Sāmkok: a study of a Thai adaptation of a Chinese novel
Samkok is a translation of the Chinese novel San-kuo yen-i done by a team of translators headed by Chaophraya Phrakhlang (Hon). It was commissioned by King Rama I during a time of military and political change and was largely intended as a text of military tactics, but it has become a major literary work in its own right.A comparison of Samkok with the Chinese original shows the following differences. In format of presentation, Samkok changed the literary form to pure prose, rearranged the chapters, provided new chapter headings and a new table of contents. Samkok discarded the technique of creating suspense, the use of verse for narrative purposes, and the exciting way of introducing the characters. It adopted instead a simple, straightforward style of narration and made use of an omniscient narrator. The language of Samkok was idiomatically adjusted to Thai usage, including the use of royal speech, special pronouns, various systems of measurement, and the lunar calendar. Also, the style of language used is highly literary. Only 40% of the text of Samkok gives approximate translation, while the majority is largely a rewriting of the ideas gathered from the original Chinese. The content of Samkok also reveals a major change in the philosophical framework; it leaves out the Chinese concept of T'ien as the Creator and systematically adopts the Buddhist concept of bun-kam or the principle of moral retribution. In consequence, the idea of fate, heroism, and tragedy, which is central to the Chinese original, has changed in its meaning and significance to the story.The above comparisons make it clear that Samkok is not a strict translation, but a highly adaptive work. Being so, it has achieved widespread acceptance not only as a didactic work but also as a popular source of entertainment.
- East Asian studies