A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam.

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A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam.
A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam. Envoy Extraordinary from the French King, to the King of Siam, in the years 1687 and 1688: wherein a full and curious Account is given of the Chinese Way of Arithmetick, and Mathematick Learning
Simon de La Loubère (1642-1729)
London: T. Horne [etc.]
Translation of Du Royaume de Siam, 1691
Page 1

The hunting of Elephants perform’d by an enclosure of Fires in the
Woods, has been described by others: the King of Siam went not to that
which was perform’d whilst the King’s Ambassadors were at his Court
neither were they invited; but the other Diversions which were exhibited
to them all at once, and in a vast Court, were these.

The one was a Chinese Comedy, which I would willingly have seen to the
end, but it was adjourned, after some Scenes, to go to Dinner. The
Chinese Comedians, whom the Siameses do love without understanding them,
do speak in the Throat. All their words are Monosyllables, and I heard
them not pronounce one single one, but with a new breath: some would say
that it throttles them. Their Habit was such as the Relations of China
describe it, almost like that of the Carthusians, being clasp’d on the
side by three or four Buckles, which reach from the Armpit to the Hip,
with great square Placards before and behind, whereon were painted
Dragons, and with a Girdle three Fingers broad; on which, an equal
distances, were little squares, and small rounds either of
Tortoise-Shell or Horn, or of some sort of Wood: And these Girdles being
loose, they were run into a Buckle on each side to sustain them. One of
the Actors who represented a Magistrate, walk’d so gravely, that be
first trod upon his Heel, and then successively and slowly upon the Sole
and Toes; and as he rested on the Sole, he rais’d the Heel; and when he
rested on his Toes, the Sole touch’d the ground no more. On the
contrary, another Actor, walking like a Madman, threw his Feet and Arms
in several extravagant Postures, and after a threatning manner, but much
more excessive, than the whole Action of our Captains or Matamores. He
was the General of an Army; and if the Relations of China, are true,
this Actor naturally represented the Affectations common to the Soldiers
of his Country. The Theater had a Cloth on the bottom, and nothing on
the sides, like the Stages of our Rope-dancers and Jack-puddings.

The Puppets are mute at Siam, and those which come from the Country of
Laos are much more esteemed than the Siamese. Neither the one nor the
other have any thing, which is not very common in this Country.

But the Siamese Tumblers are excellent, and the Court of Siam gives the
diversion thereof to the King, when he arrives at Louvo. Ælian reports,
that Alexander had some Indian Rope-dancers at his Wedding, and that
they were esteem’d more nimble than those of other Nations. These are
their Actions, which it is necessary to confess I did not closely and
carefully consider, because I was more attentive to the Chinese Comedy,
than to all the other Shows, which were at the same time exhibited to
us. They plant a Bambou in the ground, and to the end of this they join
another, and to the end of this second a third, and to the end of the
third a Hoop: so that this makes as it were the wood of a round Racket,
the Handle of which would be very long. A Man holding the two sides of
the Hoop with his two Hands, puts his Head upon the inferior and inward
part of the Hoop, raises his Body and his Feet on high, and continues in
this posture an hour, and sometimes an hour and half: then he will put a
Foot where he had plac’d his Head, and without standing otherwise and
without fixing the other Foot, he will dance after their manner, that is
to say, without raising himself but only by making Contorsions: And what
renders all this more perilous and difficult, is the continual wavering
of the Bambou. A Bambou-dancer of this fort, they call Lot Bouang; Lot
signifies to pass, and Bouang a Hoop.