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Müang Sing

The quadratic Town: Assumptions

original document:
NOV 2000
AUG 2019

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Start HGT  →  Forschung / Veröffentlichungen  →  Müang Sing  →  the quadratic town

The quadratic Town: Assumptions

One is tempted to pose the question why Cao Fa Sili Nò, the first ruler of Müang Sing, had chosen a quadratic shape of considerable dimension including twelve gates in regular distance to each other. The population of that large a town was quite scarce, no more than 1,000 people. The town had been built, accordingly to all sources available, in a short period of only two or three years. The input of labour must have been enormous.

We believe that the wall could hardly be used for military purposes the more to since it had no bricks. The sources do not indicate any palisades which is not surprising in view of the total length of 3.2 km. Suppose that in the case of emergency the total population of the plain - 3,000 persons including women and children - would have taken refuge inside the town, one might assume that no more than 1,500 - 2,000 persons would have been available for its defence.

Therefore, the layout of Müang Sing must have followed more ritual deliberations of how to build a town:

"It is an established fact that cities of quadratic or rectangular shape have been built on the whole territory of Asia throughout the centuries. However, one should add that the concept of a "quadratic city" as such was not the discovery of a single people or country. Cities of quadratic shape are well known in different countries of the world - in acient Egypt, in Mesopotamia, in Mexico, in Rome and in China. The quadrat was the most simple and most feasable form of markation. Moreover, the concept of a quadratic shape was everywhere linked to religious and mythical beliefs. ..."

"... The city of Lo-Yi (China, 3rd century before Christ) had a quadratic shape with a length of 9 Li (2.25 km) for each side, three gates on each side and nine streets in each direction." → [2] (compare with Müang Sing!)

The old Burmese capital Amarapura, situated directly to the south of Mandalay, was built in the late 18th century along the same principles. The citadel of Mandalay, a city founded in 1857 by King Mindon, is a quadratic structure of 2 km times 2 km surrounded by a high brick wall. The prototype of a city of quadratic layout in the region of present Northern Thailand and Northern Laos seems to be Chiang Mai, founded by King Mangrai in 1296. The inner wall of Chiang Mai is a brick wall with the dimensions 1.6 km times 1.6 km.

Not only the quadratic layout of Müang Sing deserves our attention. The high number of gates, that rendered an effective defence of the town even more difficult, seems not to be accidental, too. It is interesting to note that several other walled towns in the region had exactly twelve gates as well. One example is Siang Hung whose earthen wall was of oval shape and surrounded by a palisade of 6 sok (3 m) depth. Another one is Siang Tung from where the ruling family of Müang Sing (Siang Khaeng) descended. Siang Tung, the capital of the Khün state situated east of the Salween River, was of irregular shape but possessed twelve gates like Müang Sing.

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