CMHomeboy78

Chiang Mai Farangs - In Perspective

65 posts in this topic

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?

Dumb-it-down for Thai Visa members? Never!

I did indeed omit to mention that Chiang Mai was abandoned between 1775 and 1797.

But to what extent was it abandoned? This is a vexed question among historians.

The Chiang Mai Chronicle says: "At that time Chiang Mai was abandoned and overgrown with weeds, bushes, and vines. It was a place for rhinoceros and elephants and tigers and bears and there were few people." [Wyatt / Wichienkeeo translation. 1995].

Hans Penth [A Brief History of Lanna. 1994] glosses it as: "For military reasons, but also because the city had suffered much physical damage and a serious loss of population along with a loss of food supply, the royal court, between 1775 and 1797 lived in a camp near Pa Sang, south of Lamphun. During that time Chiang Mai was nearly deserted. After King Kawila had ceremoniously re-entered the city on Thursday, 9 March 1797, Chiang Mai received new fortifications; what is left of them at present dates from that period around 1800."

My own opinion - for what it's worth - is that the city was never totally abandoned. Even if all social structures and institutions broke down and the place became a haunt of "wild beasts" - both two and four-legged.

There was just too much there; even if it was in ruins. The number of temples and sacred sites would make it almost a thebaid to rival Sagaing and Pagan. Even without an organized Sangha there must have been devotees of one type or another.

And a breakdown of civil society would embolden treasure-hunters.

I think there were always people in Chiang Mai; nevertheless I agree with you that the period does deserve mention. So excuse the omission.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Dumb-it-down for Thai Visa members? Never!

I did indeed omit to mention that Chiang Mai was abandoned between 1775 and 1797.

But to what extent was it abandoned? This is a vexed question among historians.

The Chiang Mai Chronicle says: "At that time Chiang Mai was abandoned and overgrown with weeds, bushes, and vines. It was a place for rhinoceros and elephants and tigers and bears and there were few people." [Wyatt / Wichienkeeo translation. 1995].

Hans Penth [A Brief History of Lanna. 1994] glosses it as: "For military reasons, but also because the city had suffered much physical damage and a serious loss of population along with a loss of food supply, the royal court, between 1775 and 1797 lived in a camp near Pa Sang, south of Lamphun. During that time Chiang Mai was nearly deserted. After King Kawila had ceremoniously re-entered the city on Thursday, 9 March 1797, Chiang Mai received new fortifications; what is left of them at present dates from that period around 1800."

My own opinion - for what it's worth - is that the city was never totally abandoned. Even if all social structures and institutions broke down and the place became a haunt of "wild beasts" - both two and four-legged.

There was just too much there; even if it was in ruins. The number of temples and sacred sites would make it almost a thebaid to rival Sagaing and Pagan. Even without an organized Sangha there must have been devotees of one type or another.

And a breakdown of civil society would embolden treasure-hunters.

I think there were always people in Chiang Mai; nevertheless I agree with you that the period does deserve mention. So excuse the omission.

I suppose it remaIned a fertile valley, suitable for agriculture and just too obvious a place to settle. So it seems likely that there were always villages. It could still be correct that it was largely abandonded as any kind of urban center of importance. Of course that period of abandonement isn't that long; 23 years. It wouldn't have completely overgrown with jungle like Angkor. It'd just be a mess. :) Perhaps the current layout of the old city -other than the temples- is essentially the result of villagers resettling inside the moat area and building wooden houses in relatively random places; plenty space available. Before the abandonement you'd think there would be a royal palace somewhere, perhaps in the area where the government buildings and Yupparaj school are now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 20   Posted (edited)

Chiang Mai Farangs - In Perspective.

I would like to continue the topic with biographical sketches of Richardson and McLeod whose mission journals contain a wealth of information about Chiang Mai and the Northern Thai States during the early part of the 19th century.

Much abbreviated abstract versions of the journals had been published in 1837 in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, in Calcutta, with remarkable alacrity just a few months after they had been officially submitted to the government. They were subsequently printed in London as a Parliamentary Paper in 1869, and have been used extensively by historians ever since.

The journals are currently available in the Turton/Grabowsky edition [silkworm Books 2003] which also includes relevant information about the principal players, the journey, and the countries visited.

Dr David Richardson [1796-1846] has the distinction of being the first farang on record to visit Chiang Mai since the ill-fated Thomas Samuel in 1613.

Richardson was born in humble circumstances to a family of London Scots. Parish records state that he was the son of "Hugh Richardson, Slopseller, by Jane - Wapping Street". So he grew up in the environment of the London Docks, probably living above his father's shop selling clothing and other goods in what would be familiar to Americans as an Army/Navy store.

