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Chiang Rai is the northernmost city in Thailand. Mangrai, the 25th king of Ngoenyang (modern Chiang Saen) centralized the mueangs of Ngoenyang into a unified "mandala," the kingdom of Lan Na, ("Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields) and in 1262 founded Chiang Rai (named after himself) as his new capital. He moved his capital several times as he expanded and consolidated his kingdom (which covered most of northern Thailand and part of Yunnan, with parts of northern Vietnam and northern Laos as tributary states)before returning it to Chiang Mai in 1296. When he died ca. 1311, his sons and grandsons warred over the succession for decades, but the dynasty persevered. In 1441, Tilokkarat seized the throne from his father, but his broth er Thau Choi revolted to reclaim the throne for his father with support from the emerging kingdom of Ayutthaya, to the south; Borommaracha II sent an army against Lan Na in 1442 but was repelled, and Tilokkarat suppressed his brother's rebellion. In 1451 he invaded Pitsanulok, igniting a new war with Ayutthaya, but he sued for peace in 1475. However, before his death in 1487 he expanded west to the Shan States of Laihka, Hsipaw, Mong Nai, and Yawnghwe. With his passing, Lan Na resumed its traditional princely struggle, allowing the Shan states to regain their independence.
In 1538 Tilokkarat's great-great-grandson Ketklao was overthrown by his son, restored in 1543 but suffered mental illness, and was executed in 1545. He was followed by his daughter Chiraprapha, who was forced to pay tribute to Ayutthaya the next year and abdicated. The nobles installed her sister's son, the Lao prince Chaiyasettha of Lan Xang; when he became king Setthathirath of that kingdom in 1547 he was followed in Lan Na by Meguti, the Shan saopha of Mong Nai who was descended from Mangrai. Bayinnaung Kyawhtin Nawrahta became king of Toungoo (in modern Myanmar) in 1550 and proceeded to establish the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia. Mekuti surrendered to his forces in 1558 but was allowed to continue to rule as his vassal, and Setthathirath temporarily occupied eastern Lan Na (Phrae, Nan, Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen); before the end of the year, Thado Minsaw reinforced Chiang Mai's defenses and then expelled the Lan Xang forces from the rest of Lan Na. In 1563 Bayinnaung sent an emissary to Siam to demanding one of king Maha Chakkraphat's four white elephants as tribute; when the king refused Bayinnaung sent five armies (60,000 men, 2400 horses and 360 elephants) from Pegu to start the campaign against Siam. It was supposed to be reinforced by another army from Lan Na, but Mekuti revolted instead and allied with his old rival Setthathirath of Lan Xang. The Burmese armies took Kamphaeng Phet, then divided heir forces to take Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, and Sawankhalok, Early the next year they besieged Ayutthaya and forced Maha Chakkraphat to surrender in February. In October Bayinnaung personally led five armies (64,000 men, 3600 horses, 330 elephants) against Lan Na, with Ramesuan, the former crown prince of Siam, leading a contingent. When four southern armies reached Lamphun, 20 km south of Chiang Mai, the following month, the commanders of Chiang Mai's defenses. Bayinnaung deposed Mekuti and sent him to Pegu, then ruled the city in person for four months. When he returned to Pegu to quell a rebellion he installed Visuttidevi as the new queen but after she died he made one of his sons Nawrahta Minsaw (Noratra Minsosi) viceroy of Lan Na in 1579. After Bayinnaung's death in 1581 his empire quickly unraveled. Siam successfully revolted (1584–93),followed by all the other vassal states. Nawrahta Minsaw declared his independence in 1596 but became tributary to king Naresuan of Siam in 1602. When Nawrahta Minsaw died in 1605, Siam's power declined and was nominal at best by 1614, when the Burmese returned; Thado Kyaw (Phra Choi) appealed to Lan Xang for help, but the Burmese re-established control and ruled Lan Na for over a century, though it enjoyed considerable autonomy. Siam attempted to retake Lan Na in 1662–1664 but failed. In 1727 Chiang Mai revolted and repulsed Taungoo forces in 1727–1728 and 1731–1732. In 1752 Taungoo was 0verthrown by Konbaung, and the new Burmese kingdon regained contol of the city in 175. It revolted again in 1761 with Siamese encouragement, but the rebellion was suppressed by 1763; two years later Konbaung used Lan Na as its base to invade the Laotian states and Siam, which fell in 1767. However, with Siamese help, Kawila of Lampang revolted against the new Burmese governor at Chiang Mai, Thado Mindin, and captured the city in 1775; Siam installed Kawila as ithe tributary king of Lampang and Phraya Chaban as the king of Chiang Mai, which made Chiang Rai a tributary in 1786. Konbaung tried to regain Lan Na in 1775–76, 1785–86, 1797 but failed; meanwhile, Kawila consolidated his control over Lan Na, taking Chiang Saen and Luang Prabang (1792–1794); though he failed to take Kengtung and Sipsongpanna (1803–1808), he established the autonomous kingdom of Chiang Ma, but it was annexed by Siam in 1899.
