Traditional Thai Medicine

By: Chris Roundy, Mamta Chaudhari, and DeAnna Castro

History shows that Thai people have been using herbal medicines for healthcare since before 1238 AD (Chokevivat 2005). The principle concern of Buddhism, the main religion of Thailand, is eliminating suffering, which coincides with the values of medicinal practice well (Hughes 1995). Thai traditional medicine is the compilation of Buddhists principles, cultural medicinal practices, and traditional philosophies  (Chokevivat 2005).

Buddhism has a great influence upon Thai traditional medicine and many principles are used for medical analysis. Written in texts formerly used by royal physicians at Thai court, illnesses are categorized through krasais, which describe symptoms of the body (Bamber 1987). Number symbolism is another contribution from Buddhism. There are 108 different krasais such as “wind”, “fire” and “blood”. The number 108 comes from Buddhist origins. Bamber (1987) suggests that the number 108 is more like a metaphor to suggest that there are many different krasais. In the royal texts, there are 26 krasais described broken into categories containing 8 and 18 krasais. The number 8 appears frequently in Buddhism, for example in the Noble eight-fold path and in Ayurvedic medicine there are 8 divisions of illness that was also adopted by Buddhism (Bamber 1987).

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History of Buddhism in Thailand

By: Jane Dahle and Rob Caesar

The development of Buddhism in Thailand has a long history. In order to go into detail about its history, it is necessary to divide it into three different key periods of time, all which have greatly influenced this religion and the spiritual founder Siddhartha Gautama. These three time periods that we will look at include: Theravada, from the Asoka period; the Mahayana period; and finally, the Theravada from Sri Lanka. Siddhartha Gautama’s life accounted for his life discoveries, monastic rules practiced, and path to enlightenment, which is followed by current Buddhists.

First, we will look into the period were Buddhism first started in Thailand during the Theravada from Asoka’s period. Buddhism was introduced and established by King Asoka in Patalilbutta City during the 3rd century B.C. King Asoka sent monks out of the country to follow and learn about Buddha’s teachings. While other monks were learning the ways of Buddha, two monks stayed behind in Thailand to teach people there. During this period, the first signs of Buddhism were seen in Thailand and became very prevalent.

Since the introduction of Buddhism in Thailand, it became noticeable that these beliefs also started to spread to other areas of Asia during the Mahayana period. King Kanitsaka the Great had the intention of spreading Buddha’s teachings farther than just his kingdoms. He began to send groups of monks throughout Central Asia in order to help spread the word. Once Mahayana’s Buddhism expanded into Thailand, it became widely accepted by the people.  Mahayana’s Buddhism spread from the southern regions, to the north via the central areas of the country. This created a large multicultural society, with different dialects that still, today, inhabit the Thai language. The spread of the beliefs of Buddhism had officially begun in Thailand.

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The History of the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms

By: Victoria Valencia and Elinor Coleman

Thai history is said to have began in 1238, when the Sukhothai kingdom was established. The Sukhothai kingdom, which contributed major architectural structures, was a loosely organized state in which Buddhism and the government were intertwined. However, the kingdom was short-lived. It fell apart after the death of its most famous ruler, king Ramakhamphaeng. After its fall, the cities of Lopburi and Suphanburi united, creating the Ayutthaya kingdom. This kingdom, which flourished in international trade and diplomatic relations, lasted for over four centuries. Its success can be attributed to the great organizational skills of its leaders as well as the benefits of its geographical location. Unfortunately, these alliances with foreign nations led to conflict within Ayutthaya and an eventual revolt. Less than a century later, Burmese forces invaded and overthrew Ayutthaya’s government, thereby ending the great reign of the Ayutthaya kingdom.

