Palm-Leaf Manuscripts of Thailand

Palm leaf manuscripts are an ancient document form that comprises a significant documentary heritage of the Isan people of Northeastern Thailand. These materials contain a vast amount of knowledge that can be classified into eight categories: Buddhism, tradition and beliefs, customary law, economics, traditional medicine, science, liberal arts, and history. Seventy percent of the content recorded in these palm leaf manuscripts consist of Buddhist stories and doctrine; the other 30% record local wisdom in the form of folktales, diaries, poems, ethics, customary law, rites and rituals.

Northeastern Thai palm leaf manuscripts vary in size. A standard palm leaf manuscript is generally 5-6 cm. in width and 50-60 cm. in length with 48 pages (24 leaves written on both sides). Palm leaf manuscripts can be as short as 15 cm. or as long as 80 cm. and can vary as to the number of pages. The people of Isan used the various sizes in different ways: the longer palm leaf manuscripts are used as textbooks to record Buddhist stories and doctrine, while the shorter ones are used as notebooks to record local wisdom related to daily life. The languages used on the palm leaf manuscripts are either local or undergoing shift (Pali, ThaiIsan, Pali-ThaiIsan, Old Thai, and Khmer); in addition, manuscripts are written in four archaic orthographies (ThamIsan, ThaiNoi, Khmer, and Old Thai). Because the length of a palm leaf manuscript is determined by its physical dimensions rather than its content, a single manuscript may record many stories, or a single story may require more than one manuscript. Furthermore, one palm leaf manuscript may be inscribed in various scripts and languages. A one-story palm leaf manuscript might also be inscribed in many literary styles according to the manner in which the inscribers express the story (e.g. outstanding, fine, ordinary, etc.). The oldest palm leaf manuscript available at Khon Kaen University was inscribed in 1794 AD.

In order to preserve both knowledge and the manuscripts themselves, this project is exploring the most suitable method to digitize and organize the palm leaf manuscripts. In providing access to the collection through the web, it also promotes understanding of Isan culture. The Khon Kaen University Palm Leaf Digitization Project is a partnership between The Center for Research on Plurality in the Mekong Region (CERP), Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Office of Culture, Khon Kaen University. This has been an ongoing project since 2004 with funding partly provided by the Southeast Asian Digital Library Project based at Northern Illinois University Libraries.

Munkutjai: Arkhayat (Phuk 4)
No. of Pages: 11; No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan Physical Condition: Missing some pages, This palm leaf is a Pali language text book: Verb Conjugation, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Arratthanatham
No. of Pages: 15 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan This palm leaf is about prayers request for the Dhama., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Winai Song
No. of Pages: 36 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan, This palm leaf is about rule for monk., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Kalakate(Fasicle no 1)
Summary: At Paranasi city King Suriwonge and Queen Kal were succeeded to the throne. King Suriwonge has a magical horse named Maneekab which born to be his vehicle. The king wanted to have a son to inherit the throne form him. For that reason n, he asked for the son from the Intra (king of heaven). Then the Intra gave him a son by commanding the male and female angels reborn in the earth to be a couple. The male angel born to be Prince Lalakate the son of king Suriwong, while the female angel born to be Princess Maneechan, a daughter of King Phi-mon of Phi-mon city. One day the young prince Kalakate went to the stable where the horse Maneegab venue, then he wants to ride a magical horse. When he got on the horse, Maneegab flied him to Himmaphan forest. On the way to the forest, the Kalakate left the message with the couple sparrow and asked them give it to the King Suriwong. He said that he will leave the city for three years. When Prince Kalakate arrived the border of the city of King Phimon (magical ghost) and Queen Maleethong he knew from the villagers that the king have a very beautiful daughter named Princess Malachan. The prince tried to find a chance to meet the princess in the royal flower garden. When they met each other, they fall in love at the first sight. The prince came to see the princess at the night time for long until the king knew. The king wanted to kill the prince. He made a mechanic spear and hided it in the princess. Then, when the prince came to see the prince he was shot by the spear. Before he die, Prince Kalakate told Prince Maneechan do not burn his body but put him on the raft and float on the river. The raft floated against the river to the hermit.s hut. The hermit brought him back to alive, and taught him all subjects and magic. After finishing his study, he went back to Prince Maneechan. He announced the war against King Phimon, and won the battle. Finally, King Phimon allowed them to get married and stay in the throne. The couple stayed here for a while before Prince Kalakate started his journey again. The couple traveled to many cities, and everywhere they visit the king of the city offered them a throne. However, Prince Kalakate did not accept. At the end he came back to Paranasi city and stayed on the throne., No. of Pages: 1184; No. of Fasicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Thamma Thuapai
