At the end of Yaowaraj Road,As this location is quite close to the Chinatownhotel, so that you can reach there by walking within 5 minutes only near Bangkok's Hualamphong Railway Station,Wat Traimit is a temple situated on Traimit Road. This temple is known for its famous Golden Buddha.
Chinatown Heritage Center is a museum in Wat Traimit Temple that traces the lives and times of early Chinatown and memories and untold stories of Siam.
The Emergence Of Bangkok's Chinatown (1782-1851)
In ancient times, Chinese traders traveling by junk from their homeland came to settle in many parts of the Thai kingdom, such as in Bangkok, or Thonburi, where the Ayuttha Era. Son of a Teochew Chinese father, King Taksin the Great established Thonburi as the new capital. During his reign, a large number of Teochews came to settle here and formed a new Chinese community east of the river.
In 1782, King Buddha Yodfa Chulalok the Great, or Rama 1, relocated the capital city to the east bank and founded Rattanakosin. As a result, he had the local Chinese residents relocated to another area on the river bank south of the city and allotted them land to settle between Wat Sam Pluem and Wat Sampheng canals. The first three regions of Rattanakosin Period saw quite a rapid growth of Sampheng Chinese labor force was encouraged for various types of employment. The majority of the newly arrived sought to settle down in Sampheng before moving to other places where better prospects could be located.
Junk TradeJunk trade with China was the main source of State Godown acted as goods collector as well as sole holder of state monopoly on foreign trade, although the office had to reply solely on the Chinese who supervised the complete cycle of operation ranging from navigation to contact with trade partners in China.
Thai ExportsThai Exports in those days mainly included forest as well as agricultural products, along with junks built in Thailand from quality but inexpensive wood.
Goods from China which were in demand during this period were mostly processed goods meant for members of both the upper class and the general public.
Red-bow Junks:From Motherland to Siam
Chaozhou or Teochew Prefecture in Northern Guangdong Province was where Sino-Thai trade was at the strongest in early Rattanakosin period. Janglin in Tenghai District was the main port of call for both Thai and Chinese cargo ships. As the bows of the latter leaving Janglin Port were painted in red, they were called re-bow junks. Aside from cargo, they also carried large numbers of passengers hoping to find jobs in Siam(Thailand). Having heard much talk about Thailand’s fertility and persuaded by relatives who had taken the trip, young men from poverty-stricken villages of Teochew and nearby prefectures came aboard these on the south route toward Thailand.
While the hold of the ships were full of cargo, each passenger on the deck had only a few pieces of belongings, mostly a mat, a bamboo pillow, a straw hat and a water jar. The food he brought along mainly consisted of steamed Chinese pastry, which nicely kept for several days and ash-pumpkins which were refreshing in lieu of water and could also be used as lifebuoy in case of shipwreck. The voyage from Janglin to Bangkok took about one mount, during which the passenger could do almost nothing except pray that God bless them with a safe journey and let them emerge unscathed from all kinds of danger stemming from a potential storm, famine or disease while at sea.
Mooring at Sampheng : The first Step on New Land
Junks from China arrived in Bangkok sometime between January and April. Foreign ships could get as close to the capital as possible while mooring in Sampheng area which lay adjacent to the southern city wall. The river in this area buzzed with an open market atmosphere on deck of these junks. A certain part of cargo was transported to shops in Sampheng. Bangkok's biggest market which featured a dense cluster of Chinese-owned houses and shops. House and house-boats belonging to Chinese merchants were along the bank of the river.
Large numbers of Chinese passengers disembarked here.Those arriving in Thailand for the first time relied on help from relatives or acquaintances hailing from the same villages as they struggled to settle to settle in the new land.Many found jobs in Sampheng working as coolies or earning a living as peddlers before changing to other occupations at a later stage.
The Shine : A Spiritual Refuge for the Chinese Community
The sheine is regarded as the house of god of the community wherever the Chinese come to settle. Sampheng is no different. The sacred shrine here is the Lao Pun Thao Kong Shrine, or the Old Shrine, situated on the river bank. According to the Teochews, Pun Thao Kong is the senior god who looks after the welfare of all in the community is behind everyone's success and prosperity and protects him from all ills. They always pay homage to the god while seeking his blessings. The shrine servers as a spiritual refuge to the Chinese living miles away from their homeland. Supposedly, it had used to be just a small one but has become bigger with the growth of the community, playing the role of a spiritually unifying entity that helps strengthening social relations with the community.