Fascinating history and great photo. Thanks.
One of the main landmarks in Chiang Rai is Wat Rong Khun ( known to foreigners as the" White Temple"), the eccentric creation of its owner and designer, Chalermchai Kositpipat, A Chiang Rai native, he graduated from Thailand's leading art school, Silpakorn University, in 1977 and began his career painting movie advertisements on billboards. His early murals attracted controversy because they mixed traditional Thai Buddhist temple art with contemporary images. Between 1988 and 1992 he painted more controversial murals for London's Wat Buddhapadipa, the oldest Thai Buddhist temple in the UK; they depict the life of the Buddha in a surreal style that uses brilliant colors and are populated by contemporary figures such as Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher, the temple's patrons, and Kositpipat himself. By the end of the 20th century, when the original Wat Rong Khun was in a bad state of repair, he decided to completely rebuild it with his own money. He began work on it in 1997 but does not expect completion until 2070; when completed, the compound will have nine buildings, including the existing ubosot, a hall of relics, a meditation hall, an art gallery, and living quarters for monks.
To get to the ubosot, the main building, one must cross a small lake via the bridge of "the cycle of rebirth" which symbolizes that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire. In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands representing unrestrained desire. Next to the lake stand two elegant kinnaree, derived from the half-human and half-horse Kinnara of India, a paradigmatic lover and celestial musician noted for long life. (His name meant "Is this man?" However, Indian Buddhists decided he was half-man and half-bird. According to the 4th-century BCE Jataka ("birth history'), the 547 poems, most with prose commentaries, that put forth the previous lives of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form, the kinnaras were innocent, harmless fairies, noted for mutual love and devotion, who hopped like birds. Flowers formed their dress, their cosmetics were flower perfumes, and they ate pollen. In Thailand they became the Kinnara and Kinnaree, who came from the Himalayas and watch over humans in times of trouble. In the Adi Parva of the "Mahabharata" they say, "We are everlasting lover and beloved. We never separate. We are eternally husband and wife; never do we become mother and father. No offspring is seen in our lap. We are lover and beloved ever-embracing. In between us we do not permit any third creature demanding affection. Our life is a life of perpetual pleasure." The Thai kinnaree is depicted as a young woman wearing an angel-like costume; the lower part of her body is swan-like to enable her to fly between the human and the mystical worlds. The most famous Thai kinnaree is Manora, a heroine from the "Pannas Jataka" written by a Chiang Mai Buddhist monk ca. 1450–70. The youngest of the Kinara King's seven daughters, she left her home on Mt. Kailash to visit the human realm, was caught by a hunter, and given to prince Sudhana, a bodhisattva, who married her. When he was away, she was accused of bring bad kuck to the kngdom and forced to fee for her life, but she left behind a ring and directions for her husband to find her. After many adventures, Sudhana reunited with her.)
After crossing the bridge, one arrives at the "gate of heaven" guarded by Death and Rahu, the judge of the dead; in Hindu tradition Radu was the severed head of the asura (demon)Svarbhānu that swallowed the sun; in the "Candima Sutta" and the" Suriya Sutta", Rahu attacked Surya the sun deity and Chandra the moon deity but was compelled to release them when they expressed their reverence for the Buddha. In front of the ubosot are several meditative Buddha images. The all-white ubosot has fragments of mirrored glass embedded in its exterior. The ubosot embodies design elements from classic Thai architecture such as a three-tiered roof and abundant use of naga serpents. [In Sanskrit, naga meant "cobra." They played important roles throughout the "Mahabharata," sometimes depicted as good, sometimes evile, with a mixture of human and serpent-like traits. Eventually theu evolved into nature spirits and the protectors of springs, wells and rivers who bring rain, and thus fertility, but also floods and drought. South Indian Hindus regard them as snake goddesses who make women fertile (or infertile), protect reverent women and their family, and bring prosperity. Nagas possess the elixir of life and immortality. The Nāgavanśī, including the Nairs of Kerala and the Jain Bunts of Karnataka, trace their ancestry to nāgas. In Buddhist tradition, the nagas are snakes with one or many heads, sometimes having the power to transform themselves into human form. Inside the ubosot, the decor shifts immediately from white to psychedelic. Murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western pop-culture idols such as Michael Jackson, Neo (from "The Matrix" films), Freddy Kruger, a T-800 series Terminator, Harry Potter, Superman, and Hello Kitty, along with images of nuclear warfare, terrorist attacks, and oil pumps. The white ubosot represents the mind, but there is gold building nearby that represent the body: it is the public rest room.
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