No. of Pages: 56 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan Physical Condition: Complete, some pages were damaged, This palm leaf is about a Thamma., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Heet Khong, Kalam
No. of Pages: 35 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Thai-Noi Physical Condition: Lost some pages, This palm leaf is about the community regualtion and belief., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Siawsawat (Fasicle Number 5 )
Summary: Siawsawat is a doctrine literature which the content include the main story and short folk tales. There was a millionaire family with two sons name Srisaliaw and Siawsawat. When the two grew up as the young men, the father gave them the houses. Srisaliaw, the elder brother, chose the finished house, while Siawsawat, the younger brother, chose the unfinished house. The father suddenly knew that his younger son, Siawsawat, is a wise man and will be successful in his life. The father taught his sons very well, guided them live their life, follow the custom, be generous, don't be lazy, persevere in studies, don't be a friend with the uncertain people, and believe in the parent words. However, the parent doctrine cannot be equivalent to the teaching of the Lord Buddha. Wise man will not live in the bad environment; because the environment shapes a man. Men should leave in a good place. After the parent passed away, the two brothers kept behaving and follow their parent words. One day, there was junk from Champa city that arrived at the port of their city. Siawsawat asked the merchant to travel with them. The merchant loved him like his son. On the trade way, Siawsawat often had strength questions in the crews' eyes. They thought that Siawsawat was insane. His questions, for example, were, "Is there any stone in the islet?", "Are there any people in the city?", and "Is there any wood in the forest?" When the merchant arrived home, he told his family about Siawsawat and his behavior and his questions. Nang Siwai, a beautiful daughter of the merchant then knew the meaning of Siawsawat's questions. The question "Is there any stone in the islet?" means "Is there any valuable stone in the islet". The question "Are there any people in the city?" means "Is there any wisemen in the city". "Is there any wood in the forest?" means "Is there any valuable wood in the forest". Then, the merchant realized that Siawsawat is a wise man, so he married him to his daughter, Nang Siwan. The king of Champa city, who has a bad virtue, has always thought that somebody wants to kill him. Every night, he orders 500 people to protect him. If anybody falls asleep, he will command a killing of that person and forfeiture of their property. One day, that duty turned to the merchant.s (Siawsawat's father-in-law). He knew that he will be killed by the king like other people who used to be in this duty. Thus, he gave all his properties to his daughter and his son-in-law. But, Siawsawat did not accept. He volunteered to do the duty for his father-in-law. At the palace, while he was on sentry, he was reciting very loud. That made the king change his mind every time he wanted to kill security guard. The next day, he had a chance to meet the king and told him the Buddha teaching through the folk tales reflect his behaviors. The king realized that Siawsawat is a wise man. He changed to have virtues of the king. He appointed Siawsawat to be a great master teaching his citizens. Afterward, Champa city changed to be a peaceful city, where the ruler and the citizens have virtues., No. of Pages: 251; No. of Fasicles: 6 Script: Tham Isan, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Siawsawat (Fasicle Number 4 )
Summary: Siawsawat is a doctrine literature which the content include the main story and short folk tales. There was a millionaire family with two sons name Srisaliaw and Siawsawat. When the two grew up as the young men, the father gave them the houses. Srisaliaw, the elder brother, chose the finished house, while Siawsawat, the younger brother, chose the unfinished house. The father suddenly knew that his younger son, Siawsawat, is a wise man and will be successful in his life. The father taught his sons very well, guided them live their life, follow the custom, be generous, don't be lazy, persevere in studies, don't be a friend with the uncertain people, and believe in the parent words. However, the parent doctrine cannot be equivalent to the teaching of the Lord Buddha. Wise man will not live in the bad environment; because the environment