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An Escape Along the Thai Border: Burmese Refugees

By: Siri Wieringa and Kaylene Moulton

Burma is home to one of the longest running secret civil wars in the world. Lasting over 50 years, the country has been run by a succession of military governments (Bowles, 11). The violence that has been tearing Burma apart has caused citizens to flee the country. “Nearly one million people have fled Burma for relative safety of Thailand over the last two decades” (Lang, 369). Many go to refugee camps along the border of Burma in Thailand. “At the beginning of 1994, 72,000 refugees lived in 30 camps, of which the largest housed 8,000 people; by mid 1998, 110,000 refugees lived in 19 camps, with the largest housing over 30,000 people” (Bowles, 11). Refugee camps along the Burmese and Thailand border have become more and more prevent as the years have gone on. “About 142, 000 Burmese refugees reside as a ‘temporarily displaced people’ in one of the nine official refugee camps, while an estimated two million live and work outside the camp, either legally registered as migrant workers or more likely illegally”(284).

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The Buddhist Way of Life

By: Alexandra Guinney and Tamer Begum

With over 360 million followers Buddhism is one of the world’s largest religions. It was founded in Northeastern India in 520 BC by a young prince named Siddharta Guatama. Buddhism is a religion and an applied philosophy. The faith does not endorse the existence of a soul, nor does it endorse that worldly things are permanent or the existence of worldly happiness. It goes by following the middle path which is a balance between every aspect of life.

Buddhism is a guide towards eliminating suffering through the eight-fold path that is guided by the four noble truths and the five main moral codes. The purpose for this essay is to describe the ways in which Buddhists play out their everyday lives, the steps to take towards achieving enlightenment, and ways in which we can apply this belief to our daily life and travels.

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Aquaculture in Thailand: Economic Pressures versus Ecological Health

By: Carson Chambers and Alexa Ferdig

Fringed with rich aquatic biodiversity both along shores and inland fresh waterways, Thailand’s marine life plays an integral role in Thai society.  The farming of marine species including shrimp, prawns, muscles, finfish and cockles is a major aspect to the economy and culture of Thailand.  Salt water (brackish) aquaculture accounts for approximately $1.46 billion of Thailand’s global exports and creates 662,000 jobs (Pongsri, C., & Sukumasavin, N., 2005). Freshwater aquaculture provides vast amounts of food for the local population and contributes to ancient customs and traditional cuisine.

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Mechai Viravaidya: The Condom King

By: Nathan Calies and Lindsey Dunlap

Mechai Viravaidya was born in Thailand to a Scottish mother and a Thai father both of whom were doctors. He is one of four children, with his younger brother, Sunya, the founder of the Pattaya International Hospital and one of his two sisters, Sumalee, was formerly a journalist in Bangkok. As of now, he is married to Thanphuying Putrie Viravaidya. Mechai also has two grandchildren, Mek and Mok, who both sponsor a village in Northeastern Thailand through the Village Development Partnership (VDP) (Activities Implemented by Mechai Viravaidya, 2011).

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Thai Phrasebooks

The Thai language is a unique language, only spoken in Thailand and not closely related to any other language with the exception of Lao. It has some unique grammar, 5 tones, and a very unique alphabet, making it a very difficult language to learn for Westerners. What gets me are the tones. You can say they same sound in 5 different tones, and they can mean 5 completely different things. And tones are subtle to us Westerners. A subtle raising of the tone to emphasize a point in English can alter the entire meaning of a sentence in Thai.

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Thailand Travel Guide Books

Before you go this summer, do yourself a favor and get a guidebook.  And peruse it before you go.  They have lots of suggestions and recommendations, and if they are from a good guidebook, they are typically spot on.  And the sections on culture, history, arts, etiquette, geography, weather, etc. are invaluable.

There are a ton of guidebooks, from a variety of publishers, including FodorsRough GuideMoon, and a host of smaller publishers.  I am partial to Lonely Planet.  The audience that they write for seems to be spot on with the type of travel I enjoy (going on a budget, exploring on our own, independent of tourguides and tour companies, going to out-of-the-way places where typical tourists are scarce, using local transportation, etc).  Fodors seems to be targeting a more upscale traveller, and Rough Guides seems to target the backpacker crowd.  Lonely Planet seems to be in a nice medium.  (By the way, these websites have a LOT of good information for travellers, so they are definitely worth perusing.)

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