The next thing we know is that he studied medicine, becoming a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1817 at the age of about twenty-one.

His first employment was as Surgeon's Mate on an East India Company armed merchantman sailing twice to China and back to England. He was commissioned Assistant Surgeon on 9 May 1823 and set sail for Madras, arriving on 3 September. Ten days later he left for the garrison at Masulipatam to the north where he joined the Madras European Regiment [MER] which was composed of British troops under the East India Company; it was not a regiment of the British Army as such. Most of the other forces at Madras would have been "Native Infantry" [NI] which had mainly British officers, a few junior Indian officers, and all Indian men.

When war was declared with Burma on 5 March 1824 the MER was ordered to be part of the ten thousand or so expeditionary force to sail from Madras to Rangoon. Richardson was never to return to Madras, let alone Europe. This was to be true too of the greater part of his regiment who were to die in Burma; as dispatches remark ruefully it took three ships to carry them out, but only one for the return journey.

Richardson took part in several major actions. After the Treaty of Yandabo [24 February 1826] which ended the war and ceded to Britain the provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim, the Madras European Regiment stayed on in Burma while the Native Regiments returned to Madras.

In 1827 British military headquarters moved to Moulmein at the mouth of the Salween River. Thus began Richardson's career in the Tenasserim Provinces. For twenty years, until his death, he was a leading member of the expatriate society of Britain's largest territory east of Calcutta at the time, though with Penang, Province Wellesley, Malacca, and Singapore, it was still part of British India.

Richardson's first political and diplomatic appointment came three and a half years after his arrival in Tenasserim. This was the mission to Chiang Mai which commenced in December 1829 following several requests for contact from the rulers of Lamphun and Chiang Mai. He returned on 10 March 1830; his report being forwarded to the government in Calcutta. A reply states that "the Governor-General in Council has perused Dr Richardson's report with great interest and it is considered to be highly creditable to his intelligence and zeal".

His success in this first mission to the Northern Thai States obviously confirmed his diplomatic and organisational talents in the estimation of his superiors.

The years 1834-9 are the busiest in terms of diplomatic journeys. During this six-year period he spent over two years absent on four major missions to principalities in Lanna Thai and what is today the Burmese Shan States.

The success of his diplomatic and commercial objectives is recorded in numerous official dispatches; but beyond that, his journals provide invaluable information about a part of Southeast Asia that was virtually unknown to Europeans at the time.

According to his grandson Arthur, who had been Deputy Superintendent of Police, and died in Moulmein in 1965 at the age of ninety-three, Dr Richardson married "the daughter of a Shan Sawbwa", and had two sons. One of whom, Edward Richardson, married May Phayre, the daughter of Sir Arthur Phayre [Chief Commissioner of British Burma 1862-7] and his Burmese wife. Edward and May left an issue of eight children. Descendents undoubtedly exist to this day in Burma.

Dr David Richardson died in Moulmein on 31 January 1846 a month after his forty-ninth birthday.

His grandson Arthur added that he had become a Buddhist and "was buried in the compound of the Kyaikthan Pagoda" [the oldest Mon Monastery].

Rest in peace.

William Couperus McLeod [1805-80] - W.C.McLeod as he seems always to have signed himself - was born on 16 September 1805 in Pondicherry, the former French colony in India situated south of Madras. It was during the Napoleonic War, and Pondicherry, not for the first time, was temporarily in British hands. So it is likely he was born into a military family. This is made the more probable by the fact that he was "gazetted as a Cadet and posted to the Madras Army" in 1821 at sixteen years old.

He was promoted to the lowest officer rank of Ensign on 27 April 1822. It is not certain what regiment he was posted to at this stage. He was promoted Lieutenant in the Thirtieth Madras Regiment of Native Infantry in 1826. He would have been at Madras for about two years when Dr David Richardson arrived, the latter some nine years his senior in age, and also of senior qualification, rank, and experience.

During the first Anglo-Burmese war McLeod took part in the assault on the old Portuguese fort and factory at Syriam, which the Burmese had stockaded. He also saw action at Pegu, Prome, and at Donabew where he quite likely would have met David Richardson again.

After the war he returned to Madras where he was appointed in 1829 to the Commissariat Department.

In 1830 McLeod was named to a commission determining the boundry between Burma and the State of Manipur where he combined border demarkation duties with his scientific interests; sending fossils and other specimens to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, which later elected him to membership.

