Yuan China, through which the kingdom developed the techniques to produce and export ceramics like sangkhalok ware.
After the reign of Ram Khamhaeng, the kingdom fell into decline. In 1349, during the reign of Li Thai (Maha Thammaracha I), Sukhothai was invaded by the Ayutthaya Kingdom, a neighboring Thai polity. It remained a tributary state of Ayutthaya until it was annexed by the kingdom in 1438 after the death of Borommapan. Despite this, the Sukhothai nobility continued to influence the Ayutthaya monarchy in centuries after through the Sukhothai dynasty.
Sukhothai is traditionally known as "the first Thai kingdom" in Thai historiography, but current historical consensus agrees that the history of the Thai people began much earlier. The ruins of the kingdom's capital, now 12 km (7.5 mi) outside the modern town of Sukhothai Thani in Sukhothai Province, are preserved as the Sukhothai Historical Park and have been designated a World Heritage Site.
The English term Sukhothai (Thai: ศุโขทัย) is the romanization of the Thai word per the Royal Thai General System of Transcription. The Thai word for the historical country was a transliteration of the Khmer spelling, rendered in English as Sukhodaya (Khmer: សុខោទ័យ). The Khmer term is itself derived from the Sanskrit sukha (Sanskrit: सुख, 'lasting happiness') and udaya (Sanskrit: उदय, 'rise' or 'emergence'). Together, the phrase can be interpreted as meaning "dawn of happiness".
Origins and independenceEdit
According to the Northern Thai Chronicles, the city of Sukhodaya was founded by Phraya Paliraj, a noble of the Lavo Kingdom, in 678 CE (40 Chula Sakarat). The settlement served as an outpost for the Lavo overlords in the Khmer Empire. About some fifty kilometers north of Sukhodaya stood another Khmer military outpost, Sri Sajanalaya (Khmer: ស្រីសាចាណាឡាឡា), that would later become Si Satchanalai (Thai: ศรีสัชนาลัย), an important center of Sukhothai politics alongside the capital. Under Khmer and Lavo control, the Khmer people built various monuments in the city, several of which still stand in the Sukhothai Historical Park. They include the Ta Pha Daeng Shrine, Wat Phra Phai Luang, and Wat Si Sawai.
The migration of Tai peoples into Mainland Southeast Asia was somewhat gradual, and likely took place between the 8th and 10th centuries.[incomplete short citation] Prior to the rise of Sukhothai, various other Tai kingdoms existed in the neighboring northern highlands. These include Ngoenyang of the Northern Thai people (present-day Chiang Saen) and Chiang Hung of the Tai Lue people (present-day Jinghong, China).
In 1238, a group of Central Thai peoples led by a local mueang chief, Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, rebelled against the governor at Sukhodaya and established Sukhothai as an independent Thai state. Bang Klang Hao was assisted by a local ally, Pho Khun Pha Mueang.: 195–196 This event was a turning point in the history of the Tai peoples, as Sukhothai would remain the center of Tai power until the end of the 14th century.
Bang Klang Hao ruled Sukhothai under the regnal name Si Inthrathit and established the Phra Ruang dynasty. Under the rule of Si Inthrathit, the primordial kingdom expanded its influence to the bordering cities surrounding the capital. By the end of his reign in 1270, Sukhothai covered the entire upper valley of the Chao Phraya River, then known simply as Mae Nam (Thai: แม่น้ำ, 'mother of waters'), the generic Thai name for all rivers.
Traditional Thai historians considered the foundation of the Sukhothai Kingdom as the beginning of the history of Thailand because little was known about the kingdoms prior to Sukhothai. Since then, modern historical studies have argued that Thai history began much earlier. Even so, the foundation of Sukhothai continues to be celebrated in history and culture.
Expansions under Ram Khamhaeng the GreatEdit
In 1270, Si Inthrathit died and was succeeded by his son Ban Mueang. At the end of Ban Mueang's reign, he was succeeded by his brother Ram Khamhaeng the Great; both expanded Sukhothai beyond the borders established by their father. To the south, Ram Khamhaeng subjugated the mandala kingdoms of Suvarnabhumi (likely present-day Suphan Buri) and Tambralinga (present-day Nakhon Si Thammarat). Through the acquisition of Tambralinga, Ram Khamhaeng is said to have adopted Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of Sukhothai; the accuracy of these claims by traditional historians is disputed.
