Short History of Lanna

King Mangrai, the 25th king of Ngoen Yang of the Lavachakkaraj dynasty, centralized the city-states of Ngoen Yang into a unified kingdom and made an alliance with the neighboring Kingdom of Kingo. In 1262, Mangrai moved the capital from Ngoen Yang (modern Chiang Sæn) to the newly-founded Chiang Rai – naming the city after himself. Mangrai consolidated the north and 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 Kingo and Ram Khamhæng of Sukhothai in 1276 & 1277 AD respectively.

King Mangrai giving Judgement
King Mangrai giving Judgement

Mangrai moved the capital to just north of Lamphun where he founded Wiang Kum Kam in 1287. After that fortress flooded, he found another more auspicious location, which is where he built Chiang Mai starting in 1296. Territories that were claimed by Mangrai's Lanna include most of the modern northern Thailand provinces (with the exception of Phrae – which was under Sukhothai – and Kingo and Nan under the Kingdom of Kingo); but also 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.

In 1317, Mangrai died and was succeeded by his second son Paya Chaisongkram. After four months Chaisongkram moved the capital back to Chiangrai and appointed his son Thau Sæn Phu as the Uparāja 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, Sæn Phu fled the city. Thau Nam Tuam, another son of Chaisongkram, intervened and repelled Khun Kruea.

Paya Kam Fu, son of Sæn Phu, moved the capital again to Chiang Sæn in 1334, only to be returned to Chiang Mai by his son Pa Yu. Theravāda 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 (the sect based on Sri Lankan traditions) and invited monks from Sukhothai to replace the existing the Mon Theravāda that Lanna had inherited from Haripunchai.

Lanna enjoyed peace under Sæn Mueng Ma. The only disturbing event was the failed rebellion by his uncle Prince Maha Prommatat. Maha Prommatat requested aid from the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya.

Borommaracha I 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 Kæn.

The Lanna kingdom was strongest under Tilokarat (1441 - 1487), who is the second of the three important kings of Lanna (Mangrai, Tilokarat and Kawila). He seized the throne from his father Sam Fang Kæn in 1441. At this time in the south, the emerging Kingdom of Ayutthaya was also growing powerful. Relations between the two kingdoms had worsened since they hade given support to Thau Choi, Tilokarat's brother, in his rebellion against the King.

In 1451, Yuttitthira, a Sukhothai royalty who had conflicts with Trailokanat of Ayutthaya, gave himself to Tilokarat. Yuttitthira urged Trilokanat to invade Pitsanulok which he had claims on, igniting the Ayutthaya-Lanna War over the Kingdom of Sukhothai. In 1460, the governor of Chaliang surrendered to Tilokarat. Trailokanat then used a new strategy and concentrated on the wars with Lanna by moving the capital to Pitsanulok. Lanna suffered setbacks and Tilokarat eventually sued for peace in 1475.

Tilokarat was also a strong patron of Theravāda Buddhism. In 1477, the 8th Buddhist Council was held at Wat Chet Yod, just outside Chiang Mai city. Tilokarat also built and rehabilitated many notable temples. In 1480, Tilokarat sent aid to help the King of Lan Xang to free his kingdom from Vietnamese occupation. Tilokarat then expanded west to the Shan States of Laikha, Hsipaw, Mong Nai, and Yawnghwe.

After Tilokarat, Lanna was subjected to old-style princely struggles that prevented the kingdom from defending itself against its powerful and growing neighbors, and the Shans broke free of Lanna control. The last strong ruler was Paya Kæw who was the great-grandson of Tilokarat. Kæw sent Lanna armies to re-exert control over the Shan teritories but was readily defeated by Hsipaw armies. The loss was so tremendous that Lanna never regained such dominance.

In the middle of the 16th c. Lanna was invaded and made subject to Burma, in which condition it remained for the following two centuries. As the Lanna kings were strictly manipulated by Burma, the resistance was then instead led by common people – ranging from 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 Chiang Mai 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 Sæn was annexed to Burma.

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

The Burmese attempted to retake the Lanna Kingdom in the following year, and even drove their forces right down into the Siamese heartland, but they were forced to withdraw again. Around this time, owing to depletion of population and destruction of property, Chiang Mai was abandoned for around 20 years, until Kawila repopulated the city and its surrounding areas with captives from the Shan states and from Yunnan, after which he spent his time improving the fortifications and attending to renovations of the temples and monasteries.

King Kawila was the last great King in the independent Lanna Kingdom, and less than a century after his death it was incorporated into the Thai Kingdom, and by the 1930s it had ceased to exist as an independent entity and had became a province in the larger Thai kingdom.

Text adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, July 15th 2011