shapes a man. Men should leave in a good place. After the parent passed away, the two brothers kept behaving and follow their parent words. One day, there was junk from Champa city that arrived at the port of their city. Siawsawat asked the merchant to travel with them. The merchant loved him like his son. On the trade way, Siawsawat often had strength questions in the crews' eyes. They thought that Siawsawat was insane. His questions, for example, were, "Is there any stone in the islet?", "Are there any people in the city?", and "Is there any wood in the forest?" When the merchant arrived home, he told his family about Siawsawat and his behavior and his questions. Nang Siwai, a beautiful daughter of the merchant then knew the meaning of Siawsawat's questions. The question "Is there any stone in the islet?" means "Is there any valuable stone in the islet". The question "Are there any people in the city?" means "Is there any wisemen in the city". "Is there any wood in the forest?" means "Is there any valuable wood in the forest". Then, the merchant realized that Siawsawat is a wise man, so he married him to his daughter, Nang Siwan. The king of Champa city, who has a bad virtue, has always thought that somebody wants to kill him. Every night, he orders 500 people to protect him. If anybody falls asleep, he will command a killing of that person and forfeiture of their property. One day, that duty turned to the merchant.s (Siawsawat's father-in-law). He knew that he will be killed by the king like other people who used to be in this duty. Thus, he gave all his properties to his daughter and his son-in-law. But, Siawsawat did not accept. He volunteered to do the duty for his father-in-law. At the palace, while he was on sentry, he was reciting very loud. That made the king change his mind every time he wanted to kill security guard. The next day, he had a chance to meet the king and told him the Buddha teaching through the folk tales reflect his behaviors. The king realized that Siawsawat is a wise man. He changed to have virtues of the king. He appointed Siawsawat to be a great master teaching his citizens. Afterward, Champa city changed to be a peaceful city, where the ruler and the citizens have virtues., No. of Pages: 251; No. of Fasicles: 6 Script: Tham Isan, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Siawsawat (Fasicle Number 1 )
Summary: Siawsawat is a doctrine literature which the content include the main story and short folk tales. There was a millionaire family with two sons name Srisaliaw and Siawsawat. When the two grew up as the young men, the father gave them the houses. Srisaliaw, the elder brother, chose the finished house, while Siawsawat, the younger brother, chose the unfinished house. The father suddenly knew that his younger son, Siawsawat, is a wise man and will be successful in his life. The father taught his sons very well, guided them live their life, follow the custom, be generous, don't be lazy, persevere in studies, don't be a friend with the uncertain people, and believe in the parent words. However, the parent doctrine cannot be equivalent to the teaching of the Lord Buddha. Wise man will not live in the bad environment; because the environment shapes a man. Men should leave in a good place. After the parent passed away, the two brothers kept behaving and follow their parent words. One day, there was junk from Champa city that arrived at the port of their city. Siawsawat asked the merchant to travel with them. The merchant loved him like his son. On the trade way, Siawsawat often had strength questions in the crews' eyes. They thought that Siawsawat was insane. His questions, for example, were, "Is there any stone in the islet?", "Are there any people in the city?", and "Is there any wood in the forest?" When the merchant arrived home, he told his family about Siawsawat and his behavior and his questions. Nang Siwai, a beautiful daughter of the merchant then knew the meaning of Siawsawat's questions. The question "Is there any stone in the islet?" means "Is there any valuable stone in the islet". The question "Are there any people in the city?" means "Is there any wisemen in the city". "Is there any wood in the forest?" means "Is there any valuable wood in the forest". Then, the merchant realized that Siawsawat is a wise man, so he married him to his daughter, Nang Siwan. The king of Champa city, who has a bad virtue, has always thought that somebody wants to kill him. Every night, he orders 500 people to protect him. If anybody falls asleep, he will command a killing of that person and forfeiture of their property. One day, that duty turned to the merchant.s (Siawsawat's father-in-law). He knew that he will be killed by the king like other people who used to be in this duty. Thus, he gave all his properties to his daughter and his son-in-law. But, Siawsawat did not accept. He volunteered to do the duty for his father-in-law. At the palace, while he was on sentry, he was reciting very loud. That made the king change his mind every time he wanted to kill security guard. The next day, he had a chance to meet the king and told him the Buddha teaching through the folk tales reflect his behaviors. The king realized that Siawsawat is a wise man. He changed to have virtues of the king. He appointed Siawsawat to be a great master teaching his citizens. Afterward, Champa city changed to be a peaceful city, where the ruler and the citizens have virtues., No. of Pages: 251; No. of Fasicles: 6 Script: Tham Isan, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Siangjontho (Fasicle Number 4)