Thai-Style household item made of brass include a bowl with supporting stand ladle, serving tray, candlestick and betel tray. Most of them were produced by the Chinese, as evidenced the Chinese-owned brassware shops in Sampheng. Besides, the fact that in those days a lot of Chinese merchants had Thai wives helped ease trade bragains with their Thai counterparts.
Groceries available in Sampheng area included Chinese dried or preserved food, fresh fruits imported from China which were very expensive in those days, plus items necessary for the Chinese lifestyle, e.g. those for sacrificial offering, paper lantern and lamp. These were originally imported mainly to satisfy the demand on the part of Chinese customers as well.
Made from rice flour, a noodle dish features noodles, soup and a variety of relish. Introduced by the Teochews, noodle dishes became very popular in Thailand. Many among the newly arrived become noodle peddlers walking the streets with "the shop" carried on the shoulders. In those days, customers used to provide their own bowls.
Porcelain made up a large portion of imports from China during early Rattanakosin period. Some items were customers-made to meet orders from noble families while others were meant for general consumers, as locally made porcelain was still of a lower quality. Besides porcelain, these shops also carried expensive imports from China such as glassware and silk fabric.
Sampheng:Bangkok's Biggest Market In Early Rattanakosin Period
During the early Rattanakosin period,Sampheng was the only densely populated community outside the city wall. The only "road" outside the city wall was the Sampheng alleyway, a narrow, 800-meter walker way stretching from Saphan Han Gate and lined solely by shop and houses owned by the Chinese, Still, It was the biggest and busiest trade district of Bangkok from where Chinese goods were distributed and where Thailand's Exports awaiting shipment were collected. Beside, It was a popular retail market for Bangkok consumers looking for a wide variety of favorite goods ranging from foodstuff to everyday commodity among both Thais and Chinese. Also found in Sampheng were entertainment house such as gambling dens and 'green lantern house'(brothels). As it happened, repeated incidents of fire occurred in Sampheng where dense rows of house and buildings featuring Chinese architecture were located.
Weaver of Chinese Paper Lantern
Paper lantern was used both as household and ceremonial item.Thus, a Chinese community never lacked those who earned a living weaving paper lantern, besides painting letters on it. The kind meant for hanging in front of a shop usually bore the shop's name in red while the kind used at a funeral bore blue letters. An ally in Sampheng called Trok Rong Khom (Lantern Factory Alley) was an area of predominantly paper lantern manufacturing.
Toward the Golden Age (1851-1957)
During the period of more than a century ever since the introduction of steamship, the rapid growth of the Chinese community in Sampheng was proportional to the number of those newly arrived. It eventually saw a new main road, Yaowarat, which soon became the heart of a vast business area as well as Bangkok's most modern entertainment outlets for the period around 1957.Thus, the name "Yaowarat" came to mean the entire Chinatown of Bangkok.
The thriving business around Yaowarat Road could be principally attributed to two factors: the government's policy of accelerated city development under western influence and the Chinese' capability to adjust to the modern form of economy, namely the free trade scheme, which coincided with the introduction of steamship by westerners. Chinese merchants were fast getting familiar with the new opportunities opening up s they relied on their intrinsic element called perseverance in order to attain success in operating commercial enterprises starting with rice trade - Thailand's No.1 export being rice - before diversifying into an array of other businesses, thereby securing strength and solid foundation to the Thai modern economy centered at Yaowarat.
Yaowarat Road: The New Look of Bangkok's Chinatown
One of the 18 new roads in the project to promote the trading business centering in Sampheng District which was submitted for approval from King Rama 4 by the Ministry of Public Works, Yaowarat Road was first constructed in 1892 in the area originally densely populated by the Chinese. The community had been in poor surroundings amidst numerous badly littered, dirty and untidy-looking alley-ways situated between Charoen Krung(New Road) and Sampheng Roads. The construction of Yaowarat Road 1,532 meters long and merely 20 meters wide, took altogether eight years. To comply with the king's policy, the road followed a meandering course so as to avoid the existing cluster of houses. It was also following his initiation that rows of modern shop-house were built along the road for rent to traders, thereby opening up an opportunity for a great number of Chinese to start their own businesses. The new business area that developed from that point onward helped bring about the boom of Sampheng, the district where the country's record revenue through business tax been registered.
