Lan Na

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Zones of influence of Lan Nas and his neighbors around 1540
Northern Thailand and its main places
The Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai (from left: Ngam Mueang by Phayao , Mangrai by Lan Na and Ramkhamhaeng by Sukhothai )

Lan Na ( Thai ล้าน นา , land of a million (rice) fields , actually Lan Na Thai or Lannathai ) was a kingdom (or federation of dependent principalities ) of the Tai Yuan in northern Thailand . Its center was today's Chiang Mai .

Lan Na was probably founded in the 13th century and had its heyday in the 15th century. At the height of his power, his sphere of influence also included areas that are now in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan , northeast Myanmar and Laos. In 1558 it became dependent on Burma. During the 17th century phases of independence alternated with those of the suzerainty of Burma or Ayutthaya .

In 1774 Lan Na finally came under the suzerainty of Siam , today's Thailand. But it remained largely autonomous until 1874. Then Bangkok sent a high commissioner to Chiang Mai who initially only had an advisory role, but in the following years gradually curtailed the freedom of choice of the local elite. The integration into the Siamese central state culminated in 1899 with the creation of the Monthon Phayap. The only ceremonial title of Prince of Chiang Mai was no longer awarded in 1939.

Lan Na had its own language and script . Until the 19th century, its population was regarded either as a separate ethnic group (Yuan) or as Lao , but not as actual Siamese . To this day there are cultural, linguistic and political differences to central Thailand .

Legends of the early days

Legend has it that a deity called Luachonkarat (Lavacakrarat) was born on Mount Doi Tung ( Amphoe Chiang Saen , Chiang Rai Province ) in 638 (or 650) and was the "first sovereign of the Laotians ". Relics of the Buddha are said to be in the chedi on Doi Tung, which was built around 700 . According to local chronicles, Khun Borom founded the city of Muong Theng (now Mang Thin near Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam ) and his sons subsequently founded the important cities of Xieng Khuang (on the plains of the clay jars in Laos , in 698), Luang Phrabang (the capital of the kingdom of Lan Chang , 737) and Chiang Saen (773).

Prince Singhonawat, the founder of Chiang Saen, is said to have arrived there with 100,000 people and ousted the Khmer from there. Since he was allegedly assisted by a Naga named Bandhu , the first capital was variously called Yonokanagara, Yonoka Nagabandhunagara or Bandhusinghanati Nagara . Yonok might even have existed earlier and was then called Jayasena or Siam Ban (Vien Siam). Such an empire had sent an embassy delegation to the Tang ruler in China in 625 .

The chronicles further report that in the 9th century King Brahmakumara (Brahmakuman) is said to have expelled the Khmer from the north. There were probably not very many Khmer in the north of what is now Thailand, apart from today's relatives, the Lawa . However, there were attacks by the Khom, probably on Chiang Tung ( Keng Tung ), and these were able to rule Chiang Saen between 1080 and 1099.

Geotectonic processes already influenced the course of history in the north of what is now Thailand and Laos. During the reign of King Mahachai, a major earthquake created a larger lake between the Mekong and the Kok rivers , which also stretched across what is now Chiang Saen and lasted for a few hundred years. A predecessor of the later founder of Lan Na rebuilt Nagabandhunagara around the year 937, albeit a little north of the Mekong, and named the new settlement Ngoen Yang . The ruins of today's Chiang Saen can only be traced back to the time of Mangrai .

Chinese chronicles, on the other hand, tell of King Piao Zhen (or Bazhen), who founded Jinglong in 1180, which was later called Cheli and then Chiang Rung . But these sources can also be attributed to the legend, when one speaks of more than 8 million inhabitants and 9,000 white elephants . The emperor on the Chinese throne of heaven proclaimed Bazhen king over Jiujiang , an area that included Lanna, Mengjia and Manglao (Lanna, Nanzhang or Yingzhan and Laos). The story of Khun Borom seems to have been repeated here, because the four sons of Bazhen ruled over four important empires and founded new dynasties: Lanna, Menjia, Menglao and Jinglong. A city Wen Chan or Vien Chang is mentioned, which is reminiscent of today's Vientiane .

Historically verifiable events

Foundation and heyday

Lan Na and his neighbors at the end of the 13th century

Lan Na was founded by King Mangrai in the 13th century. He expanded his area of ​​influence by pushing back the Mon and Dvaravati princes around Lampang and Lamphun in the south. In 1262 he founded a new city and named it Chiang Rai after himself , which also became his new capital. Within a short time he was able to unite numerous Mueang (city-states or principalities) in the north under his leadership and in 1292 even annexed the Mon kingdom of Hariphunchai (the area around today's Lamphun). In 1296 he moved his capital with the help of Ngam Mueang from Phayao and Ramkhamhaeng from Sukhothai to the south to Chiang Mai and at the same time laid the basis for a new kingdom after he had inherited his father as the leader of the city-state of Ngoen Yang .

