Lamphun

Lamphun

Lamphun is a small town of around 14,000 people. But it was once called Hariphunchai, and was the capital of a kingdom of the same name.

The Hariphunchai kingdom was founded sometime between 600 and 800 AD by a person named Suthep. He was apparently a hermit, althought this seems to me to be an unlikely occupation for the founder of a great kingdom.

The Mon ruler of the Lavo Kingdom – which at the time controlled an area from the Chao Phyraya to the Vietnamese coast – sent his daughter, Jamadevi, to wed Suthep. They had twins, one of which later ruled Lamphun, and the other went over the Khun Tan range to rule Lampang.

It gets very confusing. And it helps to consider that, unlike the modern state of Thailand today that has a single monarch and a clear territory bordering other states, kingdoms back then were more like networks of city states – called Mandalas – all of which had un-defined and sometimes overlapping areas that it influenced and with people and resources it exacted tribute from. Sometimes, these mandala networks would band together under the most powerful ones, and go to war with another network. Sometimes they would split and go to war with within the network. But most of the time, because coordinating between the city states required sending people off for month-long walks, they kinda just stuck to themselves.

Eventually however, after somewhere between 400 and 600 years of existence, the network known as the La Na kingdom marched into the Hariphunchai city states of Lampang and Lumphun and killed the ruling family.

We know about Queen Jamedevi because a La Na buddhist monk wrote the cronicle of her life, and the rise of the Hariphunchai kingdom. The chronicle – called Camadevivamsa – was written on palm leaf in the Thai Tham script, and still survives today. It creates the foundation myth of the Mon people of the region, claims a legendary visit from the Buddha to the region, and ends with the discovery of a one of Buddha’s hairs in the 11th century, around which they built Wat Phra That Hariphunchai.

You can visit Wat Phra That Hariphunchai in Lamphun today. Its also featured on the back side of the One-Satang coin (which being only a 100th of a baht, is quite rare).

Lamphun is also famous for Longan fruit – similar to the Lychee. They hold a Longan festival on the Queens birthday – every 12 August.

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