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The Diary of Kosa Pan (Thai Ambassador to France. June-July 1686), translated into English by Visudh Busayakul, introduced and annotated by Dirk Van der Cruysse, and edited by Michael Smithies

Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2002, 76 p.
Frédéric Maurel
p. 373-374
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The Diary of Kosa Pan (Thai Ambassador to France. June-July 1686), translated into English by Visudh Busayakul, introduced and annotated by Dirk Van der Cruysse, and edited by Michael Smithies, Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2002, 76 p.

Texte intégral

1As the title suggests, this account from Kosa Pan’s journal describes the first visit to France in 1686 by a full Siamese embassy. The author of this journal, Okphra Wisut Sunthorn, alias Kosa Pan, was the ratchathut (first ambassador) of that embassy, and later (1688) became phra khlang (minister in charge of the royal stores, ports, and relations with foreigners) under King Phetracha, after the death of King Narai (July 1688). Besides this first ambassador, the embassy was composed of the uppathut (second ambassador), Okluang Kanlaya Ratchamaitri (an experienced diplomat who had taken part in several missions to China), and the trithut (third ambasador), Okkhun Siwisan Wacha (a thirty-year-old diplomat). In addition, there were a lot of attendants in their service: eight khunnang (nobles with conferred rank), some khunmun (mandarins of lower rank, serving as secretaries), numerous servants, and twelve young Siamese who were to study the French language, as well as the country’s arts and crafts.

2As far as can be ascertained, this text is a fragment of Kosa Pan’s journal, apparently all that survives of a massive report on the activities of this embassy. It had been deposited at the AME (Archives des Missions Etrangères) in Paris by one missionary and, afterwards, coded as ‘Volume 1081’ by an archivist of the AME. Later, in the early 1980s, Mom Luang Manich Jumsai, a member of the Royal Institute, learnt of the existence of this journal and obtained a photocopy. His Chalermnit Bookstore produced a facsimile edition, in reduced format, entitled The Original Report of Kosa Pan Drafted and Left in France (1984). This text went to the National Library in Bangkok, to be transcribed into modern written form and published by philologists. This transliteration was published in January 1985 in the Silpakorn Journal (XXVI.6), with a short foreword by Kongkaew Viraprachaksa.

3The diary starts on Thursday 20 June (or more exactly Wednesday 19) and stops on Thursday 4 July, five days before the departure of the Siamese ambassadors for Paris and Versailles via the Loire valley. It consists mainly of short descriptions of French customs and manners that the narrator could witness in Brest, and information about the spirit behind the diplomatic activities between Siamese and French officials. The addressee of this diary was probably Phra Narai, the King of Siam, who wanted to know the most minute details of Kosa Pan’s voyage and stay in France.

4The book is divided into four parts. The first part (p. 1-26) is a general “Introduction,” stating the nature of the manuscript and the historical context. It is graced with reproductions of the main protagonists of this embassy and a map showing the places visited by the Siamese ambassadors. The second part (p. 27-29) is a “Translator’s Note,” detailing how the translator identified obscure proper names and decoded difficult occurrences. The third part (p. 31-75) is the translation into English of the Diary of Kosa Pan, accompanied by a substantial critical apparatus of 167 footnotes, which enables the authors of the book to display a vast amount of scholarly detail and learning in the interpretation of this sometimes problematic text. The last part (p. 75-76) is an “Appendix on the Thai Calendar.”

5This serious work was elaborated by a Western-Thai team, composed of three scholars: Visudh Busayakul, the author of the original translation into English; Dirk Van der Cruysse (University of Antwerp), who has introduced and annotated the translation; and Michael Smithies (former editor of the Journal of the Siam Society), who edited all the text in English.

6From an historiographical viewpoint, this text is warmly welcome to renew the ‘Eurocentric view’ on this period. Indeed, scholars do not really have sources in Thai about this Siamese embassy—except the manuscript (coded 317) discovered by Predee Phisphumvidhi at the Oriental Manuscripts Depart-ment (Division des Manuscrits orientaux) of the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, entitled Ton Thang Farangset (“The Way to France”) and written in Siamese between 1686 and 1687 by one of the Siamese ambassadors or one of the secretaries of this embassy. So, in order to reconstruct the astonishing flurry of diplomatic exchange between France and Siam during this period, it can be said that this diary can fill in the gap.

7In conclusion, this edition of this manuscript ought to be the standard point of reference for all future scholarship in this domain and, therefore, it is to be highly recommended to all historians working on this period.

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Référence papier

Frédéric Maurel, « The Diary of Kosa Pan (Thai Ambassador to France. June-July 1686), translated into English by Visudh Busayakul, introduced and annotated by Dirk Van der Cruysse, and edited by Michael Smithies », Moussons, 9-10 | 2006, 373-374.

Référence électronique

Frédéric Maurel, « The Diary of Kosa Pan (Thai Ambassador to France. June-July 1686), translated into English by Visudh Busayakul, introduced and annotated by Dirk Van der Cruysse, and edited by Michael Smithies », Moussons [En ligne], 9-10 | 2006, mis en ligne le 18 janvier 2013, consulté le 17 août 2017. URL : http://moussons.revues.org/1939

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Frédéric Maurel

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Les contenus de la revue Moussons sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d’Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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