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Buddhist Bilingualism: Pali-Vernacular Sermons, Exegesis, and Literature in Early Modern Thailand

Saturday April 30th 2022, 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Event Sponsor
The Ho Center for Buddhist Studies

T. T. & W. F. Chao Conferences and Workshops


Virtual event.


This event is free and open to the public. 

Register and a Zoom link will be sent automatically after registration.


Many of the manuscripts circulated between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries in Theravada temples in the kingdom of Siam (today’s central Thailand) are bilingual, with portions in Pali mixed together with portions in vernacular Thai. Carved on palm-leaf and inked on bark-paper manuscripts, such Pali-Thai bilingual compositions or bitexts challenge the boundaries between Indic and vernacular worlds. This workshop brings together dynamic new work by young scholars of Thai Buddhism and literature who are opening new doors to the study of these works and their place in early modern Siamese Buddhist culture. Panelists will focus on short passages to reveal some of the many aesthetic and doctrinal layers at work in bilingual sermons, exegetical treatises, and Buddhist court literature from the Ayutthaya and early Rattanakosin eras. What does the interaction between Pali and Thai in these bitexts teach us about the nature of Buddhist translation writ large? How might we place these Siamese innovations in a broader regional context? What is “Buddhist” about the specific modes of textuality and bilingualism displayed in this material?


     Trent Walker, The HCBSS Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University


     Assanee Poolrak, PhD, Chulalongkorn University.

     Jiaranai Vithidkul, PhD, Chulalongkorn University.

     Tossaphon Sripum, PhD, Silpakorn University.


Workshop schedule (times approximate and subject to change)


9am PDT / 11pm Thailand

Welcome and introductory remarks by Trent Walker, HCBSS


9:20am PDT / 11:20pm Thailand

Assanee Poolrak on “On ‘Bitextualizing’ Thetsana Rueang Nithan Mikathura

Q&A with Assanee Poolrak, Chulalongkorn University

10:00am PDT / 12am Thailand

Jiaranai Vithidkul on “Siamese Pali Language in Mahāyuddhakāravaṃsa

Q&A with Jiaranai Vithidkul, Chulalongkorn University


10:40am PDT / 12:40am Thailand

Tossaphon Sripum on “Functions of Pali Gāthā and the Interplay between Textuality and Orality in Thet Mahachat”

Q&A with Tossaphon Sripum, Silpakorn University


11:20am PDT / 1:20am Thailand

General discussion, moderated by Trent Walker, HCBSS


Assanee Poolrak

Assanee Poolrak holds a PhD in Thai literature from Chulalongkorn University. His dissertation, “Expressions in Thai Literature in Relation to Expressions in Pali and Sanskrit Literature” (in Thai), offered the first detailed analysis of the many Pali and Sanskrit loan translations found in Thai language and literature. He has been working as a lecturer in the Department of Thai, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University since 2018. His research interests include Thai literature translated and adapted from Pali and Sanskrit, especially Pali-Thai literary bitexts and literary stylistics. His current project engages the Thai literary adaptation of Indic tales about the demonic spirits known as vetāla.   


Jiaranai Vithidkul

Jiaranai Vithidkul earned her PhD in Pali-Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies at Chulalongkorn University. Her Thai-language dissertation focused on an extremely rare and little-studied Pali historical chronicle from early nineteenth-century Siam, the Mahāyuddhakāravaṃsa, itself based on the Rājādhirāj chronicle more widely transmitted in Burmese, Mon, and Thai. She is currently a Lecturer in the South Asian Languages Section, Department of Eastern Languages, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, where her research interests include Buddhist manuscripts in Thailand, Siamese-inflected forms of the Pali language, and the role of Indian mythology in Thai culture.



Tossaphon Sripum

Tossaphon Sripum completed his PhD at Chulalongkorn University from the Department of Thai, Faculty of Arts. His dissertation, “Bot lae thet mahachat in Contemporary Thai Society: Roles and Significance as Ritual Literature” (in Thai), concerned the melodic recitation of local, vernacular-language episodes of the Vessantara Jātaka in modern-day Thailand. He was recently appointed a Lecturer in the Department of Thai, Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University. Topics explored in his current research include the dynamic interactions between ritual and literature, the changing nature of oral traditions, and sensory studies of folklore and literary texts. 



Trent Walker is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies and a Lecturer in Religious Studies at Stanford. He is the author of Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia and the co-editor of Out of the Shadows of Angkor: Cambodian Poetry, Prose, and Performance through the Ages, both forthcoming in 2022. His current book project, tentatively titled “Classical Reading, Vernacular Writing: A Bitextual History of Southeast Asian Buddhism, 1450–1850,” argues that a distinct mode of translation was the core intellectual and literary activity in early modern Theravāda Buddhist cultures. Recent publications include articles on Khmer inscriptions, Pali-Thai bitexts, and translation practices  in southern Vietnam. He holds a BA in Religious Studies from Stanford and PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.