|The Nation Museum of Chiang Saen was established in 2500 B.E. (1975 A.D.) for archeological sites in Chiang Saen, an ancient border town of Chiang Rai province in the North of Thailand. The museum is in the control of the Fine Arts Department|
|The museum carries out the duties to reserve and display ancient objects; ancient art object, and artifacts, which received from surveys of the areas, excavations and restorations of the archeological sites, reconstructions of the ancient monument and from donations. Besides an an ancient town of Chiang Seen, the museum’s responsibility includes the areas around Chiang Ria Province.|
|The display in the museum emphasizes on evidences and documents of communities' settlements since pre-historic to historic periods, such as; Hand Adzes, fragmented stone tools and polished stone tools, which are found beside Mae Khong River. These artifacts date around 13,000-1,000 B.C. They are both from the hunting and food gathering society and the village farming or agricultural society. The displayed objects of historic period date from around the 19th century B.E., for example; The Buddha images and fragments of molded lime sculptures for ancient buildings ornamentations, including the inscriptions made from the sandstone and bronze from the 21st - 22nd centuries B.E. (the 11th -18th centuries). The display at the far inside room, represents the ethnic communities of the Thai ethnic groups ; Tai Yuan and Tai Lue, and the Akha and Mien hill tribes at Chiang Saen and nearby area.|
|The eminent art objects preserved in the museum are the Buddha images of the Lãn-Nã art school, dated about the 16th -23nd centuries B.E. (the 11th -18th centuries). The Buddha images also expose the ancient craftsmen's technology of metal- molding|
|Wat Pa Sak
|Wat Pa Sak locates outside off the main gate on the west side of the city wall. The temple, according to the Jinakalamali (northern Thai chronicle), was estabLlished in the reign of Phya Saen Phu (1325-1336), after he instructed to build the stupa for containing the Buddha's relic from Pataliputra in India. Furthermore, the king also instructed to plant 300 teak trees surrounded the temple of which is the name came from (Pa Sak means "teak forest'). The main stupa at the temple is considered to be one type of Prasat (a vertical square chamber with an arch for the Buddha image in each direction) with 5 spires on each arch. This stupa is decorated with different exquisite stucco designs, influence by Chinese and Pagan arts. The temple still remains its importance till present in terms of art history, history and archaeology of northern Thailand.|
Wat Chedi Luang
|Wat Chedi Luang is one of the main temples of Chiang Saen, locates inside the city wall near the main gate of the old city. The temple used to call 'Wat Pra Luang', according to the local chronicle, this temple also was built during the reign of Phya Saen Phu after finishing the city wall. According to the Chiang Saen Chronicle, the main stupa is believed to build covering an old stupa which was built by King Asoka (300 BCE) in which this belief was commonly for the people in this area say that most of the stupas and pagodas in southeast Asia were part of the 84,000 stupas which were built during King Asoka's reign to celebrate the Buddhism. After Phya Saen Phu had realized its importance, he then also instructed to build a new Vihara (main hall of the temple) in 16 meters wide and 34 meters long and renovated the stupa to 58 meters in height. According to Jinakalamali, the temple was also renovated in 1515 during the reign of Phra Muang Kaew, the eleventh king of Mangrai dynasty, who instructed to expand to size of the stupa to be 30 meters wide based and 50 meters in height which is the name came from ('Luang' means 'big' in northern Thai dialect).|
The city wall of Chiang Saen
|According to historical document, in 1328 A.D. Phya Seen Phu, he renovated the old city wall of ‘Mueang Roi’ by reestablishing and extending the length of the wall to 3,000 meters, included building more city gates. King Saen Phu had completed four sides of the city wall with all eleven gates and six forts.|
|Besides, the museum displays the ancient engraved stones, dated around the 21st - 22nd centuries B.E. (the 15th - 16th centuries). Their contents are about donations of lands, human, money and gold, to the temples. The donation intended to worship Buddhism, and to continue Buddhism perpetually. The language inscribed was often Thai in Lan-Na characters, and some inscriptions were in Pali using Dhrama Lãn-Nã characters.|
|Additionally, fragments of molded lime sculptures, made around the 19th- 22nd centuries B.E. (the 14th - 18th centuries), from the archeological site of Wat Pa Sak (Pa Sak temple), also give us to know more about the past. The evidences expose the influences of Pagan Kingdom (in Burma), Sukhothai and Haripunchai Kingdom (in Thai), including China art, on the art of Chiang Saen. However, Chiang Saen art school took the models, then adapted, finally formed its own identity and contained philosophical meaning, for instance Kala-Face sculpture. Kala-Face sculpture is a symbol of time, who devours everything even itself.|
|Besides, the National Museum of Chiang Saen gives a service to the local as a center of cultural learning. The museum provides art study programs for the youth, presents special exhibitions, registers and takes care of the ancient art objects that are in possession of temples and private individuals in Chiang Rai province, in order to save the national treasures.|
|The city wall now appears only the northern, western and southern side wall with five fort-gates which are Nang Soeng gate, Nong Mut gate, Chiang Saen or Pa Sak gate, Thap Man gate and Din Khoh gate. Northern side wall is 950 meters, southern side is 850 meters and the western side is 2,500 meters in length. Unfortunately, the wall of the east side disappears and it was supposedly destroyed by the river current. The area inside the city wall cover over 2.5 square meters. The pattern and plan of the city wall from archaeological evidence indicate; In the first period, earlier, archaeologists are unable to clarify the pattern and actual plan of the city wall in accordance with the physical geography of the city. However, after the excavation and restoration in 2000 of the Fine Art Department, Ministry of Culture, Thailand, reveals the trench of the wall of this period underneath the recent one. The exampled bricks found at this wall which was testified by the archaeological scientific dating or Thermo-luminescence (TL) is able to date this wall back to approximately 5th - 7th centuries.|
