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People think of Foreign Missions by countries. As there are Tai Missions there must be a country called “Tai." Whon students and supporters of missions fail to find "Tai" on the political map of the world, like the child with tho star they “wonder what you are."
"Tai" is not the name of any political division or country of the world. It is the name of a race. In their early history they were called Lao. This name is now properly used only for the people vi the Laos State in French Indo-China, though until recently the North Siam Mission was called The Lao Mis. sion and the people of North Siam were called Lao. It is prou nounced as “low" in the word "allow." To be strictly accu. rate it should have the broad pronunciation of certain sections of English speakers, who would then “allaow that naow yew know haow.” As shown in Chapter I, Lao or Ai-Lao (I 'low) is the race-name of a people older than the IIebrews. Before Abraham was they were. The name was changed to Tai at the timo of the Burman Conquest. The raco's homo is four coun. tries, in parts of China, Tongking, Burma and all of Siam, none of them called “Lao" excepting the Laos State in Indo-China. The people is one race, now called the Tai.
Like the Tibetans, with the exception of the Siamese, the Tai are an inland people. Hence, although mission work has been in' operation among them for over half a century their bibliography is very brief. “The Laos of North Siam," by Mrs. L.W.Curtis, Presbyterian Board of Publication, gives a very interesting and accurate general view of only one branch of the Tai People, the Yuan of North Siam, their customs, their home, religion, superstitions, and mission work among them. “Laos Folk Lore" by the late Miss Katherine Neville Fleeson, samo publishers, gives what its titlo promiscs, in a bright, fascinating style. An autobiography, of the late Rev. Daniel Mc. Gilvary D.D., LL.D., (Revell & Co.), gives much valuable hitherto unpublished history of the North Siam or Lao Mission, especially in its carly days. The latest book of general infor. mation concerning the Mission, its field and work, is entitled "An Oriental Land of the Frec," by Rev. J, II. Freeman, (Pres. Board of Pub.). Ils viewpoint is almost wholly that of the North Siam Mission's present organized work in Sinm, al. though it gives an occasional glance beyond. The books on Bangkok and the Siamese are more numerous, from “The Kingdom and People of Siam," written by Sir John Bowring in 1855, to the more modern works of the present day.
This present treatise is, however, the pioneer in treatment of a large part of tho Tai field and people, viz., those outside of Siam, and of the Tai Race as a whole. Chapter I blazes the way for later comers in looking up the Tai people historically. The closing chapter attempts to summarize our up-to-date knowledge of the whole race and territory. The other chapters are for the most part frankly and unambitiously narrative. No attempt has been made to heighten the literary effect by changes of names, or the introduction of any fictitious matter. The characters are all real, down to the pack animals and the dog. And whilo tho merely diary style has been avoided, the story is that of actual journeys of missionary exploration.
Many friends have urged the writing of this book. They share with the writer the hope that, with the blessing of God, its publication will open up to the Home Church the Vision of the magnitude of the task, the urgency of the call and the greatness of the opportunity to enlighten and Christianize the Tai Race.