KHLONG TAKHIAN
Khlong Takhian (1) is a still existent canal situated south of Ayutthaya's city island,
running mainly through Pak Kran and Khlong Takhian sub-districts. The canal is named
after the Malabar Ironwood, a tree often used for making boats and ship masts.

The canal has its origin at the Chao Phraya River (2) near the
St Joseph Church in the
former
Cochin Chinese settlement and has its mouth further south, back in the Chao
Phraya River
, below the former Portuguese settlement and opposite the northern tip of
Rian Island (Ko Rian).

The southern area of Ayutthaya is shaped by Khlong Takhian and the Chao
Phraya River; and separated into two areas by Khlong Khu Cham. The eastern area was
populated by the Chinese (around Bang Kaja) and Portuguese trading communities along
the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The western area was inhabited by Cochin
Chinese refugees - mostly Christians, while the Malay occupied the southern area. Cham
Muslims from Cambodia and Vietnam settled in between these areas along
Khlong Khu
Cham.

The canal was a man-made shortcut or "khlong lat" between two stretches of the Chao
Phraya River, used by boats to avoid the heavy current of the river and the turbulent
waters near the Bang Kaja confluence.

Opposite the entry of the Takhian canal on Ayutthaya's city island, stood
Pom Wang
Chai
, a small fortress as part of the city defense wall, strategically located in front of the
confluence.

The canal was named by the French "Canal du Grand Cochon" (3), which was translated
by Andrews as the "Great Cochon River" (4). On most of the older Thai maps we will
read Khu Lakhon Chai. Kaempfer indicates on his map another canal named Nam Ja,
running south and having the same origin as Khlong Takhian.

Documents indicate that in the Ayutthayan era, the marine vessel dockyard was located
near the mouth of Khlong Takhian. [1] The dock housed around 30 large
marine warships and 100 more smaller war vessels, all made from Ironwood. The boats
were kept in a roofed boat house with walls containing a row of dry docks along the main
river. The boats were stored with the bow in direction of the main land and the stern
towards the river.

The Thai historian Sujit Wongthet indicates this dockyard opposite Wat Wang Chai
at the former Cochin-Chinese (French) settlement, in fact at the origin of the canal. In my
opinion the marine boathouse should have been situated at the mouth, opposite Rian
Island for tactical as well strategic reasons.
The map of François Valentijn (1724)
mentions "'S Konings werf" or the King's shipyard on the main river and south of the
mouth of Khlong Takhian, opposite Ko Rian. This shipyard was the marine boat house.
The latter resorted under the Phraya Racha Wangsan, the division chief (Chao Krom Asa
Cham), in charge of the Cham volunteers consisting of Muslims of Cham and Malay
descent. [2]

Near the origin of Khlong Takhian was a Chinese Village (5) with many shops in brick
buildings selling more Chinese than Thai goods. Behind the large Khu Lakhon Chai
market was a Chinese Shrine and also four entertainment halls were women presented
acts (Lakhon - theater), including the world's oldest profession. (6) [3]

The area was linked to the city island by a  ferry route between the landing of
Wat Wang
Chai on the city's side across to the landing near Wat Nak at the beginning of Khlong
Takhian.

The Takhian Canal is mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. [4]

Along the left bank of Khlong Takhian from north to south were following sites:
Wat Si
Pho, Wat Mai, Wat Samphao Lom, Wat Khok Jindaram and the Kudi Cho Fa Mosque.
On the right bank were the old
Wat Klang, the new Wat Klang (Khlong Takhian) and
Wat Nak.

We find also a number of new mosques being the Amadiya Mosque, Sunnia Mosque,
Hidayatun Islam Mosque , Yama Lun Islam Mosque on the left bank; the To Ifa Mosque
and the Yami Ul Islam Mosque on the right bank.

Mae Takhian

The Takhian tree is known in Thailand to house a female spirit, known
as
Nang Thakian or Lady Takhian. In the imagination of the people, Lady Takhian
usually takes the form of a beautiful maiden who sometimes makes a wailing and piercing
sound when the tree, her  abode, is felled. Unforeseen and mysterious calamities will
befall the person or persons who destroy her abode. A Takhian tree  growing near the
bank of a river with its roots protruding above  ground is to be avoided, for the spirit of
that tree is fierce. Whoever relieves him/herself near the base of her tree  will suffer from
ulcers. To add to the belief, Takhian trees  are usually found in a monasteries where all
sorts of  ghost stories emanate.  [5]

The origin of the Mae Takhian tale is likely evolving from the massive logging in earlier
times of the Takhian tree to build barges. As written above, this kind of tree is only found
in monasteries today. Outside the monasteries most of the Ironwood had been logged for
business purposes. The ghost story was likely created in order to protect this species of
tree from cutting. A modern version since the 1980's to protect trees from being
cut down is their ordination, involving the ritual of tying the sacred yellow cloth around the
tree.

Footnotes:

(1) Latin Name: Hopea Odorata - Sometimes locally called Mai Khaen or Mai Khaen
Hua. Trade name: Ceylon/Malabar Ironwood. Malabar Ironwood is reputed for its
hardness. It is a strong light and durable timber resistant to termites used for boat building.
(2) Only since the mid 19th century when the Chao Phraya River was deviated to
Ayutthaya; before the Lopburi River.
(3) See
Bellin's map - The French had their own pronunciation of "Khu Cham" (Moat of
the Cham), calling it "cochon" meaning "pig" or "swine". We can derive from the French
that Khlong Takhian was called Khu Cham Yai. What today we call Khlong Khu Cham,
must have been the Khu Cham Noi. Curiously enough, Bellin indicates on his map the
direction of the current in Khlong Takhian towards the main river.
(4) See
Andrews' map.
(5) Likely Cochin-Chinese as this location was their designated area.
(6) Chris Baker suggests that the denomination of the canal as Khun Lakhonchai could
have been derived from the entertainment area at the beginning of Khlong Takhian.

References:

[1] พรรณนาภูมิสถาน พระนครศรีอยุธยา เอกสารจากหอหลวง
(ฉบับความสมบูรฌ์) - Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the
palace - Dr Vinai Pongsripian - Bangkok (2007).
[2] The Shi’ite Muslims in Thailand from Ayutthaya Period to the Present - Julispong
Chularatana.
[3] Before Ayutthaya Fell: Economic Life in an Industrious Society - Markets and
Production in the City of Ayutthaya before 1767:  Translation and Analysis of Part of the
Description of Ayutthaya  - Chris Baker - JSS 99.  
[4] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 46-7 /
Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra
Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - The Hongsawadi Army Invests Ayutthaya.
[5] Some Siamese Superstitions about trees and plants - Phya Anuman Rajadhon - JSS
049.
Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - March 2013
Khlong Takhian
Khlong Takhian on Kaempfer's map - 1727
Khlong Takhian on de La Loubere's map -1691
Mae Takhian shrine at Wat Ban Phat
Ship's mast at Wat Thong Bo
Mae Takhian shrine
(Khlong Takhian)
(Khlong Takhian on de La Loubere's map -1691)
(Khlong Takhian on Kaempfer's map - 1727)
(Mae Takhian shrine at Wat Ban Phat)
(Mae Takhian shrine)
(Ship's mast at Wat Thong Bo)
War junks in the Ratankosin era at Samsen Creek - Bangkok
(War junks in the Ratankosin era at Samsen Creek - Bangkok)