Before the establishment of Chulalongkorn University, the vast piece of land that the university now sits on was overgrown with vegetation and rain trees. These rain trees became a fixture on campus as students reviewed their lessons under the shades. Over time, the number of rain trees dwindled, partly due to vulnerability to diseases and the construction of new buildings.
Fortunately, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) was aware of the plight of the rain trees. On January 15, 1962, H.M. the King visited the university and planted five young rain trees next to the university’s football field in front of the CU Auditorium, three on the right and two on the left. Later, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of King Bhumibol’s accession to the throne, the university created a landscaped “Rain Tree Grove” to not only remember the auspicious occasion, but also to commemorate the rain trees. The Rain Tree Grove was dedicated by H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Rich with history, the rain trees have become an important university symbol that helps unite the hearts and minds of all members of the Chulalongkorn community.
In line with King Bhumibol’s initiative efforts, 80 rain trees were planted to mark the university’s 80th anniversary, reiterating the wish to make the rain tree a lasting university symbol. The seasonal cycle of the rain tree is meaningful to the Chula community. The rain trees wear verdant foliage early in the first semester, reminding us of the vibrant early days on campus for all freshmen. The trees then shed their leaves at the end of the second semester. This seasonal cycle is beautifully depicted in the university’s song, of which the translation follows:
The Glorious Rain Trees of CU
As the year unfolds, the rain trees glow a-blooming
Propitious symbols that bind all souls
Time to welcome anew many a new-comer.
Delighted and cheerful they all are
Together, they behold the rain trees glow in glorious hues
Beauty of all time
Spirits high, they promise to shine this very day
Singing and rejoicing, they let the rain trees
The proudest symbol to be on CU grounds
As mid-year comes, the rain tree pods come a-falling
Slippery are the tree trunks in the rain
Off come the pods, down fall the resin drops
On slippery ground; unwarily slide one may
Of remorseful tear drops, the resin drops likewise remind:
An exam failure; is to one’s pride a year-long wound
A true reminder, the resin drops are
As the year winds down the rain trees’ flowers and foliage fall
On leaf-strewn ground, bare stand the lone rain trees
Away from home, away from kin, no fun, no whim
Earnest, they then turn to knowledge learnt
Away from friends, dear ones afar
In class they try to lag not behind and dismissed not be.
The sense of kinship and warmth found in the Chula community is priceless and a treasure worth keeping.
Prof. Dr. Pornanong Aramwit Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University