Friday, October 2, 2009

VIII. Of the Education of the Siameses Children, and first of Their Civility.

The love of the Siamese Children for their Parents; Civility necessary to the Siameses; Their Inclination to Silence; The Raillery amongst them; The Politeness of the Siamese Language; The Names of the Siameses; The words which the Siamese use in saluting; How they are permitted to ask News of their King's health; How they sit; Their Postures; Their Ceremonies in Visits; To what degree the highest place is the most honourable; The right hand more honourable than the left at Siam; Why the Cities at China are all after one Model; The exactness of the Siameses in their Ceremonies; They are accustomed thereunto from their infancy; How the great men dispense with these in their Inferiors; Certain things incident amongst us are not so amongst them, and on the contrary; What is the greatest Affront among the Siameses; What postures are more or less respectful; How the King of Siam accommodates the Ceremonies of his Court, to those of the Court of France; Why I chose to speak to the King of Siam rather standing, than sitting; Another Siamese Civility; The manner of saluting among the Siameses.

The Siamese Children have docility and sweetness, provided they be not discountenanc'd. Their Parents know how to make themselves extreamly beloved and respected, and to inspire an extream Civility in them. Their Instructions are marvellously assisted by the Despotic Power, which I have said they have in their Family; but the Parents do also answer unto the Prince for the Faults of their Children. They share in their Chastisements, and more especially are obliged to deliver them up when they have offended. And tho' the Son be fled, he never fails to return and surrender himself, when the Prince apprehends his Father, or his Mother, or his other collateral Relations, but older than himself, and to whom he owes Respect: And this is a great proof of the love of the Siamese Children to their Parents.

AS to Civility, it is so great throughout the East, even amongst Strangers, that an European who has liv'd there a long time, finds more difficulty to re-accustom himself to the Familiarities of these Countries. The Indian Princes being very much give to Traffic, they love to invite Strangers amongst them, and they protect them even against their own Subjects. And hence it is that the Siameses do for Example appear savage, and they they eschew the Conversation of Strangers. They know that they are thought always to be in the wrong, and that they are always punish'd in the Quarrels they have with them. These Siameses do therefore educate their Children in an extream Modesty, by reason that it is necessary in Trade, and much more in the Service, which for six Months in the Year they render unto the King, or to the Mandarins by order of their King.

Silence is not greater amongst the Carthusians, than it is in the Palace of this Prince; the Lords dispense not therewith more than others. The sole desire of speaking, never excites the Siameses to say any thing that may displease. 'Tis necessary that they be thoroughly convinced that you would know the truth of any thing, to embolden them to declare it against your opinion. They do in nothing to affect to appear better instructed than you, not in the things of their own Country, altho' you be a Stranger.

They appear'd to be very far from all sort of Raillery, by reason they understand not any, perhaps thro' the fault of the Interpreters. 'Tis principally in matter of Raillery, that this ancient Proverb of the Indians is verified, That things best weighed, when delivered by an Interpreter, are as a pure Spring which runs thro' mud. Most safe is to droll little with Strangers, even with those that understand our Language; because the Railleries are the last thing that they understand, and that it is easie to offend them with a Raillery which they understand not. I doubt not therefore that the Siameses know how to jest wittily one with another. Some have assur'd me, that they do it frequently amongst Equals, and even in Verse; and that as well the Women as the Men are all very readily verst therein; the most ordinary method of which is amongst them a continued Raillery, wherein emulously appears the briskness of the Answers and Repartees. I have observ'd the same thing amongst the people of Spain.

But when theyh enter into earnest, their Language is much more capable than our's, of whatever denotes Respect and Distinction. They give, for instance, certain Titles to certain Officers, as amongst us are the Titles of Excellence and Greatness. Moreover, these words I and Me, indiffrent in our Language, do express themselves by several terms in the Siamese Tongue; the one of which is from the Master to the Slave, and the other from the Slave to the Master. Another is from the Man of the people to a Lord; and a fourth is us'd amongst equals; and some there are which are only in the mouth of Talapoins. The word You and He are not expressed in fewer manners. And when they speak of Women, (because that in their Tongue there is no distinction of Genders into Masculine and Feminine) they add to the Masculine the word Nang, which in the Balie Language signifies Young, to imply the Feminine, as if we should say for Example, Young Prince, instead of Princess. It seems tha their Civility hinders them from thinking that Women can ever grow old.

