May 2007 Archives

A Special Visit Tomorrow


Tomorrow is the day I have been waiting the past five years: My mother and father will arrive at Bangkok International Airport for a long holiday. Over the next two weeks, I will then take them on a tour of the highlights of Southeast Asia: Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang, and Chiang Mai.

I have been planning this trip with in my mind ever since I moved to Thailand. I am always imagining my parents being here and wondering what they would think about this or that. And finally they will get to see how thier son actually lives.

I wonder what they are expecting. Or if they have any pre-conceived notions about what life is like here. We all know that Thailand sometimes gets a bad rap in the foreign press, so there is no telling what they really think they will fid here.

I will do my best to report from the road and share the perspective of two 60-something Americans in Aisa for the first time. Should be a great trip!

ITS4K and ITS4Thai


I never have gotten around to writing those journal entries about Taipei, as I have been working like crazy in the office lately. No compaints here, though. It's been a lot of fun, and it's really great to see us making a lot of progress. But perhaps I underestimated the amount of work it would take to do what I want to do. Oh well, I'm not going to give up any time soon.

In any case, we launched two new websites. The first is the main website for the company -- ITS4Knowledge -- and it can be found at

The second website will soon be the home of a site to help us farang learn to speak Thai Language. I don't think I have mentioned it here, but that site will be located at If you are at all interested in learning Thai language, then head on over and sign up for our updates newletter.

And while you're there, check out the brand-new screen shots that we just posted today. Our designers are doing great work, and I am really looking forward to seeing the final product in a month or so.

Thailand's Seven Oecumenes


This week I started reading a new book, called "Thailand: The Worldly Kingdom" written by a professor at National University Singapore named Maurizio Peleggi. I have only gotten through the lengthy introduction, and embarrasingly enough he had me scrambling to the dictionary to look up English words more than once.

One word that he used quite frequently, but I don't think I have ever known is "oecumene" (or, as I found out tonight, it is also commonly spelled "ecumene"). To the Ancient Greeks, the word meant the inhabited or known world. Alexander the Great conqured most of the Oecumene during his reign.

The author of this book, however, defined the word as "a geo-cultural space". His thesis for the book (as far as I can tell) is that modern Thailand is the product of many "geo-cultural spaces" over the last 1000 years. Here are the seven oecumene that Peleggi outlines in the introduction of his book:

  1. We start with the influence of India, or what the scholar Coedes called the Hinduisation (commonly translated as Indianization) of Southeast Asia. Modern Thailand still has many aspects of this Hindu culture, including Sanskrit vocabulary, Brahmanic rituals, Hindu myths (the Garuda, for example), urban design and religious archetecture. So this is referred to as the "Indic Oecumene".

  2. Theravada Buddhism arrived from Sri Lanka around 1000 years ago, bringing Buddhist icons and patronage of the monastic order known as the Sangha. Obviously, Thailand still has strong ties to this "Theravada Oecumene".

  3. Around the same time, Persian and Arab traders brought what is now Southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia into the "Islamic Oecumene".

  4. During the Sukothai and Ayuthaya periods (1400s - 1700s), Siam became a regional power where trade was conducted with countries all over the world. Perhaps the most important trading country at the time was China. Not only did Siam pay tribute to Beijing, but there were also a large number of immigrants from the country (even up to recent times). This is known as the "Sinic Oecumene"

  5. The great capital city of Ayutthaya fell in the 1770s to invading armies from what is now Burma. A few decades later, the Chakri Dynasty was started in Bangkok and rules to this day. As the author states in this book, "The Bangkok kingdom stood in the cosmological, cultural and trading space at the overlap of the Indic and Sinic Oecumene"

  6. During the reigns of Rama IV and V (1800s), a new "Victorian Oecumene" was brought to Thailand. England had a lot of influence in the region during this time, as they controlled the countries to the west of Thailand such as India and Burma. Rama IV and V helped to "westernize" Thailand based on European civilization. The Chakri Reformation under Rama V made many changes in the governement, religion, and society, with the help of western advisors.

  7. Finally, Thailand came under the "American Oecumene" after World War II. The American Oecumene is also known popularly as "the free world". Thailand was the United States' most important ally in Southeast Asia in the cold war fight against communism and played a major role in the Vietnam War. Billions of dollars flowed into the country in the 1960s and 1970s and helped moderize it futher with strategic roads and railways.

So, even though I have never heard of the word "oecumene", it's a nice concept to help explain the crazy mix of influences that can be seen in today's Thailand. Hopefully the rest of the book will be as interesting as the Introduction!

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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