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Müang Sing

Müang Sing

The History before the Founding of the Town

original document:
NOV 2000
AUG 2019

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Start HGT  →  Forschung / Veröffentlichungen  →  Müang Sing  →  Müang Sing: prehistory

The History before the Founding of the Town

The various sources do not correspond in every detail. Therefore some of the dates may not be absolutely correct.

Little is known about the history of Müang Sing prior to the late 18th century. According to local traditions, the valley of the Sing River was first settled before 1792 by the widow of the late ruler of Chiang Khaeng (see below). Troubled by quarrels among her six sons, the widow moved with one son, Cao Saengsi, and her retainers from Chiang Khaeng to Ban Nam Dai, a village situated ca. 5 km to the SW of present-day Müang Sing. Later she founded a walled city nearby: Wiang Fa Ya. There she took up residence and ordered in 1792 the construction of a great stupa on the top of a mountain on the southern fringe of the Sing valley. This stupa called That (dhatu) Chiang Tüm (alternative Laotian pronounciation: "That Chiang Tüng") is revered as the holy shrine of Müang Sing. Every year on the first full moon of November the people of Müang Sing and surrounding regions - as far as Müang La and MüangVPong (Phong) in Sipsong Panna - come together at That Chiang Tün to celebrate a temple festival in honour of the local genii.

Here we visit the temple festival   red arrow

That Siang Tüm

That Siang Tüm

For better understanding it is necessary to know, that until the end of the 19th century the borders were not so important in SE-Asia as humans were, who could be suppressed or deported or who at least were obliged to pay tribute.

According to the chronicle of the principality of Nan (nowadays a province in N-Thailand) several deportations occured at the beginning of the 19th century (e.g. 1805/06 and 1812/13). Significant parts of the population were displaced from Müang Sing to the territory of Nan, Chiang Kham area.

From then on the plain of the Nam Sing river has been depopulated for decades. Only in the mountainous jungle there lived hill-tribe people, who perhaps recognized the supremacy of Nan and sent products of the jungle, which were forwarded to Bangkok as tribute.

At that time there existed the above mentioned principality of Chiang Khaeng, whose historical origins seem to disappear in the dark. Its old capital was Ban Chiang Khaeng (Xiangkheng), followed by Müang Yu (founded not before the mid 1850s). The exact site of this last capital Müang Yu is difficult to locate. One may assume that it was situated in the west of the river Mekong, probably near the confluence of the Luai (Loi) and Mekong rivers. The ruler of Chiang Khaeng was a vassal of the king of Burma, who acknowledged him the control over Müang Sing in 1863/64. So here overlapped the spheres of Burma and Thailand.

the expedition to Ban Chiang Khaeng  red arrow

Ban Chiang Khaeng

Ban Chiang Khaeng

Two maps show the political situation in 1885 and today [1996]:

Karten 1885 und 1996

Encouraged by the Burmese, in 1866/67 Kòng Tai, the ruler of Chiang Khaeng, sent some of his subjects to the depopulated valley of Müang Sing. He also claimed the exclusive right to exploit the forests in that region. The ruler of Nan, Cao Anantawòraritthidet, reacted sharply. He threatened to carry out a punitive expedition. If Chiang Khaeng did not abandon its provocations, he would send troops to deport the illegal settlers from Müang Sing to Nan. Finally, the ruler of Chiang Khaeng bowed to Anantawòraritthidet's ultimatum, withdrew the settlers, and the status quo was restored.

In 1880 already a new settlement, again by a woman, can be veryfied. In the monastery of Ban Nam Dai (!) there is a Buddha with a dedication on its pedestal in Tham-script and in Pali language. The figure has been devoted by Buakham, the ruler of that settlement. The dedication refers to the year 1880. It may be, that Buakham was a concubine of Cao Fa Sili Nò, the ruler of Chiang Khaeng, and occupied Müang Sing as an advance guard.

to the Buddha of Ban Nam Dai   red arrow

 Buddha of Ban Nam Dai

the Buddha of Ban Nam Dai

Cao Fa Sili Nò

Cao Fa Sili Nò

Cao Fa Sili Nò intended to move the capital of Chiang Khaeng from Müang Yu to the plain of Müang Sing. The official reason was the shortage of ground at the old site. The real reason may have been a geostrategic one because Chiang Khaeng had ceased sending tributes to Burma after a bloody struggle of succession in Ava following the death of the Burmese king Mindon. The transfer of the administrative centre and the evacuation of parts of the population should be seen as measures of security in order to render, from that time on, better protection against a Burmese punitive expedition.

In 1884 the Wat Hua Khua was founded near the northern corner but outside of nowadays Müang Sing. From here they searched for the appropriate ground for the new town. In 1887 already Müang Sing was ready. More than 1000 subjects had to move to the new capital and the surrounding plain.

Burma had plunged into political agony by the beginning of the 1880s and had to abandon its grip of the Shan states. This caused a power vacuum in the region.

Nan did not fight against the founding of Müang Sing and waited for the further development.

The situation changed quite abruptly in 1885/86 when the British conquered Ava. In addition the nephew of Cao Fa Sili Nò provoked a serious clash whith his uncle. This nephew was the ruler of Chiang Tung, the western neighbour of Chiang Khaeng. The instability in that region triggered off concerns of security in both Bangkok and Nan. By early 1889, the Siamese decided to launch an armed intervention for the sake of Cao Fa Sili Nò's safety, according to official documents. However, the real motive for the intervention was apparently Bangkok's territorial claims on Müang Sing.

Cao Fa Sili Nò who had hesitated to do so for many years would finally recognize the suzerainty of King Chulalongkorn of Siam.

The unsecure status of Müang Sing was revealed several years later during secret negotiations between England and France that focussed on the founding of a buffer state in the Upper Mekong region. At the centre of that buffer state should be Müang Sing. When the negotiations failed in 1895/96, the course of the Mekong north of Chiang Saen was defined as the border between British Burma and French Indochina. the region east of the Mekong fell under French influence (the later protectorate Luang Prabang).

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