To Arms, Part 2
Weapons, in polite circles, were usually referred to as "items with which to defend oneself". Initially this was perhaps the case against wild animals or predators which could do one harm however, it was soon apparent that weapons were equally useful for attack as well as defense. In man's ongoing quest for goods, land and power the possession of weapons took on a more important role than for mere defense. Weapons also had to be effective and that meant the latest designs in available weapon technology because, by having the latest, one would not be totally subject ot the whims of an aggressive neighbor. Being in possession of the latest weaponry also meant that a balance of power was maintained between neighbor. At least, that was the theory!
Thailand wa little different from other countries and fully aware of the qualities of Damascus and Toledo steel. Japanese manufactured swords were renowned throughout Asia and were traded with the ancient Kingdom of Siam. Cannons were introduced during the 1500's (which caused devastation to the walls of old Chiangmai) and, in fact, Siam employed both Portuguese and Japanese mercenaries in an effort to ward off Burmese aggression.
Collections of ancient Siamese/Thai weapons can be seen at the Chiangmai National Museum and at the Wang Derm Palace/Wichaiplasit Fort in Bangkok. The latter was built during the days of King Narai and is still used by the Royal Thai Navy as a saluting base when cannons are fired during important ceremonials. Some of the weapons on display include:
Chopping and Thrusting Blades, Throwing Javelins
Laen (Javelins) :- were light weapons similar to the Horg and used for throwing.
Tuan :- A light spear with a slim, fluted, arrow shaped head and a slender 6-foot shaft. Usually decorated with tassels of fabric and beads where the head joins the shaft, the spear was mostly used by cavalry soldiers.
Laow (wooden javelins) :- were even lighter than Laen due to the entire spear being made of bamboo or wood. Its long wooden shaft with a sharp and pointed head was used for thrusting and woundig the opponent.
Towmorn :- Also a thrusting or throwing weapon of similar size to the Tuan, however, this has two tines and is also used from horseback. A further variation to this weapon is the Treesoon which features a trident head.
Ngow :- A formidable weapon featuring a long curved blade affixed atop a 5-foot shaft. The weapon was used for both thrusting and slashing, so foot soldiers would use it to disable an elephant by stabbing at its under-belly. A variation is the Khor Ngow , which has the addition of a hook at the headpiece and was used by soldiers riding battle elephants. The hook was used to control the elephant (a modern day mahout still uses a metal hook to control his elephant.
See related articles (Siamese Weapons):
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