The Shrine : From Faith to Charitable Cause
The Chinese faith in the deity gave rise not only to the existence of the shrine as object of their respect but also to an array of activities for charity cause. An instance of this can be seen in the case of the Tai Hong Kong Shrine which originated from the faith in the priest named Tai Hong ong who lived during the rule of Song Dynasty. Seeing large numbers of deaths caused by infectious disease, he gathered and buried the bodies without the slightest hesitation, besides setting up a medical unit and handing out food and necessary items to those affected. The faith in him lasted for generations since. Inspired by Rai Hong kong's sculpture in Thailand, the Chinese merchants jointly undertook to establish the Tai Hong Kong Unclaimed Bodies Collecting Group in 1909 with the mission of collecting unclaimed bodies of the destitute. The shrine was also built at this time. The Hua Kiew Poh Teck Sieng Tung Foundation, also know as Poh Teck Tung Foundation was established sometimes later. The mission was expanded to include a wide variety of charitable activities ranging from medical treatment, disaster relief to education. As for the shrine, a significant charity and merit making ceremony know as Thing Krajat is held annually in dedication of the spirits of ancestors and to give away articles of alms to the needy. The ceremony is held in the spirits to receive the merits being made. This is followed by alms giving where article comprising rice grains, preserved foodstuff and necessary household item are given away. Crowds of the needy throng the shrine each year for this.
Hospital for the Needy:The Principle of Caring for One Another
The first generation of overseas Chinese in Thailand mostiy lived in poverty holding jobs that required hard physical labor. Many came done with on one to look after them in times of sickness and died alone. Hence, wealthy Chinese merchants representing all dialect groups co-operated their effort to build Thien Hua Uy Ee Hospital to provide medical care for their needy fellow-countrymen free of charge. King Rama4 graciously presided funding as supplementary operating capital.
The hospital provided not only Chinese-styled medical treatment familiar to the patients but also doctors representing all dialect groups for easy communication with each group of the patients and in order to inspire in them the confidence that they were being cared for by people hailing from the same village or town. Medical examination at the hospital was followed up by doctor's prescription for the patient to take to the medicine room where medicine would be boiled and packed in a container for him to take home. The hospital's name was later change to Thine Fa Foundation Hospital and is still operating today while the principle of the early days is strictly adhered to.
Chinese Newspaper : News from Home Overseas
Boundy by the close ties to the motherland, Chinese living in Thailand never failed to keep abreast with happenings in China especially the political ups and downs that had plagued the country ever since revolutions against Qing Dynasty started. This led to the establishment of several Chinese newspapers in Thailand during the period stating from 1970 onward. Aside from publishing general news coverage, these newspaper also served as media for the divided political camps prevailing in China. Through them, patriotic sentiment was stimulated on a wide scale among the Chinese readership to the extent that the Thai government was periodically compelled to impose a restriction on the nature of news presentation in consideration of Thailand's own security. Chinese newspapers, however, continued to provide their Chinese readership in Thailand and abroad. With offices located in Yaowarat area, many of them put up a new issue of their publication on the wall daily for interested persons to read free of change, thereby signifying their commitment as mass media. This came to be know as "the wall newspaper".
Chinese Schools : The Intention to Settle Down
Having been able to attain decent livelihood with their families in Thailand a lot of overseas Chinese decided to settle here. Thus, Chinese schools were established to give their offspring lessons on Chinese language and culture. The first of these was established in 1908 with curriculum based on that of China. Subsequently, schools catering to people of instruction in these schools until the Thai government passed the Private School Act and the Compulsory Education Act in 1921 which compelled. The move played an important role in the attempt of younger generations of Chinese descent to gradually assimilate into Thai society.
Pei-Ing School in one of the prominent Chinese schools in Yaowarat area Funded by donations from Teochew traders it is situated in the compound of the Old Shrine (Lao Pun Thao Kong) which had been the senter of Chinese faith in the area progress up to the present. Many of its alumni became the country's economic leaders.
Gold Shops : Social Values of Wealth Accumlation
The Chinese are know to give priority to wealth accumlation.Having jobs and steady income, the overseas Chinese in Thailand opted to send part of the money to support their families in China while part of it was set aside to acquire wealth as investment for a solid future. However, a lot of them still had an alien's status which prohibited them from buying land as their property. Therefore, the alternative was to invest in gold ornaments. The practice gave rise to the boom of gold trade in Yaowarat area. Many gold shops have expanded in proportion to the economic growth in the area and even become prominent, regarded as the country's source of top quality gold. Furthermore, Yaowarat gold shops also set an example for gold shops else where to follow in terms of interior decoration and style so much so that these came to be regarded as the identity of all gold shops, for example most shops had been painted in indigo blue with red light but the norm later changed to red color.
