Lanna Kingdom

Kingdom   of Lanna – 1292 – 15 January 1775
Purple:   Lanna, Orange: Sukhothai   Kingdom, Light   Blue: Lavo Kingdom, Red: Khmer Empire
Yellow: Champa, Blue: Dai Viet
Capital Chiangrai (1262–1275)
Fang   (1275–1281)
Wiang Kum   Kam (1281–1296)
Chiangmai   (1296–1775)
Language(s) Lanna language
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Government Monarchy
– 1292–1342 Mangrai the Great
– 1441–1487 Tilokarat
– 1579–1607 Nawrahta Minsaw
Historical era Early Modern
– Capture of Haripunchai 1292
– Foundation of Chiangmai 1296
Ayutthaya-Lanna War 1456–1474
– Burmese rule 2 April 1558[2]
– Fall of Chiang Mai 15 January 1775[1]

The Kingdom of Lanna (lit. “Kingdom of Million Rice Fields”; Thai: อาณาจักรล้านนา; was a kingdom centered in present-day northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries. The cultural development of the people of Lanna, the Tai Yuan people, had begun long before as successive Tai Yuan kingdoms preceded Lanna. As a continuation of the Ngoenyang kingdom, Lanna emerged strong enough in the 15th century to rival the Ayutthaya kingdom, with whom wars were fought. However, Lanna was weakened and then became a Burmese tributary state in 1558. Lanna was ruled by successive vassal kings, though some enjoyed autonomy. The Burmese rule gradually withdrew but then resumed as the new Konbaung dynasty expanded Burmese influences. Taksin of Thonburi finally took Lanna in 1775 and broke it down into a number of tributary kingdoms.


Early Establishment

Mangrai, the 25th king of Ngoen Yang (modern Chiang Saen) of Lavachakkaraj dynasty, centralized the city-states of Ngoen Yang into a unified kingdom and allied with the neighboring Kingdom of Payao. In 1262, Mangrai moved the capital from Ngoenyang to the newly-founded Chiangrai – naming the city after himself. Mangrai 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 Payao and Ram Khamhaeng of Sukhothai in 1276 & 1277 AD respectively. Mangrai moved the capital several times. Leaving Lamphun due to heavy flooding, he drifted until settling at and building Wiang Kum Kam in 1286/7, staying there until 1292 at which time he relocated to what would become Chiang Mai. He founded (started actual building) of Chiangmai in 1296 expanding it to become the capital of Lan Na. Claimed territories of Mangrai’s Lan Na include modern northern Thailand provinces (with exception of Phrae – which was under Sukhothai – and Phayao and Nan – the Kingdom of Payao), Kengtung, Mong Nai, and Chiang Hung (modern Jinghong in Yunnan). He also reduced to vassaldom and received tribute from areas of modern Northern Vietnam, principally in the Black and Red river valleys, and most of Northern Laos, plus the SipSongPanNa (“twelve thousand fields”) region of Yunnan.

Disunity and Prosperity

Central Chedi at Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

In 1317, Mangrai died and was succeeded by his son Paya Chaisongkram. After four months of ascension, Chaisongkram moved the capital to Chiangrai and appointed his son Thau Saen Phu as the Uparaja (Viceroy) 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, Saen Phu fled the city. Thau Nam Tuam, another son of Chaisongkram, intervened and repelled Khun Kruea. Chaisongkram then appointed Nam Tuam the Uparaja replacing Saen Phu in 1322. However, it was rumored that Nam Tuam was planning a rebellion, so Chaisongkram turned back to Saen Phu in 1324.

Paya Kam Fu, son of Saen Phu, moved the capital to Chiang Saen in 1334, only to be returned to Chiang Mai by his son Pa Yu. Theravada 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 and invited monks from Sukhothai to replace the existing Mon Theravada that Lanna inherited from Haripunchai.

Lanna enjoyed peace under Saenmuengma (which means ten thousand cities arrive – to pay tribute). The only disturbing event was the failed rebellion by his uncle Prince Maha Prommatat. Maha Prommatat requested aid from Ayutthaya. Borommaracha I of Ayutthaya 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 Kaen.

