Chiang Mai Thailand’s Ancient City of Wiang Kum Kam
Located just few Kilometers south of the city of Chiang Mai is Wiang Kum Kam.
Wiang Kum Kam was founded in 1286 before King Mengrai established Chiang Mai in 1292.
In 1558 floods ravished Waing Kum Kam and the town was deserted and little was known about the settlement until ruins were found by villagers plowing their fields in 1984.
With the exception of the odd temple standing on higher ground, the entire township had been buried under at least two meters of silt, gravel and debris from the flood. And so it remained for centuries. Talk of the place continued for years but slowly the knowledge of Wiang Kum Kam drifted from people’s memories leaving only some mention in chronicles of that time. The soil, which now covered Wiang Kum Kam, settled, dried and was eventually used for agricultural purposes rice paddies, fruit orchards and many residential homes were built atop the buried city.
The name had been mentioned in chronicles of long ago but, aside from that, not a lot was known. The name was originated from the term of Kum Kum, Kum means Royal Residence meanwhile Kam means area or territory. And so it might have remained had not the Fine Arts Department (responsible for archeology) started digging in and around Chiangmai during the mid 1980’s. Thanks to a lot of research, hard work and effort the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is, once again, enjoying the light of day and a tremendous amount of archeological and religious interest.
Mengrai was a Shan Prince of the Tai people; he became King of Lanna in 1259. Lanna at the time included Yunnan China up to what now the city of Khunming, western Laos and eastern Burma (Myanmar). King Mengrai was both a warrior and a wanderer; he made a point of building fortified towns to consolidate and protect his kingdom. The cities of Chiang Saen (on the Mekhong River) and Chiang Rai were both settled by King Mengrai and pre-date the founding of Chiangmai. King Mengrai had taken Lamphun (the Old Kingdom of Hariphunchai) in 1281 but, after spending a few years there, he wanted a “New City” (Chiangmai) on the rich, fertile flood plain of the River Ping. He moved north from Lamphun and established a fortified settlement on a river-bend which would give protection on two sides and flood a moat dug around the remaining two sides. This was Wiang Kum Kam and the year was 1286.
The Lanna Kingdom was mainly ruled by the Mangrai Dynasty, and can be divided in to 3 periods which are the Early Kingdom (1259-1355), The Golden Periods–of art, culture, power and economy (1355-1525) and the Decline and Fall of the Kingdom (1525-1558).
The ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is quiet and peaceful. Narrow roads wiht small strams and old houses dot most of the area along with 2 temples used today. So far 34 ancient sites have been identified and unearthed. Archeologists are confident that more will follow.
To visit Wiang Kum Kam on a weekend you can partake in making local handicrafts, taste local food or get a traditionl massage. You can lso visit a home constructed just as it would have been during the period of King Mengrai. There are trams to tke you to the mny ruins or you can hire a horse driven carriage.
The best way to tour Wiang Kum Kam is by horse and buggy with your guide or by bicycle. You can rent the horse and buggy with driver at Wat Mengrai and Wat Nan Chang at Wiang Kum Kam.