Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Siam, a kingdom occupying the central part of the Indo-Chinese, and extending into the Malay peninsula, being bounded N. by the Shan States, W. by Burma, E. and N.E. by Anam and Tonkin (French territory) S. by Cambodia (also owned by France), and the Gulf of Siam. Johore, or Pahang, must be regarded as the limit towards Malacca. In 1896 an arangement was agreed to between England and France, by which they guaranteed to Siam the integrity of the territory embraced in the basins of the Menam, Mekong, Peshaburi and Bangpakong rivers, and by which France was confirmed in the possesion of Cambodia; and Siam is practically confined to the valley of the Menam. This is the most fertile part of the kingdom, the alluvial soil, watered by yearly floods, yielding an inexhaustible supply of rice, which is brought down the stream to Bangkok for shipment. To the west of this valley the Me-wang and Me-ping bring their tributary waters through a more rugged country embracing several rich plains, whilst close to the Burmese frontier the Toongyeen, flowing north, waters teak-forests and cinnamon-groves. To the east of the Menam there is much sterile and sandy land (the Korat plateau), with swampy and unhealthy river-flats at intervals. This plateau is bounded S. by a range stretching into Cambodia, and famous for precious stones, whilst the mountains to the north contain many

valuable minerals, the natives, only extracting a little iron. Tin is found in considerable abundance in the Malay peninsula and other parts. Gold is obtained both by mining and washing; lead, silver, iron, antimony, and copper are abundant, but little worked. There is some trade by caravans through the Shan States with Yunnan and China. The government is a monarchy, but there exists an official known as a "second king," whose vague functions appear to be on the wane. Buddhism is almost the universal religion. Besides Bangkok and the capital, Chantabun, Meklong, Paklat, and Paknam are important coast towns, Luang-Prabang and Kiang-Kong on the upper Mekong, Phitsalok and Ayuthia on the Menam, Raheng and Lapoon on the Me-ping being the chief places inland. Siam was first visited by Europeans in 1511, but it was not until 1856 that the Siamese relaxed their exclusive policy, and that step, though unavoidable, they will probably have good cause to regret. Ethnology. The dominant inhabitants of Siam call themselves Thai ("Free," "Noble") and are a branch of the widespread Shan race, Siam being merely a corrupt form of Shan through the Portuguese Siao. the Siamese proper, most civilized of all the Shan peoples, are concentrated chiefly in the Menam basin and in the Malay peninsula as far south as about 8° N. lat., where they are conterminous with the Malay race. They retain in a somewhat modified form all the physlcal traits of the Mongoloid Shans: broad features, high cheek-bones, small nose, slant eyes, black lank hair, beardless face, small stature, olive complexion. Their culture has been developed under Hindu influences, their monosyllabic Indo-Chinese language being largely charged with Sanskrit elements and written in a syllabic alphabet derived through the Pali from Devanagari (q.v.); hence a corrupt form of Buddhism is the prevailing religion. Of the inhabitants of Muang-T'hai ("Land of the Free"), as Siam is officially called, not more than 2,500,000 are Siamese proper, the rest being Laos (Eastern Shans), about 2,000,000; Chinese, 1,500,000; Malays, 1,000,000; Cambojans, 300,000; Burmese, Talaings, Karens, and wild tribes, 700,000; but since the cessions to France in 1893 these figures are said to have heen considerably reduced, and the present population is variously estimated at from 5-12,000,000.