Summary: It is a story about a man very lazy man who resumes secular life (the meaning of the word "Siang" in Isan Language). Long time ago, there was a family with seven sons. The youngest son name Thao Alatsa was extremely lazy boy. Therefore, the parent gave him to the monk to be ordained as a Buddhist novice. However, it could not help. In four years the novice could not memorize any word in the doctrine. Every time he tried to memorize the word "Jon Tho wa" he could not continue. Until the year ninth he decided to leave the Buddhist monkhood. From that time he was named Sing Jon-Tho. Then, the monk asked the merchant brought Sing Jon-Tho to travel and learn from him on his junk. One day, while the junk was casted anchor at Takgasila city, Sing Jon-Tho heard from the widow that this city has a wishing gun which the owner can ask for everything. When the Inthra, king of haven, recognized that Sing Jon-Tho want that gun. He helped him to get the gun. Sing Jon-Tho used that wishing gun to requite his parent, the monk, and the merchant. Then he traveled to use that gun helping people in poverty, illness, and dead. Because of his goodness and virtue a village headman gave his daughter, Nang Khamyard, married to him. Since people were happy, Sing Jon-Tho and his wife travel through many adventures and teach everybody observed the five commandments. Until them arrived Pharanasi city, here Sing Jon-Tho was being as a traditional doctor. He had a chance to heal the village headman.s daughter from her deformation. Thus, the village headman gave him his daughter. Sing Jon-Tho now was being a doctor. At Chanthakham city, he had a chance to help two princess recovered from her deformation. Again, the King married him to his daughters. Then, offer him the throne. At the end, Sing Jon-Tho changed the name to Tho Jon-Tho. He stayed on the throne with the king virtue, and the citizen observed the five commandments., No. of Pages: 164; No. of Fasicles: 4 Script: Tham Isan, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
NamgTang-Orn (Fasicle no 5)
Summary: At Nakhonkhiri city, there was a king name Phrayakosri and the queen name Thongdang. They have a son name Thao Mahawong who was very infatuated with cockfighting. One day, he went to a forest with four noblemans to find a new fighting cock. He met a daughter of the great crocodile name Nag Thang-Orn who has a body like human. He married her to be his wife. Later on, Nang Thang-Orn gave birth to baby boy. That time Thoa Mahawong went to the forest to find an elephant. Because of the jealousy of other wives of Thao Mahawong, they alternated the prince with baby crocodile and floated the prince on the river. The angel brought him to look after in haven and named him Suriyong. Back to Thqo Mahawong, when he knew that Nag Thang-Orn gave birth to a baby crocodile he was very angry and droved her out of the city. She went back to her city to stay with her brother, King Khumpha who stayed on the throne after their father. King Khumpha felt pity for his sister. He decided to give the throne to other brother. Then he brought his sister left the city to practice martial art and incantation from the hermit in the forest. He intended to revenge his brother-in-law for his sister. For prince Suriyong, when he grew up he learned and practiced many subjects, and came back to help his mother. He married four ladies Nang Prathumma, Nang Inthawong, Nang Yardkham, and Nang Khamlai. Later, he was a king of Nakhonkhiri city., No. of Pages: 239; No. of Fasicles: 5 Script: Tham Isan, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Prathom Somphot (A16)
No. of Pages: 464 No. of Fascicles: 18 Script: Tham Isan, The life of the Lord Buddha; science the Buddha was born, enlighten, and nirvana -- final release from the round of rebirth., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Baisri Phra Mai
No. of Pages: 54 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan Physical Condition: Some pages are missing, some pages are not clear to read., This palm leaf is about a ceremony to bring in luck to a new monk., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Munkutjai: Arkhayat (Phuk 4)
No. of Pages: 60; No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Khmer Physical Condition: Complete, This palm leaf is a Pali language text book: Verb Conjugation, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.
Prawinai
No. of Pages: 34 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan Physical Condition: Complete, some pages were damaged, This palm leaf describes rules for monks; Smaller Section, Mahawak, Pajittee, This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006.