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Kingdom of Lan Na

Zimme (Chiang Mai, Chiengmai, Chieng Mai, Kiang-mai, Kieng-mai, Xieng-mai, Xiengmai or Zaenmae or Zimme or Zlmmay and other forms), the Jangomai of early European travellers, was capital of the most important Lao (Shan) State tributary to Siam. It was formerly the capital of a united Lao kingdom, which, at one time independent, afterwards subject to Burma and then to Siam, and later broken up into a number of states, and finally become a provincial division of Siam. The kingdom itself was formerly large and compact, probably equal in importance at that time to Siam itself. The capital of the empire of Zimme has been at various times at Kiang Hai, Kiang Tsen, Labong, Lagon, Zimme, and at other places.

The frequent changes in the capitals of the States to the east of the Salween add greatly to the confusion met with in the chronicles. The numerous ruins of great cities over the whole region from Chieng Mai to Eiang Tung testify to former wealth and prosperity, though they may not have all existed contemporaneously. Zimme' or Chieng Mai (including Eiang Hai, Eiang Sen, Lagong, and Lapong), whose capital was an important and well-built town, and Vien Chang on the east of the Me-kong, were both great Shan centers, warring, with various fortunes, with Burmah and Cambodia and with each other, till subjected by the growing power of Siam late in the 18th century.

In 638 Phra Ruang, the King of Sangkalok, a principality of Zimme, refused to pay tribute to Cambodia, which at that time was supreme in the south of Indo-China, and, rebelling against the ruler of Zimme, became monarch of that realm. Phra Ruang's dynasty was but short-lived, for shortly after the succession of his son, the King of Kiang Tsen took the lead of the other States, deposed him, and founded the cities of Phitsilok and Lophaburi, or Lavo. On the death of the King of Kiang Tsen, the King of Kiang Tung seems to have been acknowledged ruler of the Yun, or Zimme, Shans; for in 707 the son of the King of that kingdom conquered the northern half of Cambodia, settled there with a horde of Shans, and drove the inhabitants to the south amongst the Siamese, who were then in possession of the country to the south of the Great Lake. The first wave of the Yun Shans thus descended to the neighborhood of the Gulf of Siam. From this moment the people of Cambodia were known by their present name of Khmer.

The empire of Zimme, before the Mau conquest of AD 1293, seems to have extended farther than it did subsequently; from the chronicles of Kiang Rai, or Kiang Hai, the ancient name of which was Tsan Katsa Lacon, that the King, who had been rather unruly as an infant, breaking every cradle that he was put in until an iron one was resorted to, received Kiang Tung as a dowry, and assigned the town of Zimme, which was before known as Muang Lamien, for the maintenance of his son.

The different chronicles are rather conflicting, for the Labong one makes the King of Labong's son the founder of the new town of Zimme in 1289, or about the time that the Mau Shans took possession of the country, and drove the Zimme Shans, who were the forefathers of the Siamese, to Chaliang. It is possible that the new town of Zimme was founded by a Mau prince, on the same site as the old one, and that no mention is made of the change of dynasty in the Labong chronicle. At the same time, the Zimme territories were extended by the Mau as far as the Beeling River, and the Yunzaleen was colonized by Shans.

The name Shan is applied to a number of for the most part semi-independent communities occupying a region bounded on the W. by Burmah and Assam, N. and N.E. by the Chinese province of Yun-nan, E. by Tongking, and S. by Siam. Ethnologically the people has a much wider extension, including the Siamese. The 13th and the following century saw Tali to the east and Arakan to the west invaded, Burmah being then weakened by the Mongol invasion; Chieng Mai and other southern Shan states were also annexed, and "Ayuthia" (i.e., Siam), Cambodia, and Tavoy are claimed by the Shan historians as among their conquests.

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Page last modified: 08-04-2012 18:43:12 ZULU