Expansions under Tilokaraj
Map Lanna under King Tilokaraj

The Lanna kingdom was strongest under Tilokaraj (1441–1487). Tilokaraj seized the throne from his father Sam Fang Kaen in 1441. Tilokaraj’s brother, Thau Choi, rebelled to reclaim the throne for his father and sought Ayutthayan support. Borommaracha II sent his troops to Lanna in 1442 but was repelled and the rebellion was suppressed. Tilokaraj conquered the neighboring Kingdom of Payao in 1456.

To the south, the emerging Kingdom of Ayutthaya was also growing powerful. Relations between the two kingdoms had worsened since the Ayutthayan support of Thau Choi’s rebellion. In 1451, Yuttitthira, a Sukhothai royalty who had conflicts with Trailokanat of Ayutthaya, gave himself to Tilokaraj. Yuttitthira urged Trilokanat to invade Pitsanulok which he had claims on, igniting the Ayutthaya-Lanna War over the Upper Chao Phraya valley (i.e. the Kingdom of Sukhothai). In 1460, the governor of Chaliang surrendered to Tilokaraj. Trailokanat then used a new strategy and concentrated on the wars with Lanna by moving the capital to Pitsanulok. Lanna suffered setbacks and Tilokaraj eventually sued for peace in 1475.

Tilokaraj was also a strong patron of Theravada Buddhism. In 1477, the Buddhist Council of Tripitaka Recompilation was held near Chiang Mai. Tilokaraj also built and rehabilitated many notable temples. In 1480, Tilokaraj sent aid to help the King of Lan Xang to free his kingdom from Vietnamese occupation. Tilokaraj then expanded west to the Shan States of Laikha, Hsipaw, Mong Nai, and Yawnghwe.


After Tilokaraj, Lanna was then subjected to old-style princely struggles that prevented the kingdom from defending itself against powerful growing neighbors. The Shans then broke themselves free of Lanna control that Tilokaraj had established. The last strong ruler was Paya Kaew who was the great-grandson of Tilokaraj. In 1507, Kaew invaded Ayutthaya but was repelled – only to be invaded in turn in 1513 by Ramathibodi II and Lampang was sacked. In 1523, a dynastic struggle occurred in Kengtung. One faction sought Lanna support while the another faction went for Hsipaw. Kaew then sent Lanna armies to re-exert control there but was readily defeated by Hsipaw armies. The loss was so tremendous that Lanna never regained such dominance.

In 1538, King Ketklao, son of Kaew, was overthrown by his own son Thau Sai Kam. However, Ketklao was restored in 1543 but suffered mental illness and was executed in 1545. Ketklao’s daughter, Chiraprapa, then succeeded her father as the queen regnant]. As Lanna was plundered by the dynastic struggles, both Ayutthaya and the Burmese saw this as an opportunity to overwhelm Lanna. Chairacha of Ayutthaya invaded Lanna in 1545, but Chiraprapa negotiated for peace. Chairacha returned next year, sacking Lampang and Lamphun, and threatened Chaingmai itself. So, Chiraprapa was forced to put her kingdom under Ayutthaya as a tributary state.

Facing pressures from the invaders, Chiraprapa decided to abdicate in 1546 and the nobility gave the throne to her brother-in-law, Prince Chaiyasettha of Lan Xang. Chaiyasettha moved to Lanna and thus Lanna was ruled by a Laotian king. In 1547, Prince Chaiyasettha returned to Lan Xang to claim the throne and ascended as Setthathirath. Setthathirath also brought the Emerald Buddha from Chiangmai to Luang Prabang (the one that would be later taken to Bangkok by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke).

The nobles then chose Meguti, the Shan saopha of Mong Nai whose family was related to Mangrai, to be the new king of Lanna. It was said that, as a Shan king, Mekuti violated several Lanna norms and beliefs.[citation needed]

Burmese rule

The kingdom then became a casualty of Burmese king Bayinnaung‘s expansionist drive. Bayinnaung’s forces invaded Lan Na from the north, and Mekuti surrendered on 2 April 1558.[2] Encouraged by Setthathirath, Mekuti revolted during the Burmese-Siamese War (1563–1564). But the king was captured by Burmese forces in November 1564, and sent to then Burmese capital Pegu. Bayinnaung then made Visuttidevi, a Lan Na royal, the queen regnant of Lan Na. After her death, Bayinnaung appointed one of his sons Nawrahta Minsaw (Noratra Minsosi), viceroy of Lan Na in January 1579.[3] Burma allowed a substantial degree of autonomy for Lanna but strictly controlled the corvée and taxation.