The golden age of Lan Nas was in the 15th century during the reign of King Tilokarat (1441–1487). Under this king, the eighth Buddhist Congress was held in Chiang Mai in 1477, which was supposed to contribute to a better understanding of the scriptures. The independent kingdom of Nan of Tai Lue was integrated into Lan Na in 1449. After the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya annexed Sukhothai, it moved further north and also involved Lan Na in fighting.

Burmese supremacy

As a result of its position between the often conflicting realms of Burma and Siam , Lan Na later found itself in constant conflict with its neighbors, sometimes dominated by one and sometimes by the other ( mandala model ). At the beginning of the 16th century there were first internal conflicts in Lan Na, which worsened after the death of King Phraya Kaeo . Wars of succession broke out, kings were assassinated or had to abdicate. This political instability attracted the neighbors, who were waiting for an opportunity to invade. First the Burmese took the initiative and finally conquered the kingdom in 1558, which then became a vassal of Burma and thus lost its independence. The kingdom then split up into the old city-states ( Mueang ), including Nan , Phayao , Phrae and Khelang , which could operate more or less independently because the Burmese had internal disputes. After the Mangrais dynasty died out in 1578, the Burmese sent their own princes to lead Lan Na. They retained power in Lan Na until 1774, excluding short periods, but they could not prevent some of the Mueangs from declaring themselves independent:

Ayutthaya was also conquered by the Burmese, but was able to regain independence under King Naresuan the Great and not only recapture its territory, but also gain additional territories. In 1599 Lan Na became part of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya , but only for a short time. The conquest of Chiang Mai by King Narai the Great in 1662 was short-lived. At the beginning of the 17th century the Burmese divided Lan Na into a northern and a southern part. The northern part was ruled by Chiang Saen , while the southern part was ruled by Chiang Mai. Chiang Saen was practically annexed to Burma, while the southern part was held as a vassal.

Siamese supremacy

After Ayutthaya was completely destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, King Taksin drove them out of the Siamese Empire again. He then assisted the leader of Chiang Mai, Phraya Chaban , and the King of Lampang , Kawila , in driving out the Burmese. On the night of February 14, 1774, Chiang Mai finally fell to the Siamese. The later Lan Na kings were only provincial princes. Chaban ruled as the first prince-governor of Chiang Mai, and Kawila became the first prince-governor of Lampang. The other principalities in the Lan Nas area were Nan, Phrae and Lamphun. However, Chiang Mai continued to be the most important and had a primacy over the other northern principalities.

In the bowl-shaped model of the gradual influence of central power in Bangkok during the early Rattanakosin period (from 1782), Chiang Mai and Nan had a high, if not the highest, degree of autonomy. They had to pay quite a high toll, providing soldiers and workers for public construction projects. Partly they were connected to the Siamese royal family through marriage politics . The influence of Bangkok in internal affairs, however, remained sporadic. In 1870, however, the Siamese imperial administrator Chaophraya Si Suriyawong had a decisive influence on the succession to the throne in Chiang Mai by enforcing the Bangkok-friendly Chao Inthanon (or Inthawichayanon) against his brother, who would actually have been the logical successor.

After the second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852/53, Burma became a British colony. Great Britain also increasingly viewed the Shan states and neighboring Chiang Mai as its extended sphere of influence. Lan Na was economically interesting mainly because of the teak production . On January 17, 1874, Siam and Great Britain signed a first contract through Chiang Mai, in which Bangkok undertook to secure the border between Lan Na and British Burma and guaranteed compliance with the concessions to British teak trading companies. This contract was also the reason for the sending of a high commissioner of the Siamese king to Chiang Mai, who should watch over the observance of the obligations. Bangkok still did not intervene directly in internal affairs, but saw itself as the supreme supervisory authority. King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) wrote to his High Commissioner Phraya Ratchasampharakon in 1883:

“We do not yet consider Chiang Mai to be an integral part of our kingdom; because until now it is still a vassal state [in the original: prathetsarat ]. We never planned the disempowerment of the ruling dynasty and the abolition of the status as a vassal state. We just want to exercise real power. "

- King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) : Letter to Phraya Ratchasampharakon

Integration into the Thai state

On September 3, 1883, Great Britain and Siam signed a second treaty through Chiang Mai. Through this a consular court was created, which was responsible for legal disputes involving British subjects who traded in the area of ​​Chiang Mai, Lampang and Lamphun. These were thereby withdrawn from local jurisdiction, which increased legal certainty for them and made their commercial activities easier. The consular court was presided over by a British vice-consul in Chiang Mai, the other judges were Thai. As a result of the treaty, Siam took over judicial and financial sovereignty over the north. To this end, it set up a six-member Council of Ministers (a replica of the Siamese cabinet), which initially ruled alongside (but not instead of) the traditional local rulers. The six ministers were northern Thai aristocrats, but their Siamese “representatives” were actually more powerful. From Chiang Mai, the increasing Siamese influence was extended to the more remote principalities of Phrae and Nan. The rule of central Thai elites over the once autonomous Lan Na is described by some authors as " internal colonialism ".