To the north, Ram Khamhaeng placed Phrae and Muang Sua (present-day Luang Prabang, Laos), among other mandala city-states, under tribute. To the west, Ram Khamhaeng helped assist the Mon people under Wareru (who is said to have eloped with Ram Khamhaeng's daughter) in their rebellion against Pagan control, and Wareru would established a kingdom at Martaban, the predecessor to Hanthawaddy (present-day Bago, Myanmar). Martaban is traditionally considered a tributary state of Sukhothai, but such Sukhothai domination may not have extended that far.
With regard to religion and culture, Ram Khamhaeng requested monks from Sri Thamnakorn to propagate Theravada Buddhism in Sukhothai. In 1283, the Sukhothai script was likely invented by Ram Khamhaeng; the earliest evidence of this ancient Thai writing is seen in the Ram Khamhaeng Inscription, discovered by Mongkut nearly six centuries later. The script later evolved into the modern Thai script of today.
It was also during this time that the first relations with Yuan China were established and Sukhothai began sending trade missions to China. The well-known exported good of Sukhothai was the sangkhalok ware. This was the only period in Thai history that Siam produced Chinese-style ceramics, and they fell out of use by the 14th century.
Decline and tributary status under AyutthayaEdit
By the beginning of the fourteenth century, Sukhothai controlled most of present-day Thailand, with the exception of the eastern provinces that remained under Khmer control.: 223 After the death of Ram Khamhaeng, he was succeeded by his son Loe Thai.
Tributary states of Sukhothai began to break away rapidly after the death of Ram Khamhaeng. To the north, Uttaradit and the Lao kingdoms of Muang Sua and Vieng Chan Vieng Kham (present-day Vientiane) liberated themselves from their Sukhothai overlords. In 1319, Martaban in the west broke away. In 1321, Lan Na annexed Tak, one of the oldest towns in Sukhothai. To the south, Suphan Buri also broke free early in the reign of Loe Thai. Thus, the kingdom was quickly reduced to its former status as merely a local power.
In 1323, Loe Thai was succeeded by his cousin, Ngua Nam Thum. In 1347, he was succeeded by Li Thai (Maha Thammaracha I), the son of Loe Thai. In 1349, armies from Ayutthaya invaded the kingdom and forced Sukhothai to become its tributary.: 222 The center of power in the tributary state shifted to Song Khwae (present-day Phitsanulok). In 1378, Lue Thai (Maha Thammaracha II) had to submit to this new Thai power as a vassal state.: 29–30 He was succeeded by Sai Lue Thai (Maha Thammaracha III) in 1399.
In 1424, after the death of Sai Lue Thai, his sons Phaya Ram and Phaya Ban Mueang fought for the throne. Intharacha of Ayutthaya intervened and installed Ban Mueang as Borommapan (Maha Thammaracha IV). When Borommapan died in 1438, Borommarachathirat II of Ayutthaya installed his son Ramesuan (the future Borommatrailokkanat of Ayutthaya) as Upparat in Sukhothai, a position similar to both that of a viceroy and an heir presumptive, establishing a form of personal union and creating the Siamese Front Palace system. Prince Ramesuan was presumably accompanied by Ayutthayan administrative staff and a military garrison, thus affirming the end of Sukhothai as an independent kingdom.
Annexation and influence within AyutthayaEdit
Under tributary status, the former territories of Sukhothai, known to the people of Ayutthaya as "mueang nuea" (Thai: เมืองเหนือ, 'northern cities'), continued to be ruled by local aristocrats under Ayutthaya's overlordship per the mandala systems of both nations. The mandalas would politically and culturally merge during the 15th and 16th centuries, and Sukhothai's warfare, administration, architecture, religious practice, and language influenced those of Ayutthaya. Sukhothai nobles linked themselves with the Ayutthayan elite through marriage alliances, and often played the role of kingmaker in Ayutthayan succession conflicts. Sukhothai military leaders served prominently in Ayutthaya's army as the military tradition of Sukhothai was considered to be tougher. Portuguese traders had described the two nations as "twin states".
