Perhaps the greatest king of the Chakri dynasty, Chulalongkorn (1868–1910) carried on the modernization of Siam that his father, Mongkut, had started. Financial reforms were made, the government restructured, and slavery abolished. Reform angered older ministers, the “conservatives” (hua boran), and led to the Front Palace Crisis of 1875. This was also a time when Britain and France were consoli dating their positions in Southeast Asia. Chulalongkorn’s policies and diplomacy kept the colonial powers at bay, though parts of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and the Malay states were ceded to them.
Chulalongkorn (Rama V) came to the throne, under the guidance of a regent, at the age of 15. He had received an excellent Thai and Western education and was well qualified for the task of reforming Siam.
Life on the Khlongs
At the end of the 19th century, and into the 20th, Bangkok was known as the “Venice of the East”
Classical Dancers at Court
Many Siamese traditions, among them classical dance, remained unchanged. Scenes such as this were often recorded with the aid of new technology – photography
In an attempt to consolidate her hold over Indochina, in 1893 France asserted sovereignty over Siamese-controlled Laos. This cartoon shows a French “wolf” hungrily assessing a Siamese “lamb.
Cremation of Chulalongkorn
Chulalongkorn’s cremation, held in Bangkok in 1910, was a grand state affair. As a great reformer, he was idealized by his subjects, and even today the people of Thailand commemorate his death on Chulalongkorn Day
Chulalongkorn promoted many new ideas; cars appeared in Bangkok at the beginning of the 20th century.
Where to See Late Chakri Thailand
During the latter part of the 19th century there was little change in the basic style of religious buildings. Chulalongkorn, however, left his mark on some buildings in Bangkok. Wat Benchamabo phit employs an eclectic mixture of Chinese, Italian, and Khmer styles, while Wat Rachabophit displays traditional Thai and Western motifs.