Chinese identity in Thailand

June 24, 2019

Thailand had the largest Chinese population in Southeast Asia. Ethnic Chinese make up 10 to 14 percent of the population of Thailand. Many Chinese became Thai after a few generations. Many recognize their Chinese heritage but no longer identify with the Chinese ethnic group.


Most Ethnic Chinese in Thailand are from Hokkein (Hakka), Tae Liu (Chao Zhou), or Cantonese. The Chinese in Thailand arguably get along better with the majority population than in any other country in Southeast Asia. This is due in part to historical reasons and partly Thai tolerance of foreigners.


Many Chinese changed their name and took other measured to try to adapt to the Thais way. Thai government make it easy for Chinese to become Thai citizens. Many intermarried with Thais. Over the years many Chinese became more assimilated to Thai culture and lost their bond to China. Some though continued to speak Chinese at home, some quietly practiced Chinese customs and religion and retained their Chinese names.


Bangkok has a large, influential Chinese community. Some academic estimated that, half the population of Bangkok was at least part Chinese descent. Today, we can get a glimpse of Chinese community at places such as Yaowarat (Bangkok Chinatown) and Rama 9 road (Bangkok New CBC). In some part of Bangkok, we can find early trace of Chinese settlement in Bangkok.


So Heng Tai Mansion is one of the living monuments of the first Chinese settlement in Bangkok. So Heng Tai Mansion was built before Bangkok as we know even existed. Its dated back to the 18 00’s. The mansion was built in a Hokkeien architectural style, with some Thai influenced. Nowaday the original owner (7th and 8th generation), has made the building their home. The mansion is also home to something you wouldn’t expect: a fully functioning scuba diving school including a deep pool in the courtyard, which makes for an interesting scene.