One of the stipulations of the Treaty of Yandabo was that a British Resident must be entertained at the Court of Ava. King Bagyidaw had begun to display symptoms of the insanity that was later to incapacitate him. Power was in the hands of the chief queen and her brother, both of low origin. Under the strain of dealing with this difficult situation, Major Henry Burney's health broke down. He had been Resident since 1830, but by 1833 McLeod was put briefly in charge.

Later in 1834 McLeod - now promoted to Captain - was appointed Assistant Commissioner for the Province of Mergui, the southernmost of the Tenasserim Provinces.

Richardson and McLeod were selected in 1836 to go on a diplomatic and commercial mission with the objective of opening an overland trade route for British goods into China and the largely autonomous and semi-independent states in what is present-day Thailand's upper-north, Burma, and Laos.

Starting together from Moulmein, with provisions and pack animals, and accompanied by traders and guides from Tenasserim, their brief was to ascend the Salween to the vicinity of Mae Sariang. There they were to part company, with McLeod travelling as far north as Chiang Rung via Muang Haut, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Sai. and Chiang Tung.

Richardson went northwest through the Shan States which were nominally tributary to Burma. His final destination was the Court of Ava.

As a result of Richardson's three missions to Chiang Mai and Lamphun between 1830-5 the British at Moulmein had considerable knowlege of Lanna Thai. The purpose of the 1837 missions was to go beyond Chiang Mai and establish diplomatic relationships with the ruling families wherever possible.

On this trip Richardson bypassed Chiang Mai but McLeod was here from 12 to 29 January 1837, and on his return from Chiang Rung, from 18 April to 11 May. His journal entries concerning Chiang Mai are fascinating reading and, together with Richardson's descriptions, are the first look we have at the city since Ralph Fitch's writings in 1587.

Nothing in McLeod's subsequent career is of much relevance to Chiang Mai, but to round out this brief sketch the following facts may be of interest:

McLeod returned to his post as Assistant Commissioner at Mergui after the 1837 mission. In April 1838 he was appointed Special Assistant to Colonel Benson who became British Resident at the Court of Ava after Henry Burney's departure.

Following nearly two years of diplomatic service in the Burmese Kingdom, Captain McLeod was posted to British military headquarters at Moulmein where he remained for the next seven years.

In 1840 he married the twenty year old daughter of the Inspector General of Army Hospitals. They were to have ten children. The next reference to McLeod's military career is his promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1853, and service in India during the 1857 Mutiny. He was appointed full Colonel of his regiment, the Thirtieth Madras Native Infantry in 1865, a post he held until his retirement in 1869 at the age of sixty-four.

Historical sources speak of his "return" to England in 1869. But since there is no record of his ever having been there before, I don't see how it can be considered a return. Anyway, he retired there, where he died on 4 April 1880 in London.

He would have been known by those with an interest in Burma, and official circles may still have sought his advice. He was the only British officer to have visited Chiang Tung and north to the mountainous borderlands of China.

There had also been a Burmese embassy to London in 1872 in which McLeod might well have been involved in some way.

All in all a remarkable life.

Rest in peace.

The next significant development in Chiang Mai was the arrival of the Rev. Daniel McGilvary. The American Protestant Missionaries and the British teak-wallahs were the first farangs to take up residence in the city.

In my next post I would like to look at that event and the consequences that ultimately led to the end of the Lanna Dynasty.

To be continued.....

Edited by CMHomeboy78
2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your ongoing series. I look forward to future installments.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Facinating information. Please keep it coming and thanks for sharing.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 23   Posted (edited)

Who were the first Americans in Ciang Mai?

The consensus among historians seems to be that it was the Rev. Daniel McGilvary and his wife, who came in 1867. As far as I know, there is no record of any Americans being in Chiang Mai before them.

But Americans were a considerable diplomatic, commercial, and missionary presence in Bangkok following the arrival of the first American ship in 1821.

McGilvary's A Half Century Among the Siamese and Lao - An Autobiography, was published in 1912, a year after his death, and is available as a reprint from White Lotus [2002].

Edited by CMHomeboy78

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

awesome stuff. are the bulk of your sources books or online?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

awesome stuff. are the bulk of your sources books or online?

Books mostly.

Many primary sources have been reprinted within the past twenty years or so; notably by Oxford in Asia, Silkworm Books, and White Lotus among others.

There is probably a lot of information online that I hope to make better use of in the future.

Payap University has a microfilm archive relating to 19th century Chiang Mai that I would very much like to have access to. But without any connection to the school, and without academic credentials as an historian it may be difficult. I'll give it a try anyway.

Thanks for your interest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Nothing Grandjean saw in Chiang Mai seemed to please him. He was critical of almost everything."

