Chiang Mai History

Chiang Mai is an old city with a proud history. It’s was found by King Mengrai ( Pho Khun Mengrai Maharat ) who united several small tribes and called the new land Anachak Lanna Thai. In 1259 after his father’s death he ascended the throne at Yonok Nakorn and built Chiang Rai as his capital in 1262.

In 1291 he decided to build a new city as the capital of Lanna Thai (A Million Rice Fields). He invited King Ramkhamhaeng ( Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng Maharat ) of Sukhothai Kingdom and King Ngam Muang ( Pho Khun Ngam Muang ) of Phayao Kingdom, his very close friends, to help select a site for the new city. They decided on a fertile plain between Doi Suthep Moutain and the bank of the Ping River.

In 1296 The new city was completed, surrounded by a moat and wall. It was named Nopphaburi Si Nakhonping “Chiang Mai” ( literally means new city )


3 Kings statue

King Ngam Muang – King Mengrai – King Ramkhamhaeng

From then, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also the centre of Buddhism in northern Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was very religious and founded many of the city’s temples, which are still important today. ( Please see detail in Attractions )

At the height of its power, the Lanna Kingdom extended its territory far into Burma and Laos, and southwards to Kamphaeng Phet a province above Sukhothai.

Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna Thai for a long time. It was attacked frequently and finally came under the control of Ayutthaya, Then Burma.

The Burmese conquered the Lanna Kingdom in 1556 ending the dynasty founded by King Meng Rai that lasted over 260 years. As Burma had occupied Chiang Mai for nearly 200 years, Burmese architectural influences are visible in many temples. At the end of the 18th century (In 1774 ), King Taksin the Great regrouped the Thais in the south and finally drove the Burmese out with the help of King Kawila of Lampang thereby regaining Thai independence from Burma. Chiang Mai was then governed by a succession of princes who ruled the north as a Siamese protectorate under the Chakri dynasty.

In the late 19th century, King Rama V appointed a high commissioner in Chiang Mai and it was only in 1939 that Chiang Mai finally came under the direct control of the central government in Bangkok the same time the country was renamed Thailand. Since then Chiang Mai has been a province of Thailand.


3 Kings statue today, In front of old Chiang Mai City Hall

Chiang Mai History
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