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.

KhunThung (Fasicle Number 1)
Summary: Khun Thueng is a king of Chiang-Nguem city, has a queen name Budsadee. While he was traveling by himself in the forest for two months he fell in love with the great naga.s daughter. He levied with her in naga city for two years. Before he left the naga.s daugther to get back his own city; she gave him their son, named Khun Thung. However, his wife, queen Budsadee, did not like his son. So, Khun Thueng brought his son to the forest and asked the angle look after his son. One year later the brought his son back. When Khun Thung grew up, he would like to see his mother, so he asked his father to visit his naga mother. After stay with mother and grandparents for long time, he would like to get back to Chiang-Nguem city. Before he left the naga city, his grandfather gave him three magical stuffs; coppered pot, sword, and scythe. He asked his mother how to use these magical stuffs. She said, he could wished for everything from the coppered pot, the sword used as a weapon, and the scythe he need to drag on the ground and keep walking until the scythe hooked something. When he reached the large river the scythe was stuck. He decided to stay a night on the river bank. When he got up in the morning, he found this area was changed to be a big city. He named this city Sri-sut-ta-na-kha-na-hut. Then, he knocked on the coppered pot and prayed he got two beautiful ladies from the pot. He married them to be his queens. He succeeded to the throne for a while. Again he would like to travel in the forest. On the fifteen day he reached the Himmaparn forest.the magical place. He met the gibbon, she disguised as a beautiful lady. He fell in love with her, and stayed together for three years. They had a son, named Um-kha. Later, Khun Thung went back to Sri-sut-ta-na-kha-na-hut city with his so. And he promised that he will be back to brought his gibbon wife to stay together in the city. However, he never did it., No. of Pages: 52; 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.
NamgTang-Orn (Fasicle no 3)
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.
Sut Mon
No. of Pages: 80 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan Physical Condition: Lost some pages., This palm leaf is about a prayer in Pali language., 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 (A10)
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.
Prathom Somphot (A14)
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.
Prathom Somphot (A5)
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.
Prathom Somphot (A7)
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.
Bot Sutkhwan
No. of Pages: 50 No. of Fascicles: 1 Script: Tham Isan Physical Condition: Lost some pages., This palm leaf is about a ceremony to bring in luck to people who participate., 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.
Naphang Klai Kadon (Fasicle no 1)
Summary: The story is telling about the separated of the Inthra's forehead and occipital because of his Karma. On the day that he died from the heaven he was killed by Phrayathan; his body, forehead and occipital were separated and thrown to the earth. Even Queen Chada tried many ways to bring her husband back to alive; however it was not succeeded because of his karma. Finally, Thaw Wetsuwan (the king of hell) brought the head of died monk to put on the body of the Inthra to made him alive. After, the renewed the Inthra and Queen Chada were back to the heaven. The forehead of the Inthra reborn in the womb of Nang Phimpa who is a daughter of Phraya Kam Lan the king of Cammoon city. Phraya Kam Lan named the prince Chankumar, but the prince did not accept that name. He cried until the grandfather named him Naphark (forehead). The boy always asked for the Kadon (occipital), that made people thought that he was insane. Later on, decided to runaway from home to look for Kadon. The Inthra gave him a wishing crystal to protect him. When he arrived Phasamang city he had a chance to help the king form the giant. Therefore, the king gave his daughter in marriage to Naphak. The giant was very angry; he declared war on Phasamang city. Naphak won this war and then he was appointed to be a king who has virtues. The occipital of the Inthra reborn in the womb of Nang Kongkaew who is a queen of Phraya Ratcharatsa the king of Cammoon city. He named Kadon. When he grew up, the prince always asked for Naphak. People thought that he was insane decided to runaway from home to look for Naphak. This time the Inthra gave him a magical horse. He traveled to Yangdang city. He had a chanced to help the poor family which being exploited by the millionaire. When the king know about his story and realized his brave, smart, and virtue, he offered the city to Kadon. He stayed on the throne for a while before he gave it to Thao Kam Klom, a brother in the poor family. Then, he started his journey again to fine Naphak. At the city of Phraya Phabang, his son was deeply in love with Nag Sumontha the daughter of Phraya Kaosri. However, he did not allow them to get married. Be said that his son-in-law must be a great guy who is brave, smart, and virtue. Phraya Phabang realized the fame of Kadon. Therefore, he invited Kadon to teach his son. Later on, the lover got married by the assistant of Kadon. Back to the Inthra, after he back to heaven with Queen Chada, they stayed on the throne until it was their time to die from heaven. They were reborn as a couple on the earth. The Inthra want to meet Napak and Kadon. However, when Naphak and Kadon were met, they die immediately. Queen Chada brought them back by nectar. The three king stay on the same throne for a while before they agree to be single. They asked Thao Wetsuwan to help. The step started with brining the spirits from the body, and then took the head of monk from the Inthra's body. After that, he put the body in a wishing pond. Finally, he put the spirits back into the new body. Thus, the Inthra was reborn in a new body. Queen Chada gave birth to two princes, Prince Phromsan and Prince Phromsri. When they grew up, Prince Phromsri who has a supernatural power wanted to kill Phrayathan for his father. Even his father wanted him to stop. But, he did not listen. Prince Phromsri went to's place to fight with him. The new reform Inthra won Phrayathan, and married Phrayathan seven daughters. Then they back to Pharanasri city to be a new Intra. He atsyed on the throne of heaven until it was his time to die from heaven., No. of Pages: 60; 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.
Siawsawat (Fasicle Number 6 )
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 2)
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 2)
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.
NamgTang-Orn (Fasicle no 1)
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 (A13)
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.
Prathom Somphot (A11)
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.