Episode 3.16 – Phetracha & the Tiger King

(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Qing illustration of the Siamese ambassador in the 18th century. Ayutthayan trade reoriented towards China heavily during this period, leading to profound social and economic changes)

The Revolution of 1688 saw the installation of Ayutthaya’s final dynasty, the Ban Phlu Luang. Named for the birthplace of its founder, Phetracha, the dynasty would be condemned by later writers seeking an easy explanation for Ayutthaya’s eventual collapse. As such, its first two kings come across as brutal, cruel tyrants. How much of that is true we cannot say for sure.

Regardless, they oversaw an era of immense change. Commercial activity quickly rebounded after the Revolution – just in a new direction. The Sino-Siamese trade had always been important, but in the 18th century, China became Ayutthaya’s most valued trade partner. The Chinese needed rice, and the Ayutthayans had plenty. Indeed, so lucrative was this trade that the Siamese began to leave the city – clearing land for new farms. Social change accompanied this, breaking down old class relations and forever changing Thai society.

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