Gold trade usually reaches its peak around Chinese New Year when money is given as a gift. Upon receiving the gift, many like to spend it on gold as investment. In the old days, traditional Chinese orchestras used to be hire to perform live at gold shops in Yaowarat area to create a festive atmoshere around Chinese New Year. Attracted by the live performance as well as by give-away items handed out by the gold shops. crowds of customers queued up while waiting to get in.
Chinese Temple : Center of the People's Faith
Before the reign of King Rama 5 Chinese community in Thailand could find spiritual refuge in the form of shrines, according to the people's faiths which collectively included Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The different types of shrine reflected the faiths adopted by each dialect group but no temple or priest existed. Chinese Buddhists performed their religious ceremonies at Vietnamese or Thai temples. It was during the reign of King Rama 5 that a group of priests from China came to Thailand. Subsequently, the first Chinese temple was built in 1871 with cooperation from all groups of Chinese. It is know today as Wat Leng Noei Yi, or the name in Thai given by King Rama5 "Wat Mangkon Kamalawat". The King also bestowed an ecclesiastical title to the first abbot of the temple. That was the start of the Chinese Buddhist Sect in Thailand. Followed by the emergence of many more Chinese temples.
In the old days, the lawn in front of "Wat Mangkon Kamalawat" was busy with a cluster of stalls selling sacrificial offering items to the faithful who came to pay homepage make merit ward off bad luck or have their fortunes told. Foodstuff and certain commodities were also in the Chinese way of life came into existence.
Chinese Opera Theater : A Source of Entertainment and Dissemination of Moral Principle
An ancient theater art form among the Chinese, Chinese opera is usually performed on a special occasion of religious festivity in a make-shift theater at an unfixed venue. However, when entertainment business on Yaowarat Road was booming, many prominent-looking Chinese opera theaters emerged on both sides of it. Some had a capacity of 400 seats plus 100 more for standing ticket holders. This was during the period 1952-1962. There were two showings daily, each lasting three and a haft hours. The opera itself or a section of it, stayed about ten days on program. The length actually depended on the size of the audience.
Aside from entertainment, Chinese opera plays an important role in disseminating moral principle and knowledge, particularly to the illiterate. The Chinese operas full of moral lessons. Each feature performance was preceded by an overture piece called Puang Sieng for good luck. One of a very popular overture piece was entitled by a senior official from China, however, a compromise was reached and the six rulers were appointed as Chinese generals.
Market : The Value of Good Eating
Having acquired a certain degree of success in life, the Chinese are know to give priority to food, convinced that good eating is a solid part of happiness in life. Thus, Yaowarat becomes the source of selected foodstuff the center of first-rate ingredients where shoppers' demand can be satisfied. The market at Yaowarat consists of "Talat Kao", the market for fresh, raw food; "Talat Krom Phuraret" for fresh produce; and "Talat Leng Buoi Eia" for dried or preserved food. All these are conveniently located as they are within walking distacnce from one another. Despite higher prices, shoppers like to buy foodstuff there as they are assured that the items sold are selected and of top quality.
"Talat Leng Buoi Eia" is located in an alley lined by shops with preserved foodstuff, fruits as well as a wide variety of processed food. The highlights are Cantonse-styled grocer's stores carrying dried and smoked foodstuff, seasonings, pickled food both locally made and imported, kitchenware, utensils for Chinese households and seasonal sacrificial offering items. The market is most crowded and liveliest around Chinese New Year when specially selected goods await the throng of shoppers.
The Great Legends
More than two centuries have passed since the Chinese community of Sampheng-Yaowarat has come into being and prospered in the Thai kingdom under the rule of Thai kings.Large numbers of Chinese people have been blessed with favorable opportunities enabling them to leader empty-handed and yet establish themselves as Chao Sua, or millionaires. Many devote the fringe of their success to benefit the society at large while others make a series of great meritorious deeds in gratitude to the country. They are the great legends of Yaowarat and their exemplary lives and achievements will be long remembered by future generations.
Yaowat today resembles Little China for Thais of Chinese descent within Thailand's Capital. Its other name is, therefore, Bangkok's Chinatown, one of the world's oldest Chinatowns. Rich with historical heritage dating back more than two centuries, it covers approximately 1.5sq km in space.Evident in every alleyway and corner are the charms of Chinese characteristics that can be experienced through the many coclors of Chinese culture,be it in the people's way of living, architecture, traditional festival or scrumptious Chinese dishes. In addition, it is a bustling business district, the country's biggest hub for various types of goods and the hub for world-standard gold trade. As such, it has become one of Bangkok's largest and liveliest business centers as well as tourist attractions.