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Introducing the library at the EFEO Center Chiang Mai
Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai (15.11.2013)

In the connection of the 368th Informal Northern Thai Group (INTG) Meeting on the evening of November 12, 2013, a talk and presentation by Yves Goudineau and Louis Gabaude introduced the remarkable new library building and its valuable collection of some 50,000 books at the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient (EFEO) in Chiang Mai.

Usually, the INTG meets once in a month since December 1984 and offers talks that will contribute to a better understanding of the region’s cultural heritage and continuing development, extending to Thailand as a whole and Southeast Asia. Normally, the group meets at the Alliance Francaise on Charoen Prathet Road just opposite the EFEO.

During the latest entertaining talk at the EFEO it was revealed that the EFEO or French Research School of the Far East started with its headquarters in Ha Noi in early 1900 with the objective from the outset to engage in archaeological exploration, the collection of manuscripts, and the conservation of monuments, as well as the study of the languages of the regions which then formed French Indochina. At the same time, the school aimed more broadly to contribute to the historical study of all Asian civilizations, from India to Japan.

In the wake of war and revolution in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, the EFEO had to leave Ha Noi in 1957 and Cambodia in 1972 to move its headquarters to Paris, France. Beside the already established centers at Pondicherry and Poona in India, a new EFEO Center was founded in Thailand’s Chiang Mai in 1977, when French researcher Francois Bizot arrived in town to build a solid teakwood house on the grounds of the former French consulate. What follows became history.

From his time as supervisor of the EFEO Center Chiang Mai during 1980-2007, French scholar Louis Gabaude focused his research on the history of Thai Buddhism and the impact that the current modernization of Thailand is having on the religion. Actually, it was his personal bibliotheque sold, to become now the main stock of books in the new library building.

Louis Gabaude was then followed by Jacques Leider from 2008-2012 with research on Myanmar and now by Yves Goudineau, who is an expert on ethnic minority cultures of Laos. Last not least, there were two other EFEO members stationed in Chiang Mai, namely Anatole-Roger Peltier from 1980-2010 and Michel Lorrillard from 1999-2000.

After the talk, all the participants of the meeting were led through the corridors of the new library building by Dr. Rosakon Siriyuktanont, Head of the library, who thankfully pointed out some of the most important books of the EFEO members, such as there are taken out from a printed bibliography (in alphabetical order):

Francois Bizot: Ramaker ou l’amour symbolique de Ram et Seta. Recherches sur le bouddhism khmer, V. Paris, EFEO, 1989.
Francois Bizot: Le bouddhism de Thais – Breve histoire de ses movements et de ses idees des origines a nos jours. Bangkok, Cahiers de France, 1994.

Francois Bizot Le Portail. Paris, 2000. Translated in English: The Gate, 2003.

Louis Gabaude: Les cetiya de sable au Laos et en Thailande. Paris, EFEO, 1979.

Louis Gabaude: Une hermeneutique bouddhique contemporaine de Thailande – Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Paris, EFEO, 1988.

Yves Goudineau (Editor): Laos and Ethnic Minority Cultures – Promoting Heritage. Paris, UNESCO, 2003.

Jacques Leider: Le Royaume d’Arakan, Birmanie – Son histoire politique entre du XVe et la fin du XVIIe siecle. Paris, EFEO, 2004.

Michel Lorrillard (Editor): Autour de Vat Phu – de l’exploration a la recherche (1866-1957). Vientiane, EFEO-DPV, 2012.

Anatole-Roger Peltier: La litterature Tai Khoeun – Tai Khoeun literature. Bangkok, Duang Kamol, 1987.

Anatole-Roger Peltier: Le roman classique lao. Paris, EFEO, 1988.         

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By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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