|Second period, the wall that appears today, was reconstructed cover the previous wall, the wall was possibly a pentagonal shape, unfortunately, the wall on the east side was destroyed by the river through time. The city wall now has only three sides; the north (950 meters), the south (850 meters) and the west (2,500 meters) and the height from the ground to the top is 4-5 meters. In this period, the wall was reconstructed by covering the previous wall by using the mud from the moat and lay the bricks cover the wall/ again. The archaeological scientific dating or Thermo-luminescence (TL) of an exampled bricks found at the wall of this period, probably dated to approximately 15th - 16th centuries.|
|For the notation, the construction style of the wall at Chiang Saen is quite unique, if comparing to other contemporary cities in northern Thailand. Inside of the wall was built into the steps or staircase form, 5-7 steps or more and on the top of the wall has almost square-shape-base lay on the diagonal position along the wall. The reason of building this construction is still on the scholarly debate, however, it is believed to build for the advantages of the warfare and water management of the city.|
|The Kala or the time. which is exhibited inside Chiang Saen National Museum, is the decorated stucco found on the arch at the stupa of Wat Pa Sak. The Kala or so called ‘Kiatmuk’ appears for the first times in Hindu mythology.|
|The Kala found in Buddhist temples here in Chiang Saen in supposedly had the influence from Pagan (Myanmar) where mostly found this Kala face in almost every Buddhist temples. Furthermore, Kala face is also the symbol of the time in which it passes by or ideally it can consume everything even itself.|
The Hisyroric City of Change Saen District
|Beside the city of Chiang Saen, along the both bank of the Mae Khong river, a natural frontier between Thailand and Laos, three other ancient towns and one of the lost city are still situated on the area. The first one is the town on Doi Chiang Miang near the Golden Triangle, nsmed Muang Chiang Miang, about 10 kilometers to the north of Chiang Saen. Located in its area inside, Phra That Phoo Khao is the important temple of the town.
The second one Not. Owing to its located, the town is assumed to be a portion of Chiang Saen Not, or Chiang Seen Chiang Saen Noi townscape expansion, perhaps.
The third one named Chiang Saen Noi or Wiang Pruek Sa, about 8 kilometers to the south of Chiang Saen. The Chinnakarn Maleepakron chronicle written about this town was a temporary camp site for Phaya Saen Phoo to stay when he was constructing the city of Chiang Saen. The important temple of the town is Phra That Song Phee Nong.
The last one is the Ancient Towns at Chiang Saen Lake, the chronicle written that is use to be a location of Nakkhaphan Singhonnawat city. Owing to an earthquake, the city later on was destructed and subside into the lake. However, the chronicle mentioned about the causation of the city destruction was the people eating a big white eel. Nowadays Chiang Saen lake is a Ramsar Site.
Chiang Saen : A brief history
|An ancient city of Chiang Saen recently locates on the west bank of Mekong River in the district of Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai province in Thailand.The area covers a number of ancient communities, for example, Wiang Huay Krai on the east side, Wiang Chiang Mieng in what is now the Golden Triangle area,Wiang Phang Kham in Mae Sai district and Wiang Prueksa on the southeastern side of the city which is now calls "Wiang Chiang Saen Noi'. The area also, according to the archaeological excavations and surveys, found a number of various stone tools including chopper-chopping tools and polished stone tools which indicate prehistoric cultures which emerged here approximately 10,000 B.P.|
|In historical perspective, according to the Chiang Saen Chronicle, the city was built during the reign of Phya Saen Phu, the third king of Mangrai dynasty in 1328. Chiang Saen, during that time, is believed to be a very diverse place and large commercial center of the Middle Mekong Region, especially salts and rice in which the latter was largely produced in Chiang Saen it self.|
|In 1558, many cities at that time were under the Burmese suzerainty in the reign of King Bayinnaung of Taungoo dynasty (1516-1581) included Chiang Saen. Later in 1701, Burmese authority had claimed and established Chiang Saen to be one of head provinces of Burma which governed Chiang Rai, Phrae, Nan, Lampang and Fang. During this period, Chiang Saen became an important city as same as Chiang Mai in accordance with an increasingly amount of commercial land route between China and upper Tai States.|
|In the reign of the King Ramal of Siam in 1804 (after the Burmese had been expelled from Chiang Saen), Chiang Mai Kings herded some Tai Yuan people who lived in Chiang Saen back to their home cities and also some of the people from Chiang Saen themselves were relocated to Bangkok and settled in what is recently Saraburi and Ratchaburi provinces of Thailand. For this reason, the city of Chiang Saen was abandoned for some time since then until in the reign of the King Rama V of Siam. The King instructed to reestablish the city by appointing Chao Inthawichai, Governor of Lamphun, to come and rehabilitate the city. In 1894, Chiang Saen was again reorganized to become a part of Payap County and became sub-district five years later under Mae Chan district administration. On April 9, 1957, Chiang Saen finally became one of the districts of Chiang Rai province since then.|
|From the year 1957, Chiang Saen has been the place for many historical and archaeological studies and surveys by many scholars including Fine Arts Department (FAD). The FAD has operated many archaeological projects in Chiang Saen including sites surveys and excavations. From these operations, we are able locate at least 76 archaeological sites inside the old city wall and 63 archaeological sites outside the city wall which most of them are Buddhist temples. From the evidence indicate that Chiang Saen has been the precious location for the ancient communities to settle in for centuries according to its prosperous natural resources and important trade routes.|