From 1456 to 1474, former Sukhothai territory became a battleground during the Ayutthaya-Lan Na War (1441–1474). In 1462, Sukhothai briefly rebelled against Ayutthaya and allied itself with their enemy, Lan Na (the successor state to Ngoenyang). In 1463, Borommatrailokkanat temporarily moved the monarch's residence to Song Khwae, presumably to be closer to the frontline, and the city was permanently renamed to Phitsanulok.
In 1548, Maha Chakkraphat named Khun Phirenthorathep, a noble from the Sukhothai clan, as the leader in Phitsanulok. Phirenthorathep was conferred with the name Maha Thammaracha in line with the historical kings of Sukhothai, and married one of Maha Chakkraphat's daughters, strengthening his claim to both a historical and present monarchy. Despite this, the title of Upparat went to Maha Chakkraphat's son Ramesuan (who died in 1564) and later his brother Mahinthrathirat. After a series of wars with the Burmese Toungoo Empire, Maha Thammaracha allied himself with the Burmese against Ayutthaya. In 1569, Ayutthaya under Mahinthrathirat fell to the Burmese, and Bayinnaung installed Maha Thammaracha (Sanphet I) as the vassal king in Ayutthaya and the first king of the Sukhothai dynasty.
In 1584, Maha Thammaracha and his son, the Upparat and future Naresuan the Great (Sanphet II), would free Ayutthaya from Burmese overlordship in the Burmese-Siamese War of 1584–1593. After the Battle of the Sittaung River, Naresuan forcibly relocated people from the northern cities of Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Phichai, Sawankhalok, Kamphaeng Phet, Phichit, and Phra Bang closer to Ayutthaya. Since then, the ruins of the capital city of the former Sukhothai Kingdom have been preserved as the Sukhothai Historical Park and designated a World Heritage Site.
The Silajaruek of Sukhothai are hundreds of stone inscriptions that form a historical record of the period. Among the most important inscriptions are Silajaruek Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng (Stone Inscription of King Ramkhamhaeng), Silajaruek Wat Srichum (an account on history of the region itself and of Sri Lanka), and Silajaruek Wat Pamamuang (a Politico-Religious record of King Loethai).
The story of Sukhothai was incorporated into Thailand's "national history" in the late 19th century by King Mongkut, Rama IV, as a historical work presented to the British diplomatic mission. King Mongkut is considered the champion of Sukhothai narrative history based on his finding the Number One Stone Inscription, the 'first evidence' telling the history of Sukhothai.
From then on, as a part of modern nation building process, modern national Siamese or Thai history comprises the history of Sukhothai. Sukhothai was said to be the 'first national capital', followed by Ayutthaya, Thonburi until Rattanakosin or today Bangkok. Sukhothai history was crucial among Siam/Thailand's 'modernists', both 'conservative' and 'revolutionary'. Rama IV (King Mongkut) said that he found 'the first Stone Inscription' in Sukhothai, telling story of Sukhothai's origin, heroic kings such as Ram Khamhaeng, administrative system and other developments, considered as the 'prosperous time' of the kingdom.
Sukhothai history became important even after the Revolution of 1932. Researches and writings on Sukhothai history were abundant. Details derived from the inscription were studied and 'theorised'. One of the most well-known topics was Sukhothai's 'democracy' rule. Story of the close relationship between king and his people, vividly described as 'father-son' relationship, the 'seed' of Thai Democracy. However the change in ruling style took place when later society embraced 'foreign' tradition, Khmer's Angkor tradition, influenced by Hinduism and 'mystic' Mahayana Buddhism. The story of Sukhothai became the model of 'freedom'. Jit Bhumisak, a 'revolutionary' scholar, also saw Sukhothai period as the beginning of the Thai people's liberation movement from their foreign ruler, Angkor.
During military rule, from the 1950s, Sukhothai began to be featured in the Thai national history curriculum. Sukhothai became model of 'father-son' rule, described as 'Thai Democracy' free from 'foreign ideology' that represented Angkorian tradition, not communism. Other aspects of Sukhothai were also explored under the new curriculum, such as commoner and slave status as well as the kingdom's economy. These topics became the subject of ideological controversy during the Cold War and the Communist insurgency in Thailand.
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