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BANGKOK 17 December 2018 12:53

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CMHomeboy78

Chiang Mai Farangs - In Perspective

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Nophaburi Srinakhonping Chiangmai, to give the city it's full, formal name was founded in 1296 by King Mengrai

The historians W.A.R. Wood, Camille Notton, Hans Penth, David Wyatt, and more recently Andrew Forbes have all made valuable contributions to Chiang Mai studies that are greatly appreciated by those of us who love the city and what remains of the traditional life and culture of the Kohn Muang who inhabit it.

My topic is a summary of what I know about noteworthy farangs who have had some relation to Chiang Mai in the past.

Additional information would be welcome as well as corrections to any possible errors of my own.

Suvarna-Bhumi - in many variations of spelling - meaning Land of Gold, was known by name to the Romans and mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy among others.

Exactly where in Southeast Asia it was and how knowlege of it reached the west are unknown. But somebody must have travelled here, or had contact with others who did.

Any relationship with Chiang Mai is impossible because of the dates; nevertheless conjectures have been made.

In the realm of documented fact we can begin with Portugese diplomatic missions and mercenary soldiers serving in the armies of early 16th Century Ayudhya and engaged in campaigns against Chiang Mai.

The earliest recorded diplomatic contact with Europeans was by Duarte Fernandez in 1511.

Sent as an envoy from Afonso d'Albuquerque, Viceroy of Portugese India [Goa]; then residing in the recently captured port of Malacca.

Fernandez was well received by King Rama T'ibodi II, and subsequent missions were sent in 1512 and 1516 which resulted in permission for the Portugese to reside and trade in Ayudhya, Mergui, Pattani and Nakhon Si Thammarat.

In 1518 King Rama T'ibodi reorganized his army which now included Portugese gunners and cannon founders. A book [now lost] on military tactics and fortification was issued for the edification of his officers.

At the time of King P'rajai's accession in 1536 the number of Portugese in Ayudhya had greatly increased.

In 1540 a Burmese invasion was repulsed with the aid of the Portugese who were rewarded with even more privileges, including the right to propagate their Santa Fe

An invasion of Chiang Mai was undertaken in 1545 and it was on that occasion - most probably - that the city was first visited by Europeans. But no hard evidence survives, other than the chronicle of Mendez Pinto, a Portugese adventurer resident in Ayudhya at the time, who claimed to have been part of the campaign against Chiang Mai.

Historians almost all discount that claim because of gross exaggerations, conflicting dates, and ignorance of important facts about the Princess Regent, Maha T'ewi of Chiang Mai.

Pinto's description of the war with Chiang Mai is thought to be made up from accounts given to him by compatriots who really did accompany the army. While he himself stayed in Ayudhya to keep the home-fires burning.

Regretably, none of them left any written accounts of what they saw in that city that had been independent and prosperous since it's founding over two hundred years before.

Ralph Fitch.

No historical records exist that mention visits to Chiang Mai until 1587 when the Englishman Ralph Fitch came overland from Pegu to "Jamahey" - variant spellings are numerous, some beginning with an "X" or "Z".

Fitch's remarkable travels as related in Purchas His Pilgrims and Hakluyt's Voyages and Discoveries are generally accepted as fact.

From England he went through Europe and the Middle East, then by ship from Basra to Goa where he was imprisoned by the Portugese as an heretic and probable spy for the government of their arch-enemy, the English Jezabel.

He was freed after about a year and continued his journey across India to Bengal, then took ship to Pegu where he attached himself to a Burmese army that besieged and entered Chiang Mai.

Fitch's life is a fascinating study and he can be regarded as the first farang on record to visit Chiang Mai.

His description of "property, riches and women, has a somewhat contemporary ring about it" according to Ian Bushell in a recent talk on local history. Maybe Chiang Mai hasn't changed that much after all.

Thomas Samuel.

Another Englishman; he was employed by the East India Company and based in Ayudhya.

He was sent to Chiang Mai in 1613 with a large consignment of cloth which he had partially sold when he was captured by another invading Burmese army.

Taken as a prisoner to Pegu, he died there shortly afterwards. Whether as a result of ill-treatment or natural causes is not known.

Samuel's fate and the problems caused by internal conflicts in the East India Company's Ayudhya establishment delayed efforts to open trade with Chiang Mai until the early 19th Century when British interest in mercantile connections revived; and with a view to gaining geopolitical advantages vis a vis the French who were spreading their influence throughout Indochina.

To the best of my knowlege there were no recorded contacts by Europeans with Chiang Mai in the 18th Century.

I hope to continue this topic with a look at the farangs who were part of the commercial, diplomatic and missionary presence that began when Chiang Mai was an independent northern capitol early in the 19th Century.