By the same Complaisance they call them by the most precious or most agreeable things of Nature, as young Diamond, young Gold, young Crystal, young Flower. The Princess, the King's Daughter, is called Nang fa, young Heaven; if he had a Son, he would be called, as some report, Tchou fa, Lord of Heaven. 'Tis certain that the white Elephant which Mr. de Chaumont saw at Siam, and which was dead when we arriv'd there, had attain'd to an extream old Age; yet because it was a Female, and that they believe moreover that in the Body of white Elephants there is always a Royal Soul, they called her verbatim, Nang Paya Tchang peuac, young Prince white Elephant.

The words which the Siameses use by way of Salute, are cavai Tchaou [ข้าไหว้เจ้า], I salute Lord. And, if 'tis really a Lord that salutes an Inferior, he will bluntly answer, Raou vai [เราไหว้], I salute, or ca vai, which signifies the same thing; altho' the word ca, which signifies me, ought to be naturally only in the mouth of a Slave speaking to his Master, and that the word Raou, which also signifies me, denotes some dignity in him that speaks. To ask, How do you? they say, Tgiou de? Kindi? That is to say, Do you continue well? Do you eat well?

But it is a singular Observation, that it is not permitted a Siamese to ask his Inferior any News concerning their King's health; as if it was a Crime in him, that approaches near the person of the Prince, to be less informed thereof, than another that is obliged to keep at a greater distance.

Their civil posture of Sitting is as the Spaniards sit, crossing their Legs; and they are so well accustom'd thereunto, that, even on a Seat when given them, they place themselves no otherwise.

When they bow, they do not stand; but if they sit not cross-leg'd, they bow themselves out of respect to one another. The Slaves and the Servants before their Masters, and the common People before the Lords keep on their knees, with their Body seated on their heels, their head a little inclin'd, and their hands joined at the top of their forehead. A Siamese which passeth by another, to whom he would render Respect, will pass b stooping with joined hands more or less elevated, and will salute him no otherwise.

In their Visits, if is is a very inferior person that makes it, he enters stooping into the Chamber, he prostrates himself, and remains upon his knees, and sitting upon his heels after the manner I have described; but he dares not to speak first. He must wait till he to whom he pays the Visit, speaks to him: and thus the Mandarins that came to visit us on the behalf of the King of Siam, waited always till I spake to them first. If it is a Visit amongst Equals, or if the Superior goes to see the Inferior, the Master of the House receives him at the Hall-door, and at the end of the Visit he accompanies him thither, and never any further. Moreover, he walks either upright, or stooping, according to the degree of Respect he owes to the Visitor. He likewise observes to speak first, or last, according as he can, or as he ought; but he always offers his place to him whom receives at his House, and invites him to accept it. He afterwards serves him with Fruit and Preserves, and sometimes with Rice and Fish; and more especially he with his own hand presents him with Arek and Betel, and Tea. The common People forget not Arek, and Persons of Quality do sometimes accommodate themselves therewith. At the end of the Visit, the Stranger first testifies that he will go; as amongst us, and the Master of the House consents thereto with very obliging Expressions, and he must be greatly superior to him that renders him the Visit, to bid him depart.

The highest place is so far the most honourable according to them, that they dared not to go into the first Story, even for the service of the House, when the King's Ambassadors were in the lower Hall. In the Houses, which strangers to build of Brick above one story, they observe that the undermost part of the Stairs never serves for a passage, for fear lest any one should go under the feet of another that the bottom would be useless to them, no person amongst them being willing either to go or lodge under the feet of another. For this reason, though the Siamese Houses be erected on Piles, they never make use of the under part, not so much as in the Kings House, whose Palace being uneven, has some pieces higher than others, the under part of which might be inhabited. I remember that when the Ambassadors of Siam came to an Inn near Vincennes, the first Ambassador being lodged in the first story, and the others in the second, the second Ambassador perceiving that he was above the King his Masters Letter, which the first Ambassador had with him, ran hastily out of his Chamber bewailing his offense, and tearing his hair in despair.