After Bayinnaung, his massive empire quickly unraveled. Siam successfully revolted (1584–1593), after which all the vassals of Pegu went their own way by 1596–1597. Lan Na’s Nawrahta Minsaw too declared independence in 1596. In 1602, Nawrahta Minsaw became a tributary of King Naresuan of Siam. However, Siam’s control was short-lived. The actual suzerainty effectively ended with Naresuan’s death in 1605. By 1614, Siam’s control over Lan Na was at most nominal. When the Burmese returned, the ruler of Lan Na Thado Kyaw (Phra Choi) sought and received help from Lan Xang, not his nominal overlord Siam, which did not send any help.[4] After 1614, vassal kings of Burmese descent ruled Lan Na for over one hundred years. Siam did try to take over Lan Na in 1662–1664 but failed.

By the 1720s, the Toungoo Dynasty was on its last legs. In 1727, Chiang Mai revolted because of high taxation. The resistance forces drove back the Burmese army in 1727–1728 and 1731–1732, after which Chiang Mai and Ping valley became independent.[5] Chiang Mai became a tributary again in 1757 to the new Burmese dynasty. It revolted again in 1761 with Siamese encouragement but the rebellion was suppressed by January 1763. In the 1765, the Burmese used Lan Na as a launching pad to invade the Laotian states, and Siam itself.

End of Burmese rule

In the early 1770s, Burma was at the peak of its military power since Bayinnaung, having defeated Siam (1765–1767) and China (1765–1769). The Burmese army commanders and governors became “drunk with victory”. This arrogant repressive behavior by the local Burmese government caused a rebellion in Lan Na.[6] The new Burmese governor at Chiang Mai, Thado Mindin, was disrespectful to local chiefs and the people, and became extremely unpopular. One of the local chiefs, Kawila of Lampang revolted with Siamese help, and captured the city on 15 January 1775, ending the 200-year Burmese rule.[1] Kawila was installed as the king of Lampang and Phraya Chaban as the king of Chiangmai, both as vassals of Siam.

Burma tried to regain Lan Na in 1775–1776, 1785–1786, 1797 but failed each time. In the 1790s, Kawila consolidated his hold of Lan Na, taking over Chiang Saen and Luang Prabang (1792–1794). He then tried to take over Burma’s Shan state of Kengtung and Sipsongpanna (1803–1808) but failed. Nonetheless, the Kingdom of Chiangmai, as a vassal state of Siam, had come into existence.

Historical writings on Lanna

The Chiang Mai chronicles – Probably started in the late 15th century and enlarged with every copying of the palm leaves manuscript. Current version is from 1828, English translation available as ISBN 974-7100-62-2.

Jinakālamāli – composed by Ratanapañña (16th c.) an account of the early rise of Buddhism in Thailand and details on many historical events.


^ a b Ratchasomphan, p. 85

^ a b Wyatt, p. 80

^ Hmannan, Vol. 3, p. 48

^ Hmannan, Vol. 3, pp. 175–181

^ Hmannan, Vol. 3, p. 363

^ Htin Aung, pp. 183–185

[edit] See also

List of the Kings of Lanna

Lanna language

[edit] References

(in Burmese) Hmannan Yazawin. 1–3 (2003 ed.). Yangon: Ministry of Information, Myanmar. 1829.

Ratchasomphan, Sænluang; David K. Wyatt (1994). David K. Wyatt. ed. The Nan Chronicle (illustrated ed.). Ithaca: Cornell University SEAP Publications. ISBN 9780877277156.

Wyatt, David K. (2003). Thailand: A Short History (2 ed.). ISBN 9780300084757.

Garry Harbottle-Johnson – Wieng Kum Kam, Atlantis of Lan Na, ISBN 974-85439-8-6

Hans Penth – A brief history of Lan Na, ISBN 974-7551-32-2

Michael Freeman – Lanna, Thailand’s Northern Kingdom, ISBN 974-8225-27-5

David K. Wyatt, Aroonrut Wichienkeeo – The Chiang Mai Chronicle, ISBN 974-7100-62-2


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