Discovering the rich history of Chiang Mai

Every place in the world has its own history just waiting to be explored. This includes ‘Chiang Mai’, a province in the north of Thailand and very popular with tourists from around the world. All Chiang Mai’s stories are waiting for us to explore at the ‘Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre’, ‘Chiang Mai Historical Center’ and ‘Lanna Folk life Museum’. Thai PBS World explored these places to discover just what a rich history this city possesses.

In order to get into these fascinating places, you need to buy a very reasonably priced ticket. There are two ticket options. The first option allows you to visit just a single location, the second gets you into all three. Naturally, we choose the second option.

Our first visit is to the Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre, located in a building of elegant architectural design on the site of a former royal hall. The building was used as the central administrative office of the Monthol Phayap administrative unit of Siam, and later as the Provincial Hall of Chiang Mai. In 1997, the municipality requested permission to renovate the building in order to turn it into the Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre.

In front of the building there is the ‘Three Kings Monument’, a landmark of Chiang Mai’s old town where people often come to pay homage. The three Kings statue features King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao.

This exhibition spreads over 2 floors and is divided into 7 parts on first floor and 8 parts on the second floor. The first floor features the following zones:

  • Chiang Mai Today – Showing a video presentation presenting ‘Chiang Mai in the Present Day’ as an introduction to the interesting culture, traditions and the way of life in Chiang Mai.

  • Pre Chiang Mai – Explaining the prehistory of Chiang Mai, with evidence indicating that people lived in the area of the Lanna Kingdom many thousands of years ago.

  • Two River Civilization – This is the civilization that was founded King Mangrai in the Kok River basin.

  • Constructing the city – Here you will discover that the city was built according to traditional astrological and religious beliefs of ‘The Three Worlds’ and the rectangular settlement of the city.

  • External Relations – This zone explains how Chiang Mai culture has had a positive influence on other cities in the region.

  • A Century of Chiang Mai – Here, you can see how Chiang Mai has changed over the past century.

  • The Best of Chiang Mai – Here you can experience the unique culture, traditions, rituals, arts and crafts that represent the glory of Chiang Mai.

On the second floor you can discover the following zones:

  • The Building History – Shows you the history and importance of the Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre building.

  • Dynastic Rulers – Here you will learn about the lives and times of the rulers of Chiang Mai.

  • Life Along the Mae Ping River – See how the Ping River is so important in the lives of people in Chiang Mai.

  • Life in the city – This zone is a look at local shops and markets where people enjoy a bustling trade.

  • Buddhism – The influence of the faith in Chiang Mai.

  • Tradition of the 12 Months – The traditions of supernatural beliefs, ancestor worship, faith in Buddhism.

  • Agricultural Life – Here you can see how local wisdom is used to manage people’s agriculture life.

  • Life on the Hill – Life, times and cohesiveness of people who live in the lowlands.

This is just the first of the three places we are going to visit. If you are not yet exhausted, let’s continue to the Chiang Mai Historical Centre.

Chiang Mai Historical Centre is located behind the Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre. This place will explain the rich 700 year history of Chiang Mai, including legends, politics and trade, language and literature, the law of Mangrai, nature and holy trees, water courses, transportation, the period of decline, the restoration period and changes of ruling power. A lot of old pictures, archaeological sites and a library are waiting for you to explore inside.

You can learn about the history of 5 periods of Chiang Mai:

  • PreMangrai Dynasty – The era of the Lua community, the group of indigenous people from Laos who migrated and have lived here since the founding of Chiang Mai.

  • Mangrai Dynasty – Providing historical information about the founding of Chiang Mai City and information from the early age to golden age.

  • Burmese Rule in Chiang Mai – The 200 years when Chiang Mai was under Burmese control.
  • Liberation from Burmese Rule – The escape of Chiang Mai City from Burmese control.

Transformation from a subordinate state to the province of Chiang Mai – Information provided here is about the role of the city as a subordinate state which became part of Kingdom of Siam.

Moreover, here you can find the archaeological site of the Ancient Wall and its interesting history. Feun Ban Yan Wiang Chiang Mai Library is a public library and is a good local learning centre where you can find a lot of Chiang Mai stories.

Here we come to the last place for today, the ‘Lanna Folk life Museum’.

In this museum, you will find exquisite culture, traditions, arts and way of Lanna life that have been practiced for centuries and are bound to the Buddhist faith of our ancestors.

This museum has 2 floors which are separated into 6 exhibition zones. On the first floor you will discover 6 exhibits including:

  • Temple Courtyard for Special Ceremonies – Showing visitors the ancient concepts of being protected by spirits, which arose under Buddhism.

  • Inside the Buddha Image Hall – This will show you an architectural pattern of Lanna Buddha Image hall and Buddhist art creation.

  • Lanna Worship Offering – Including information about handmade religious ritual artifacts.

  • Lanna Sculpture – This zone will show you sculptures created in the Lanna period.

  • Hae Khrua Than – This offers an informative exhibit about the Hae Khrua Than ritual, which is traditionally associated with Buddhism.

  • Lanna Mural Painting – The distinguished mural paintings of Chiang Mai artisans including influences from neighboring kingdoms.

On the second floor you can discover:

  • Ceramics and Lacquerware – The tools and equipment which are very important to the lifestyle of Lanna folk.
  • Woven Basketry Making a Living – The lifestyle of villagers in Lanna and basketry used as tool and appliances.

  • Music and Lifestyle – Information about everything from the music that related to the lifestyle of Lanna people to Lanna cuisine.

  • Lanna Textile – The art of Lanna textile weaving, which has an elegant style and design.

  • History of Lanna Folk life Museum building – Here you can experience the history of Chiang Mai district Court before the renovation and conversion into the Lanna Folk life Museum.

  • Lanna Mahakhaphan – This is the story of the Lanna Crown Jewels that are used as an offering to the sacred Buddha’s relics.

These are just some of the unique stories of Chiang Mai, the rest are waiting for you. So, what are you waiting for? Take a flight to Chiang Mai and come to explore these amazing stories yourself.


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