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Naga: Cultural Origins in Siam and the West…
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Naga: Cultural Origins in Siam and the West Pacific

by Sumet Jumsai

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Sumet Jumsai's comprehensive book on Naga, and the water cosmological symbolism centered around it, is one of the most well-researched works ever published on such issue. The author is a world-famous Thai architector who, throughout the book, has applied many historical, archeological and anthropological aspects in complementary with his architectural concepts in understanding the water-based civilization in mainland Southeast Asia and the West Pacific. The book explains symbols for water used in East and South-East Asia, particularly in Siam, whether they are in ritual, literature, dancing, folk art, painting, sculpture, architecture, or town planning. At the same time it relates them to the origin of civilizations in the area. The book also includes original ideas and contributions by R. Buckminster Fuller on maritime history, the significance of world population density distribution, and the "nautical" architecture indigenous to the West Pacific region. Flipping through pages, the readers can easily grap the ideas of the book just by exploring diagrams and pictures. The book is divided into five chapters with an impressive introduction on global geographical changes and migration through different periods of time. The first chapter provides an elaborative text about the traditional cosmology and mythology on water symbols and the ways those beliefs have been applied to the Siam royal regimes and the real life of the common people in thier day-to-day basis. On its chapter two, the book talks about how the civilization has been established around the idea of water-related traditions and reflection. As an anthropological architect, the author spend chapter four and five on the roots and expressions of water-oriented architectures through temples, houses, tools, urban planning, and kingdom ceremonies. The last chapter explores the construction of township and people settlement influenced by the water culture and symbolic transformation.

I would say this book is very informative in providing readers of how much water cosmology can do to our living. However, there are some missing links from time to time in the book of why such notion or imagination of water symbolism has penetrated, and still persists, in our daily living as today not many people really understand the idea behind it, let alone encode the existing traditions that directly related to water. The author claimed that there is always an urge to create cosmological models whenever there is a chance to do so, and there is a constant attraction to the water element. The book seems to convince the readers so with its tremendous fact, but the very question of why such mentality still worthwhile conserved and reproduced by the local folks begs further discussion outside the book.
  jakkrits | Sep 6, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195888804, Hardcover)

Probably no other region in the world possesses as many symbols for water as East and Southeast Asia, particularly Siam. Aquatic images and attributes abound in a wide range of human pursuits, from ritual, literature, dancing, and art, to architecture and town planning. This book explains these symbols while relating them to the origin of civilizations in the area. A revised edition of Jumsai's 1982 study of Thai cultural origins, this volume incorporates original ideas and important contributions by R. Buckminster Fuller on maritime history, the significance of world population density distribution, and the "nautical" architecture indigenous to the West Pacific region.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:23 -0400)

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