A History of Love: Three Thai Literary Classics and their Human Messages Today … and Fifty Jātaka. A Talk by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker


Image: Suthon crosses the caustic river on a giant python, from the ordination hall of Wat Suthat, photo courtesy of Peerapat Sumran


This talk looks at the many meanings of love in three Thai literary classics spread over several centuries—Suthon-Manora, an old quest story in a jātaka tale; Lilit Phra Lo, a romantic tragedy from around 1500; and the folk epic, Khun Chang Khun Phaen. Each of these works has a boy-girl story, but also something more, with relevance to the world today. This talk was delivered as part of receiving the Fukuoka Grand Prize in 2017.

Suthon-Manora appears among the “Fifty Jātaka,” the birth-stories of the Buddha that appeared in Southeast Asia rather than India. Once considered minor or “apocryphal,” these tales are now hailed as the “lifeblood” of the region’s literature. From the Fifty Jātaka: Selections from the Thai Paññāsa Jātaka contains 21 of these tales, translated to English for the first time, including some of Thailand’s best-known and best-loved stories such as Suthon-Manora, the Golden Conch (Sangtong), Prince Pacitta, the Golden Turtle, and Rotasen (Twelve Sisters). The book is launched at this event and available at a special price.

Dr Pasuk Phongpaichit is emeritus professor of political economy at Chulalongkorn University.
Dr Chris Baker is a historian and honorary editor of the Journal of the Siam Society. Together they have written A History of Thailand, A History of Ayutthaya, and Thaksin, edited Unequal Thailand, and translated Khun Chang Khun Phaen, Yuan Phai: The Defeat of Lanna, and other literary and academic works.

Date: Thursday, 27 June 2019
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am. – 5:00pm.

The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.