At Siam the right hand is more honourable than the left: the floor of the Chamber opposite to the door is more honourable than the sides; and the sides more than the wall where the door is, and the wall which is on the right hand of him that sits on the floor, is more honourable than that which is on his left hand. Thus in the Tribunals, no person sits on the Bench fixed to the wall which is directly opposite to the door, save the President, who alone has a determinative Vote. The Councellors, who only have a Consultative Vote, are seated on other lower Benches along the side-walls, and the other Officers along the wall of the door. After the same manner, if any one receives an important visit, he places the Visitor alone on the floor of the Chamber, and seats himself with his back towards the door, or towards one of the sides of the Chamber.

These Ceremonies and a great many others are so precise at China, that it is necessary that the Entries of the Houses, and the Rooms where particular persons receive their Visits, and those where they entertain their Friends, be all after one model, to be able to observe the same Civilities. But this Uniformity of building, and of turning the buildings to the South, so that they front the North in their entering in, has been much more indispensible in the Tribunals, and in all the other publick houses; insomuch that whoever sees one City in this great Kingdom sees them all.

Now Ceremonies are as essential, and almost as numerous at Siam as at China. A Mandarin carries himself one way before his Inferiors, and another way before his Superiors. If there are several Siameses together, and there unexpectedly comes in another, it frequently happens that the posture of all changes. They know before whom, and to what degree, they must keep themselves inclined or strait, or sitting: Whether they must joyn their hands or not, and keep them high, or low: whether being seated they may advance on Foot, or both, or whether they must keep them both conceal'd by sitting on their heels. And the miscarriages in these sorts of duties may be punished with the cudgel by him to whom they are committed, or by his orders, and on the spot. So that there is not introduced amongst them those Airs of familiarity, which in diversions do attract rudeness, injuries, blows and quarrels, and sometimes intemperance and impudence: they are always restrained by reciprocal respects. What some report concerning the Chinese Hat, is a thing very pleasant. It has no brim before nor behind, but only at the sides: and this brim, which terminates in an oval, is so little fastened to the body of the Hat, that it flaps, and renders a man ridiculous, at the least irregular motion which he makes his head. Thus these people have imagined, that the less men are at ease, the fewer faults they commit.

But all these forms, which seem to us very troublesom, appear not to them, by reason they are early accustomed thereunto. Custom renders the distinctions less severe to them, than they would be to us: and much more the thoughts that they may enjoy it in their turn: He that is Superior or Inferior to day, changing his condition to morrow, according to the Prudence, or the Capricious Humor of the Prince. The hereditary distinctions which the Birth does here give to so many persons who are sometimes without merit, will not appear less hard to undergo, to him who should not be thereto accustomed, or who should not comprehend that the most precious recompence of Vertue is that, which one hopes to transmit to his posterity.

The Custom is therefor at Siam and China, that when the Superior would discreetly manage the Inferior, and testify a great deal of consideration for him (as it sometimes happens in the intrigues of Court) the Superior affects publickly to avoid the meeting the Inferior; to spare him the publick submissions, with which he could not dispense if they should meet him. Moreover, affability towards Inferiors, Easiness of access, or going before them, do pass for weakness in the Indies.

The Siameses constrain not themselves to belching in conversation, neither turn they aside their face, or put any thing before their mouth, no more than the Spaniards. 'Tis no incivility amongst them to wipe off the Sweat of their forehead with their Fingers, and then to shake them against the ground. For this purpose we use a Handkerchief, and few of the Siameses have any: which is the reason why they very slovenly perform every thing whereunto the Handkerchief is necessary. They dare to spit neither on the Mats, nor the Carpets; and because they are in all houses a little furnished, they make use of spitting-pots which they carry in their hand. In the Kings Palace they neither cough, nor spit, nor wipe their Nose. The Betel which they continually chew, and the juice of which they swallow at pleasure, hinders them: Nevertheless they cannot take Betel in the Prince's presence, but only continue to chew that which they have already in their Mouth. They refuse nothing that is offered them, and dare not to say, I have enough.

As the most eminent place is always amongst them the most honourable, the head, as the highest part of the body, is also the most respected. To touch any person on the head or the hair, or to stroke ones hand over the head, is to offer him the greatest of all affronts. To touch his Bonnet, if he leaves it any where, is a great incivility. The mode of this Country amongst the Europeans which dwell there, is never to leave their Hat in a low place, but to give it to a Servant, who carries it higher than his Head, at the end of a Stick, and without touching it; and this Stick has a foot, to the end that it may stand up, if he that carries it, be obliged to leave it.