The integration of the north into the Siamese central state came to a preliminary conclusion in 1899 with the creation of the Monthon Phayap (educational language for "Northwest", from Sanskrit vāyavya ), an administrative unit under the Ministry of the Interior in Bangkok and headed by a Commissioner General, as in the Years earlier in all other parts of the Siamese domain. It comprised seven provinces (in Thai Changwat ; Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son were spun off from the previous principality of Chiang Mai, otherwise the provinces corresponded to the traditional principalities). The title of Prince of Chiang Mai only had a ceremonial meaning. After the death of Prince (Chao) Kaeo Nawarat in 1939, it was finally abolished entirely.

Under the government of Phibunsongkhram in 1939 the discussion of regional, cultural or ethnic differences within Thailand was banned. The terms "Lan Na" or "Yuan" (for its population) were no longer allowed to be used. Thailand should be united and unified nationally ( Thaiization ).

Nevertheless, linguistic, cultural and also political differences to central Thailand can be ascertained to this day. 6 million people in northern Thailand speak the Lanna language as their first language. Since around the time of the 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Chiang Mai in 1996, an increased return to the independent cultural tradition can be observed. The constitution, drawn up under the aegis of the military, was clearly rejected in the 2007 referendum in the provinces formerly belonging to Lan Na, while it was adopted with a clear majority in central and southern Thailand. The former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra , who was born in Chiang Mai, and his parties traditionally have the highest support rates here, also for reasons of local patriotism .

The kings of Lan Na

The dates are reign times.

Mangrai dynasty
Princes (or kings) of Chiang Mai from the Tipchang dynasty
  • Kawila (Phaya Kawila พญา กา วิ ละ ) (1775–1781 in Lampang, 1781–1813)
  • Luang Thamma Langka (1813-1821)
  • Luang Setthee (Kham Fan) (1821-1825)
  • Luang Phuttawong (1825–1846)
  • Mahottara Prathet (Mahawong) (1846-1854)
  • Kavilorot Suriyawong (1854–1870)
  • Inthawichayanon (Inthanon) (1870-1897)

Princes of Chiang Mai (purely ceremonial title without political power):

  • Inthawarorot Suriyawong (1897-1911)
  • Kaeo Nawarat (In Kaeo) (1911-1939)

Buddhist literature Lan Nas

Buddhist monks Lan Nas, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries, created literature on Pali . Proof of the heyday of Theravada Buddhism and Pali in Lan Na is the holding of the (eighth according to Thai counting) Buddhist Council (Pali Saṃgāyana ) in Chiang Mai in BE 2020 (approx. 1477) under King Tilokarat .

