1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chieng Mai

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHIENG MAI, the capital of the Lao state of the same name and of the provincial division of Siam called Bayap, situated in 99° 0′ E., 18° 46′ N. The town, enclosed by massive but decaying walls, lies on the right bank of the river Me Ping, one of the branches of the Me Nam, in a plain 800 ft. above sea-level, surrounded by high, wooded mountains. It has streets intersecting at right angles, and an enceinte within which is the palace of the Chao, or hereditary chief. The east and west banks of the river are connected by a fine teak bridge. The American Presbyterian Mission, established here in 1867, has a large number of converts and has done much good educational work. Chieng Mai, which the Burmese have corrupted into Zimmé, by which name it is known to many Europeans, has long been an important trade centre, resorted to by Chinese merchants from the north and east, and by Burmese, Shans and Siamese from the west and south. It is, moreover, the centre of the teak trade of Siam, in which many Burmese and several Chinese and European firms are engaged. The total value of the import and export trade of the Bayap division amounts to about £2,500,000 a year. The Siamese high commissioner of Bayap division has his headquarters in Chieng Mai, and though the hereditary chief continues as the nominal ruler, as is also the case in the other Lao states of Nan, Prè, Lampun, Napawn Lampang and Tern, which make up the division, the government is entirely in the hands of that official and his staff. The government forest department, founded in 1896, has done good work in the division, and the conservator of forests has his headquarters in Chieng Mai. The headquarters of an army division are also situated here. A British consul resides at Chieng Mai, where, in addition to the ordinary law courts, there is an international court having jurisdiction in all cases in which British subjects are parties. The population, about 20,000, consists mainly of Laos, with many Shans, a few Burmese, Chinese and Siamese and some fifty Europeans. Hill tribes (Ka) inhabit the neighbouring mountains in large numbers.

Chieng Mai 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, has finally become a provincial division of Siam. In 1902 a rising of discontented Shans took place in Bayap which at one time seemed serious, several towns being attacked and Chieng Mai itself threatened. The disturbance was quelled and the malcontents eventually hunted out, but not without losses which included the commissioner of Prè and a European officer of gendarmerie.