The most respectful, or to say better, the most humble posture, is that in which they do all keep themselves continually before their King: in which they express to him more respect than the Chineses do theirs. They keep themselves prostrate on their knees and elbows, with their hands joyned at the top of their forehead, and their body seated on their heels; to the end that they may lean less on their elbows, and that it may be possible (without assisting themselves with their hands, but keeping them still joyned to the top of their forehead) to raise themselves on their knees, and fall again upon their elbows, as they do thrice together, as often as they would speak to the King: I have remark'd, that when they are thus prostrate, they lean their back-part on one side or the other, as much as possibly they can, without displacing their knees, as it were to lessen and undervalue themselves the more.

By the same principle, it is not only more honourable, according to them, to be seated on a high seat, than on a low seat; but it is much more honourable to be standing than sitting. When Mr. de Chaumont had his first audience, it was necessary that the French Gentlemen which accompany'd him, should enter first into the Hall, and seat themselves on their heels, before the King of Siam appeared; to the end that this Prince might not see them a moment standing. They were prohibited to rise up to salute him, when he appeared. This Prince never suffered the Bishops nor the Jesuits to appear standing before him in the Audiences. It is not permitted to stand in any place of the Palace, unless while walking: and if in this last Voyage of 1687, at the first audience of the Kings Ambassadors, the French Government had the honour of entring, when the King of Siam was already visible, it was only because the Mandarins, which had accompanied the Ambassadors of Siam into France, were admitted into the Gallery of Versailles, when the King was seated on the Throne which he had erected there.

The King of Siam had that respect for the King of France, as to acquaint him by Mr. de Chaumont, that if there was an Custom in his Court which was not in the Court of France, he would alter it; andwhen the King's Ambassadors arrived in this Country, the King of Siam affected indeed to make them a Reception different in several things from that which he had made to Mr. de Chaumont, to conform it the more to that which he understood the King had made to his Ambassadors. He did on thing, when Mr. des Farges saluted him, which never had any Precedent at Siam: for he commanded that all the Officers of his Court should stand in his presence, as did Mr. des Farges, and the other French Officers which accompany'd him.

Remembering therefore that Mr. de Chaumont had demanded to compliment him sitting, and knowing that his Ambassadors had spoken standing to the King, (an Honour which he highly esteem'd) he informed me, that he would grant me the liberty to speak to him siting or standing; and I chose to deliver all my Compliments standing: And if I could have raised my self higher, I should have received more Honour. 'Twas in the King of Siam, as they informed me, a mark of respect for the King's Letters, not to receive them standing but sitting.

To lay a thing upon one's head, which is given, or received, is at Siam, and in a great many other Countries, a very great mark of respect. The Spaniards, for Example, are obliged by an express Law to render this respect to the Cedules, or written Orders, which they receive from their King. The King of Siam was pleas'd to see me put the King's Letter on my head, in delivering it to him: he cry'd out, and demanded, where I had learnt that Civility us'd in his Country? He had lifted up to his Forehead the King's Letter, which Mr. de Chaumont deliver'd him; but understanding, by the report of his Ambassadors, that this Civility was not known in the Court of France, he omitted it, in regard of the King's Letter, which I had the Honour to deliver to him.

When a Siamese salutes, he lifts up either both his hands join'd, or at least his right hand to the top of his forehead, as it were to put him whom he salutes on his head. As often as they take the liberty to answer to their King, they always begin again with the words, Pra pouti Tchaou-ca, co rap pra cuncan fai claou fai cramom: That is to say, High and Mighty Lord of me thy Slave, I desire to take the Royal Word, and put it on my Brain, and on the top of my Head. And it is fro m these words Tchaou-ca, which signifies Lord of me thy Slave, that amongst the French is sprung up this way of speaking faire choca, to signifie Ta vai bang com, or to prostrate himself after the Siamese manner. Faire La Zombaye to the King of Siam, signifies to present him a Petition, which cannot be done without performing the cocha. I know not from whence the Portugueses have borrow'd this way of speaking. If you stretch out your hand to a Siamese to take hold on his, he puts both his hands underneath yours, as to put himself entirely into your power. 'Tis an Incivility, in their opinion, to give only one hand, as also not to hold what they present you, with both their hands, and not to take with both hands what they receive from you. But let this suffice as concerning the Civility with which the Siameses inspire their Children, altho' I have not exhausted this Subject.

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