At that time it was nominally a vassal of Bangkok as a result of military treaties aimed at preventing another Burmese incursion

In fact it was ruled by it's Chaos, the aristocratic families of Chiang Mai.

The Chakri Kings were satisfied with various forms of token tribute and the occasional Chiang Mai Princess in exchange for non-interference. The Burmese threat was being neutralized because they were engaged in conflict with the British who were taking over their country piecemeal.

In the course of the 19th Century Chiang Mai's position changed dramatically with the American Protestant Missionaries and the British teak-wallahs playing key roles in the transition to complete dominance by the central government.

To be continued...

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Fascinating, thank you.

Is some text missing after 'Santa Fe' in this part?: 'In 1540 a Burmese invasion was repulsed with the aid of the Portugese who were rewarded with even more privileges, including the right to propagate their Santa Fe An invasion of Chiang Mai was undertaken in 1545 and it was on that occasion - most probably - that the city was first visited by Europeans. But no hard evidence survives, other than the chronicle of Mendez Pinto, a Portugese adventurer resident in Ayudhya at the time, who claimed to have been part of the campaign against Chiang Mai.'

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Fascinating, thank you.

Is some text missing after 'Santa Fe' in this part?: 'In 1540 a Burmese invasion was repulsed with the aid of the Portugese who were rewarded with even more privileges, including the right to propagate their Santa Fe An invasion of Chiang Mai was undertaken in 1545 and it was on that occasion - most probably - that the city was first visited by Europeans. But no hard evidence survives, other than the chronicle of Mendez Pinto, a Portugese adventurer resident in Ayudhya at the time, who claimed to have been part of the campaign against Chiang Mai.'

Thanks for the response.

And excuse me for any ambiguities in my post.

I'm a graphic artist not a writer; so I lose my footing on a slippery slope occasionally.

You refer to possible missing text after my reference to the defeat of a Burmese invasion headed for Ayudhya in 1540 and King P'rajai's 1545 invasion of Chiang Mai.

As far as I know, nothing of importance to Chiang Mai happened between those two events.

Incidentally, my reference to "Santa Fe" - not to insult your intelligence - meant "Holy Faith", not that elephants burial ground for old hippies in New Mexico.

Thanks again for your interest.

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Ah, thank you for that explanation, CMHomeboy78. Now I get it. Most of my not understanding that one sentence stemmed from my not knowing the meaning, which you have now explained, of 'Santa Fe' -- not that I thought, mind you, that it referred there to the city in New Mexico -- with a touch of further uncertainty added by there being no full-stop after it. smile.png

Once again, great stuff, and many thanks.

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while the topic at this site focuses more on Chiang Rai in some respects, it is about Lanna Kingdom (which includes Chiang Mai). Again, it is mainly from a thai perspective but does contain info of dealings with western traders and companies... check it out.. i have found it good reading

http://www.chiangraiprovince.com/guide/eng/40_11.htm

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while the topic at this site focuses more on Chiang Rai in some respects, it is about Lanna Kingdom (which includes Chiang Mai). Again, it is mainly from a thai perspective but does contain info of dealings with western traders and companies... check it out.. i have found it good reading

http://www.chiangrai...e/eng/40_11.htm

Many thanks for that useful link.

Full of interesting information about the teak trade and other topics that relate to Chiang Mai and Lanna Thai in general.

A valuable source for future reference.

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Chiang Mai at the time of the Richardson and McLeod diplomatic and commercial missions to the Northern Thai states.

For two centuries following the visits of Ralph Fitch and Thomas Samuel in 1587 and 1613 respectively, no farang is reported to have visited Chiang Mai. Both western and indigenous sources are silent about Northern Thai contacts with Europeans until the early 19th century.

The liberation of Lanna Thai from Burmese rule was a long struggle that dragged on for almost thirty years, devastating and depopulating large areas of the north. It started with an uprising in the south, culminating in the recapture of Chiang Mai in 1775 by Lanna and Siamese troops, and ended after several setbacks in 1804 with the conquest of Chiang Saen on the upper Mekong, which the Burmese had fortified as their main power-base in the region after they lost Chiang Mai.

In 1802, Kawila, ruler of Chiang Mai, travelled to Bangkok where King Rama I bestowed upon him the title Chao Prathetsarat, accepting him as a high-ranking vassal. The King acknowledged the supremacy of Chiang Mai over the formerly separate principalities of Lampang and Lamphun. Like Chiang Mai, the latter two vassal states were ruled by members of the Kawila clan.