It sounds like he was a prototypical Thai Visa member.

You also state that Grandjean mentioned that the city had "a double girdle of walls." Wouldn't that tend to confirm the authenticity of the controversial Finlayson Map of Chiang Mai?

What's your take on that?

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Nothing Grandjean saw in Chiang Mai seemed to please him. He was critical of almost everything."

It sounds like he was a prototypical Thai Visa member.

You also state that Grandjean mentioned that the city had "a double girdle of walls." Wouldn't that tend to confirm the authenticity of the controversial Finlayson Map of Chiang Mai?

What's your take on that?

Yes, Grandjean sounds quite modern in many ways; but at least he did everybody the favor of leaving when he did.

As regards the Finlayson Map, I would refer you to Dr Andrew Forbes' The Ancient History of Chiang Mai, vol. III [CPA Media 2011].

Forbes is one of the leading authorities on questions relating to this map.

Dr George Finlayson [1790-1823], who was a member of the Crawfurd Mission to Bangkok [1822] never claimed to have visited Chiang Mai himself. Therefore I didn't include him among the "Chiang Mai Farangs."

The "authenticity" of the map that bears his name isn't really in doubt. Its provenance is documented to approximately the time of its production. It was among his papers at his untimely death at age thirty-three in Calcutta, and arrived at the British Library via the East India Company shortly thereafter.

Whether or not the Finlayson Map is an accurate representation of Chiang Mai at the time [c.1820] of its creation is another question that has often been debated.

That it is the work of a Thai is generally accepted, in spite of the fact that it is drawn on [presumably] English paper with an 1814 watermark. So 1814 and 1822 - when Finlayson was in Bangkok and acquired it - bracket the year of its making.

At this time European cartography had far surpassed anything that was produced in East Asia. The map in question is most probably the work of a local cartographer; and its original notations in flawless Pah-sah Glahng make that even more probable. It was subsequently marked at the top margin in pen in English script "Cheung Mai", and directly below that in a smaller hand, "before the inner wall was removed." Finlayson himself possibly wrote that. It would be interesting to know if there is any other instance of his spelling the city's name in this anomalous way.

The map shows - in a highly stylized manner - a double girdle of walls, just as Grandjean notes, and a walled inner precinct with the residence of the ruler at the center. This schematic is contradicted by the expert testimony of Captain McLeod on his visit in 1839; five years before Grandjean, and twenty or so after the drawing of the map.

McLeod states unequivocally that there was one wall and moat. He was a trained military engineer and part of his brief was to evaluate and report on the defences of Chiang Mai. We can take his word for it, or we can take the word of Grandjean, a religious-nut whose sole purpose was the mass-conversion of the entire population.

I think that what Grandjean meant by a second wall was the actually the Kampang Din, built [or possibly rebuilt] by Chao Kawila c.1800, around the time he refounded the city and restored the Kampang Muang.

This conjecture seems even more likely because there once existed walls defending the northern suburbs as well.

Professor Hans Penth during the 1960's traced the flattened remains of walls from near the northwest Hua Rin corner going north, then turning eastward past the White Elephant Monument to the Nong Bua, once a swamp and lake near the northeast Sri Phum corner where the Kampang Din began.

Therefore, in Grandjean's time there would have been an almost continuous outer wall from near the Hua Rin corner to near the Ku Ruang corner in the southwest of the city.

I feel certain that what Grandjean was referring to was the Kampang Din and its northern extension.

But how can the map be explained? In my opinion - and not to labor the point - the Finlayson Map is a symbolic representation of Chiang Mai as a celestial city with the royal residence as Mt. Meru at the center.

I hope I have - to some extent - answered your question without confusing the matter even more.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'But how can the map be explained? In my opinion - and not to labor the point - the Finlayson Map is a symbolic representation of Chiang Mai as a celestial city with the royal residence as Mt. Meru at the center'.

I second that.

Thank you for a fascinating contribution.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the detailed reply.

But I'm still not convinced that Grandjean was talking about the Kampang Din.

The Finlayson Map is visual evidence, of a sort, and reinforced by the added note "before the inner wall was removed."

Your evident bias against missionaries has possibly led you to underestimate Grandjean as a reliable witness.

You've probably read Carl Bock's Temples and Elephants. Did a more obnoxious farang ever set foot in Lanna Thai? His tactlessness was almost comical. Not to mention the fact that he plundered and desecrated religious sites as well. Yet his writings and observations are generally accepted as factual.

Maybe it's a good idea to put aside our prejudices when evaluating historical information.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

BANGKOK 21 July 2017 03:41
Sponsors