Samut Thai Khao/Dam: The Oldest Text on Rue-si Dat Ton
[ Rue-si Dat Ton ]
Samut Thai Khao/Dam: The Oldest Text on Rue-si Dat Ton
Over the ages, the knowledge of Rue-si Dat Ton has been traditionally passed down from one Ruesi to another verbally and through physical demonstration. As a result, finding textual information on Rue-si Dat Ton is not easy. The Samut Thai Khao/Dam is the oldest known text on the subject of Rue-si Dat Ton. It is an 1838 manuscript officially titled Samut Roob Rue-si Dat Ton Gae Roak Tarng Tarng Paed Sib Roob which translates to English as ‘The Poem Picture Book of Rue-si Performing Eighty Posture Exercises to Cure Various Ailments.‘
This Text was commissioned by King Rama III as part of his effort to restore & preserve the ancient knowledge and culture of Thailand. After having all of the 80+ Rue-si Dat Ton statues remade in a stronger material, he assembled a team to create poems and illustrations that describe each technique. In fact, he himself was a part of the team which included about 35 other people made up of royalty, monks, artists, celebrities, and commoners. In short, this Samut Thai Dam/Khao (explained below) is the resulting compilation of these drawings and poems.
Why Is It Called Samut Thai Khao/Dam?
This particular Text is often referred to as the Samut Thai Khao. However, that title is very ambiguous because Samut Thai Khao in the Thai language simply means ‘white Thai book.’ In fact, any book of this style written on the same paper is also Samut Thai Khao. In addition to the Khao (white, natural) version, there is also a Dam (black, dyed) version. The two types are both Samut Khoi, manuscripts made from the bark of the Khoi tree (aka Siamese Rough Bush) which is a species native to Southeast Asia.
Paper made from Khoi bark has been used for over 700 years in Thailand because of both it’s availability and durability. Khoi paper is able to withstand the constant high humidity, doesn’t yellow easily, doesn’t burn easily, and is bug resistant. These manuscripts aren’t like the traditional western style books we’re most familiar with. Instead of being bound, they are folded in an accordion style method.
The Contents of the Samut Thai Khao/Dam
Each page of the text features a storybook-like drawing of a Rue-si, or hermit/ascetic, performing a self-stretching technique. Accompanying every illustration is a poem that describes the technique and tells the story. As is common with poetry, the meaning of the words can be obscure to say the least. Just as mentioned above these poems were written by not one, but multiple authors from varying levels of society. King Rama III composed 6 of the 80 poems – numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 58. His decision to include people from various walks of life is a noble cause indeed. However, the resulting effect on accuracy & consistency may not have been for the best. For instance, it’s still unclear whether or not the authors really knew how to perform the techniques themselves.
A Sample Page From the Samut Thai Dam
A Creative Work of Art
In conclusion, the Samut Thai Khao/Dam of Rue-si Dat Ton is an astounding national treasure. That being said, it’s more like a creative work of art than an instructional guide to RDT. A person cannot simply open it up and easily begin following the steps to learn each technique. Consequently, it has taken an awful lot of effort by countless people to decode the mysteries that lie within its pages. Organizations like the Watpo Thai Traditional Medical School have worked diligently to make this knowledge accessible to the general public.
Experiencing the Samut Thai Dam
If you are a Rue-si Dat Ton enthusiast, I highly recommend exploring the Samut Thai Dam first hand. It was an experience that I’ll treasure forever. I’m extremely grateful to the Thai National Library for allowing us to have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the precious substance of this rare and delicate manuscript.
Accessing the Samut Thai Dam
The Samut Thai Dam is located at the National Library of Thailand. It can be found in the ancient manuscripts department on the 4th floor of the back building. You need special permission to view it and must make an appointment in advance. White gloves are provided for handling the manuscript as well as a thin, flat wooden stick used for turning the folding pages. Taking pictures is explicitly prohibited.
Note that foreigners aren’t permitted to see it without express permission from the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT). They can be contacted at:
National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT)
Division of International Affairs
International Policy and Research Development Section
Tel: 0 2561 2445 ext 206
0 2940 6369
Email: [email protected]
Please be advised – it takes time to write the permission request letter with proper formality and go through the bureaucracy of the government. One should call first to verify the name and updated contact details of whom to address in the letter.
Our mission is to seek out and gather all knowledge pertaining to Rue-si Dat Ton from legitimate sources far and wide. We plan to consolidate and refine the information, address the extinction issues stated on our website, and put it into digital form. This ensures not only that it will be preserved, but that its healing wisdom will be accessible around the world. We aim to fulfill the dreams of Kings. We greatly appreciate any and all support in this seemingly impossible quest that has been riddled with complications throughout the centuries. Thank You.
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