  • Phra Phothirangsi Thera ( พระ โพธิ รังสี เถระ , 15th c.) From Chiang Mai wrote in the period BE 1959-2060 (ca. 1407-1517), the Chamathewiwong Chronicle (Pali / Sanskrit Cāmadevīvaṃśa , Thai พงศาวดาร จาม เทวี วงศ์ ), and in estimated period from BE 1985–2068 (approx. 1442–1525) the Sihinganithan (Pali Sihiṃganidāna , Thai หิ หิ ค ค นิทาน ), the story of an important Buddha statue or its way from Sri Lanka to today's Thailand, also through Chiang Mai.
  • Phra Yanakitti Thera ( พระ ญาณ กิตติ เถระ , 15th century) from Chiang Mai lived in a monastery northwest of Chiang Mai and was the teacher of King Tilokarat. It is believed that he studied in Sri Lanka between BE 1955–2024 (approx. 1412–1481). After the Buddhist Council in Chiang Mai, he only wrote works in Pali.
  • Phra Sirimankhalachan ( พระสิริมั ง คลา จาร ย์ , early 16th century) wrote the Vessantaradīpanī ( เว ส สัน ต ร ที ป นี ), an explanation of the commentary (Pali: atthakathā) of the Vessantara- Jataka . His work Saṃkhyāpakāsakaṭīkā ( สังขยา ป กา สก ฎีกา ) is a sub-commentary (Pali ṭīkā ) to Saṃkhyāpakāsaka , which Phra Yanavilasa Thera ( พระ ญาณ วิลาส เถระ ) wrote. The most famous work of Phra Sirimankhalachan is the Maṅgaladīpanī or Maṅgalatthadīpanī ( มั ง ค ลั ต ถ ที ป นี ), an explanation of the Maṅgalasutta . It has been translated into Thai several times and is required reading in the higher monastic Pali training in Thailand. With his work Cakkavāḷadīpanī ( จัก ก วาฬ ที ป นี ) Phra Sirimankhalachan describes religious ideas of the universe.
  • Phra (Siri) Rattanapanya Thera ( พระ (สิริ) รัตน ปัญญา เถระ , early 16th century) from Chiang Rai, a contemporary of Phra Sirimankhalachan, came from the family of King Mangrai. He first lived in a monastery in Chiang Rai and later continued his studies in Chiang Mai in what is now Wat Chet Yot. In BE 2078 (approx. 1535) he wrote a work on the Abhidhamma , the Mātikatthasarūpa-Abhidhammasaṃgaṇī ( มา ติ กั ต ถ ส รูป อภิ ธั ม ม สังค ณี ). An important work is his Jinakalamali Chronicle , begun in BE 2060 (approx. 1517) , which he completed in BE 2071 (approx. 1528). It provides important information for researching the history of northern Thailand, as he, inter alia. Describes events in today's cities of Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Chiang Mai.
  • Phra Phutthaphukam ( พระพุทธ พุกาม ) and Phra Phutthayanachao ( พระพุทธ ญา น เจ้า ) left their names at the end of the work Munlasatsana ( มูล ศาสนา , Pali Mūlasāsana ), in which they brought together religious-historical events from various historical sources and added further historical data.
  • Phra Suwannarangsi Thera ( พระ สุ วัณ ณ รังสี เถระ ) (end of the 16th century) from Chiang Mai later emigrated to Vientiane in what is now Laos, where he became supreme monastic patriarch ( พระ สังฆราช ). In BE 2128 (around 1585) he wrote the sub-commentary Ganthābharaṇaṭīkā ( คัน ถา ภร ณ ฎีกา ) on the Burmese work Ganthābharaṇa . Later followed the Pathommasamphothikatha ( ปฐม สัมโพธิ ก ถก , Pali Paṭhamasambodhigathā ), which later served the supreme monk patriarch Siam Paramanuchit Chinorot ( ปร มา นุ ชิต ชิโนรส , also Prince Wasukri) in 1845 as a template for a Thai version of the work.
  • A chronicle called Rattanaphimphawong ( รัตน พิมพ วงศ์ , Sanskrit Ratnabimbavaṃśa ) about the establishment of the Phra Kaeo Morakot ( พระ ṃ ) was written by Phra Phrommaratchapanya ( พระ พรหม ราช ปัญญา ).
  • Phra Uttararam Thera ( พระ อุ ต ตรา ราม เถระ ) is the author of the work Visuddhimaggadīpanī ( วิ สุทธิ มัค ค ที ป นี ), an explanation of the Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa .

Individual evidence

  1. This and the following from Joel John Barlow: History of Lanna - Ancient Royals. Online under Archived Copy ( Memento of the original from February 28, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Other names are: Heranya Nakorn, Heranagara and Hiranya
  3. Other names are: Jingxian, Manjianglan, Jinghong, Mengyong and Le Shi
  4. ^ David K. Wyatt : Thailand. A short history. 2nd Edition. Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2004, p. 143.
  5. Wyatt: Thailand. 2004, p. 179.
  6. ^ Grabowsky: Population and State in Lan Na. 2004, p. 197.
  7. ^ Peter A. Jackson: The Ambiguities of Semicolonial Power in Thailand. In: The Ambiguous Allure of the West. Traces of the Colonial in Thailand. Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong 2010, p. 45.
  8. ^ Grabowsky: Population and State in Lan Na. 2004, p. 198.
  9. ^ Charles F. Keyes: Cultural Diversity and National Identity in Thailand In: Government policies and ethnic relations in Asia and the Pacific. MIT Press, 1997, p. 216.
  10. Volker Grabowsky : Brief history of Thailand. CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60129-3 , pp. 189-190.
  11. Grabowsky: Brief History of Thailand. 2010, p. 192.
  12. ^ Transcriptions according to the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration


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  • Michael Freeman: Lanna. Thailand's Northern Kingdom. Thames & Hudson, 2001.
  • Volker Grabowsky : Population and State in Lan Na. A contribution to the population history of Southeast Asia. Harrassowitz-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2004.
  • Sarassawadee Ongsakul: History of Lan Na. 2nd Edition. Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2005, ISBN 974-9575-84-9 .
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