The founder of the clan was Thip Chang, a commoner who expelled the despotic ruler of Lampang in 1732. He did so with broad popular support and moral encouragement by the local Buddhist Sangha. He ascended the throne under the name Phana Sulawaluchai [r. 1732-59]. His son Chai Kaeo [r. 1759-74] was instrumental in organizing armed resistance to the Burmese after 1770. His eldest son Kawila [b. 1742] helped his father in day-to-day administration, proved to be an able military commander, and finally played a crucial role in defeating the Burmese at Chiang Mai.

From 1775 on, Kawila and his six brothers dominated politics in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Lampang. Throughout the 19th century all leading administrative posts in these three closely allied principalities were held by the seven brothers and their offspring. People in the north called this dynasty Trakun Chao Jet Ton, the family of the seven lords.

Against this background, renewed contact with farangs was made in the early 19th century.

Dr David Richardson and Captain William McLeod were the first British and Europeans to reopen channels of communication with Chiang Mai. Their journeys overland from Moulmein to Chiang Mai and other Northern Thai states occured at a time when the region was recovering economically and socially from the destructive wars with the Burmese that had ended a generation earlier. Although all five Lanna principalities - Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, and Nan - recognized Siamese suzerainty, the actual influence of Bangkok in the north was limited. The two diplomats from British-held Moulmein therefore became witnesses of a rather unique historical situation. During this time the Lanna princes still acted as quasi-independent rulers preserving much of the traditional political and social system. Only in the sphere of foreign policy and in military matters did they acknowledge the supremacy of the Chakri Kings in Bangkok.

The weakness of Siamese influence during this period is reflected in the rare mention of Lanna in contemporary Siamese government reports. The wealth of information provided by the journals of Richardson and McLeod therefore helps to fill the gap of knowledge with first-hand accounts on society, economy, population, and politics of the region visited by them.

The early years of western contact with Chiang Mai - 16th to 18th centuries - are characterized by a paucity of historical documents on the subject; but beginning in the early 19th century it becomes a veritable tsunami. I'm trying to ride it without being overwhelmed by it.

The Richardson and McLeod journals mark the beginning of a very eventful and well-documented period in Northern Thai history when farangs, particularly British, French, and American nationals were involved in shaping events.

In my next post I will try to summarize that involvement through the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, who unified the country and brought it into the modern era.

To be continued.....

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Thank you. Interesting reading and I am looking forward to your next instalment.

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Thank you. Interesting reading and I am looking forward to your next instalment.

And thank you for the encouragement.

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@ CMhomeboy78

Fascinating.

Thank you for posting.

T

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Sorry a bit of a tangent - but the mention of King of Lampang , made me think of Luang Phor Kasem.

He was a very well respected monk who lived much of the time at a cemetery, if I remember correctly.

He was a direct descendant of the Lampang royal family.

Does anyone know the exact lineage?

http://www.buddhism-amulet.com/product.detail_25544_en_3056702

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Sorry a bit of a tangent - but the mention of King of Lampang , made me think of Luang Phor Kasem.

He was a very well respected monk who lived much of the time at a cemetery, if I remember correctly.

He was a direct descendant of the Lampang royal family.

Does anyone know the exact lineage?

http://www.buddhism-amulet.com/product.detail_25544_en_3056702

There is a genealogical chart of the Lampang Royal Family in Susan Conway's beautifully illustrated book, Silken Threads Lacquer Thrones - La Na Court Textiles [River Books. 2002].

It shows they were part of the Kawila clan, the Trakun Chao Jet Ton, whose founder was Thip Chang.

The last Lampang prince died in 1922 leaving an issue of eleven children, so his descendents must be numerous.

What the connection is to Luang Phor Kasem I don't know, but he may very well have been one of them.

Choke dee.

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Your post is full of interesting information about Chiang Mai.

You didn't dumb-it-down but at the same time you kept it concise.

That said, I must point out one glaring omission, and that is the abandonment of Chiang Mai in the late 18th century - 1770s to 1790s, or whenever it was.

Surely that deserves mention in even an outline of the city's history during that period.

Can you comment?

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I read that Chaing Mai was deserted between 1776-91 due to successive wars, with Lampang being made the temporary capital. An interesting and well written account of Northern Thai History, keep it up!

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Thank you for taking the time to do this - you did it so I don't have to. Always been a bit interested, but not interested enough to go out and find a book or surf the web, now I don't have to because you did. Maybe we should all do something so other people don't have to.

On a side note, I've always looked at the artificial sweetener aspartame and thought "I really ought to find out a bit more about this stuff just in case it really is as bad as it sounds". Well, at the weekend someone mentioned something on Facebook and it spiralled from a mention into me doing the research and coming back with the 20 word advisory so everybody else doesn't have to go out and do the research all again. It's my job for the next few days, and if anyone is interested, I'll put up my (totally unscientific) findings and conclusion.

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