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Lanna Kingdom

The Kingdom of Lanna (Thai: ??????????????, Kingdom of Million Rice Fields, Northern Thai was a state in what is now northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries. The cultural development of the people of Lanna, the Tai Yuan people, had begun long before as successive Tai Yuan kingdoms preceded Lanna. As a continuation of the Ngoenyang kingdom, Lanna emerged strong enough in the 15th century to rival the Ayutthaya kingdom, with whom great wars were fought. However, Lanna was weakened and then fell under Burmese tributary.


The Kingdom of Lanna (Thai: ??????????????, Kingdom of Million Rice Fields, Northern Thai was a state in what is now northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries. The cultural development of the people of Lanna, the Tai Yuan people, had begun long before as successive Tai Yuan kingdoms preceded Lanna. As a continuation of the Ngoenyang kingdom, Lanna emerged strong enough in the 15th century to rival the Ayutthaya kingdom, with whom great wars were fought. However, Lanna was weakened and then fell under Burmese tributary. From the 16th century, Lanna was ruled by successive puppet kings appointed by the Burmese kings, though some enjoyed autonomy. The Burmese rule gradually withdrew but then resumed as the new Konbaung dynasty expanded Burmese influences. Taksin of Thonburi finally took Lanna in 1774 and broke it down into a number of tributary kingdoms.


Early Establishment

Mangrai, the 25th king of Ngoen Yang of Lavachakkaraj dynasty, centralized the city-states of Ngoen Yang into a unified kingdom and allied with the neighboring Kingdom of Payao. In 1262, Mangrai moved the capital from Ngoenyang (modern Chiang Saen) to the newly-founded Chiangrai ? naming the city after himself. Mangrai then expanded to the south and subjugated the Mon Haripunchai kingdom centered on modern Lamphun in 1281. Mangrai swore allegiance with two other kings ? Ngam Mueng of Payao and Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai in 1276 & 1277 AD respectively. Mangrai moved the capital several times. Leaving Lamphun due to heavy flooding he drifted until settling at and building Wiang Kum Kam in 1286/7, staying there until 1292 at which time he relocated to what would become Chiang Mai. He founded (started actual building) of Chiangmai in 1296 expanding it to become the capital of Lan Na. Claimed territories of Mangrai?s Lan Na include modern northern Thailand provinces (with exception of Prae ? which was under Sukhothai ? and Payao and Nan ? the Kingdom of Payao), Kengtung, Mong Nai, and Chiang Hung (modern Jinghong in Yunnan). He also received tributes and vassaldom from areas of modern Northern Vietnam, principally in the Black and Red river valleys, and most of Northern Laos, plus the SipSongPanNa region of Yunnan.

Disunity and Prosperity

In 1317, Mangrai died and was succeeded by his son Paya Chaisongkram. After four months of ascension, Chaisongkram moved the capital to Chiangrai and appointed his son Thau Saen Phu as the Uparaja King of Chiangmai. Chaisongkram?s brother, Khun Kruea the King of Mong Nai, invaded Chiang Mai for the throne. Facing the invasion of his own uncle, Saen Phu fled the city. Thau Nam Tuam, another son of Chaisongkram, intervened and repelled Khun Kruea. Chaisongkram then appointed Nam Tuam the Uparaja replacing Saen Phu in 1322. However, it was rumored that Nam Tuam was planning a rebellion, so Chaisongkram turned back to Saen Phu in 1324.

Paya Kam Fu, son of Saen Phu, moved the capital to Chiang Saen in 1334, only to be returned to Chiang Mai by his son Pa Yu. Theravada religion prospered in Lanna during the reign of religious Kue Na who established the dhatu of Doi Suthep in 1386. Kue Na promoted the Lankawongse sect and invited monks from Sukhothai to replace the existing the Mon Theravada that Lanna inherited from Haripunchai.

Lanna enjoyed peace under Saenmuengma (which means ten thousands cities arrive ? to pay tribute). The only disturbing event was the failed rebellion by his uncle Prince Maha Prommatat. Maha Prommatat requested aid from Ayutthaya. Borommaracha I of Ayutthaya sent his troops to invade Lanna but was repelled. This was the first armed conflict between the two kingdoms. Lanna faced invasions from the newly-established Ming dynasty in the reign of Sam Fang Kaen.

Expansions under Tilokaraj

The Lanna kingdom was strongest under Tilokaraj (1441 - 1487). Tilokaraj seized the throne from his father Sam Fang Kaen in 1441. Tilokaraj?s brother, Thau Choi, rebelled to reclaim the throne for his father and sought Ayutthayan support. Borommaracha II sent his troops to Lanna in 1442 but was repelled and the rebellion was suppressed. Tilokaraj conquered the neighboring Kingdom of Payao in 1456.

To the south, the emerging Kingdom of Ayutthaya was also growing powerful. Relations between the two kingdoms had worsened since the Ayutthayan support of Thau Choi's rebellion. In 1451, Yuttitthira, a Sukhothai royalty who had conflicts with Trailokanat of Ayutthaya, gave himself to Tilokaraj. Yuttitthira urged Trilokanat to invade Pitsanulok which he had claims on, igniting the Ayutthaya-Lanna War over the Upper Chao Phraya valley (i.e. the Kingdom of Sukhothai). In 1460, the governor of Chaliang surrendered to Tilokaraj. Trailokanat then used a new strategy and concentrated on the wars with Lanna by moving the capital to Pitsanulok. Lanna suffered setbacks and Tilokaraj eventually sued for peace in 1475.

Tilokaraj was also a strong patron of Theravada Buddhism. In 1477, the Buddhist Council of Tripitaka Recompilation was held near Chiang Mai. Tilokaraj also built and rehabilitated many notable temples. In 1480, Tilokaraj sent aid to help the King of Lan Xang to free his kingdom from Vietnamese occupation. Tilokaraj then expanded west to the Shan States of Laikha, Hsipaw, Mong Nai, and Yawnghwe.


After Tilokaraj, Lanna was then subjected to old-style princely struggles that prevented the kingdom from defending itself against powerful growing neighbors. The Shans then broke themselves free of Lanna control that Tilokaraj had established. The last strong ruler was Paya Kaew who was the great-grandson of Tilokaraj. In 1507, Kaew invaded Ayutthaya but was repelled ? only to be invaded in turn in 1513 by Ramathibodi II and Lampang was sacked. In 1523, a dynastic struggle occurred in Kengtung. One faction sought Lanna support while the another faction went for Hsipaw. Kaew then sent Lanna armies to re-exert control there but was readily defeated by Hsipaw armies. The loss was so tremendous that Lanna never regained such dominance.

In 1538, King Ketklao, son of Kaew, was overthrown by his own son Thau Sai Kam. However, Ketklao was restored in 1543 but suffered mental illness and was executed in 1545. Ketklao?s daughter, Chiraprapa, then succeeded her father as the queen regnant. As Lanna was plundered by the dynastic struggles, both Ayutthaya and the Burmese saw this as an opportunity to overwhelm Lanna. Chairacha of Ayutthaya invaded Lanna in 1545, but Chiraprapa negotiated for peace. Chairacha returned next year, sacking Lampang and Lamphun, and threatened Chaingmai itself. So, Chiraprapa was forced to put her kingdom under Ayutthayan tributary.

Facing pressures from the invaders, Chiraprapa decided to abdicate in 1546 and the nobility gave the throne to her brother-in-law, Prince Chaiyasettha of Lan Xang. Chaiyasettha moved to Lanna and thus Lanna was ruled by a Laotian king. In 1547, Prince Chaiyasettha returned to Lan Xang to claim the throne and ascended as Setthathirat. Setthathirat also brought the Emerald Buddha from Chiangmai to Luang Prabang (the one that would be later taken to Bangkok by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke).

The nobles then chose Meguti, the Shan saopha of Mong Nai whose family was related to Mangrai, to be the new king of Lanna. It was said that, as a Shan king, Meguti violated several Lanna norms and beliefs. In 1558, the unfortunate Meguti faced invasions by Bayinnaung of Pegu. Bayinnaung swiftly took the kingdom and Meguti became the puppet Lanna king supervised by Bayinnaung. For another two centuries, Lanna existed under Burmese supremacy.

Burmese Rule

Bayinnaung then organized his massive troops preparing to capture Ayutthaya. As he tried to free his kingdom from Burmese control, Meguti was executed in 1564. Bayinnaung then made Visuttidevi, one of his concubines of Mangrai descent, the queen regnant of Lanna. In 1578, Visuttidevi died. Bayinnaung then gave Lanna to his son with Visuttidevi, Noratra Minsosi. Burma allowed a substantial degree of autonomy for Lanna but strictly controlled the corv?e and taxation ? siphoning the available resources for the Burma?s wars.

After Bayinnaung, the Burmese authority weakened and fell under the sway of Naresuan?s expansions. For several times Lanna served as the resource of Burmese armies for the invasion of Ayutthaya. Also Setthathirat of Lan Xang sought to undo Burmese influences in the area. In 1595, King Neokeow of Lan Xang threatened to march through Lanna to invade Burma. Noratra Minsosi then decided to seek Naresuan?s supports by bringing Lanna under Siamese tributary.

The tributary to Siam was, however, short as the Siamese control was proved to be temporary.

Noratra Minsosi was succeeded by his brother Phra Choi but was overthrown by Minsosri?s son Phra Chaiyathip in 1608. Then, Phra Choi managed to take the throne back in 1613. After the assassination of Nanda Bayin, Burma fell into anarchy of three kingdoms. King Siseongmueng of Lanna who was the adopted son of Minsosi and formerly the King of Nan tried to exert independence but was subjugated by Thalun in 1631.

For a century, Lanna kings ruled under Burmese suzerainty. As the Lanna kings were strictly manipulated by Burma, the resistance was then instead led by common people ? ranging from the respectful monks to those who claimed to have extraordinary powers or merits. Narai of Ayutthaya launched the invasion of Lanna in 1662. The Siamese sacked the cities including Chiangmai but the rule was short. In 1664, Burma decided to end the autonomy of Lanna and installed Burmese agents to be the nobles of Lanna. And in 1701 Chiang Saen was annexed to be a Burmese city.

In 1727, a man named Thepsingh led the Lanna resistance and successfully freed Lanna from the Burmese rule. However, the independence was short as Burma retook Lanna the same year.

Siamese capture

In 1732, an elephant mahout who was said to have powers called Tipchang made himself the lord of Lampang, giving birth to the Lordship of Lampang and Tipchak dynasty. Tipchang?s kingdom paid tribute to Ava. Tipchang?s grandson, Kawila], planned the liberation of Lanna and Lampang. Kawila and Phraya Chabaan, a Lanna noble, became the leading figures. Kawila requested supports from Taksin of Thonburi who sent Phraya Chakri (future Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke) and Phraya Surasi (future Maha Sura Singhanat) to Lanna.

In 1774, the joint Lampang and Thonburi forces capture Chiangmai, ending two hundred years of Burmese rule. Kawila was installed as the king of Lampang and Phraya Chaban as the king of Chiangmai, both as vassals of Siam.

Historical Writings on Lanna


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