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A meeting with the last princess of Lanna

May 1, 2011

Lanna with the capital Chiang Mai was one of several Thai-speaking kingdoms established in the 13th century. Other kingdoms were Lan Chang (Laos) and Sukhothai (what later became Siam). Lanna flourished until it was conquered by the Burmese in the 16th century, and remained under occupation until a joint liberation effort with Siam in the 18th century. Lanna had to pay tribute to its ally, Siam, and in 1899 the two kingdoms merged. The last king of Lanna, Major General Chao Kaeonawarat, died in 1939. At that time he had a ten years old daughter. We had the privilege of meeting that daughter, Dr. Chao Duangduan Na Chiang Mai, yesterday in the home of her niece Ja Rinii, and her husband Mark Bleadon. The occasion was Dham Hua, a Thai tradition were an elder blesses and advices the younger generations.

About 25 people had gathered awaiting the arrival of the princess. We were adorned with white fragrant flower garlands. When the Princess arrived we all stood up to greet her, and she sat down in a sofa. The Princess was introduced to the guests and she elegantly switched between Thai, northern Thai and English to politely greet every guest. After some chatting, groups and families approached Princess Chao Yai to receive blessings, and like a monk she dipped a twig in holy and scented water and throw droplets at the guests, who sat on the floor with lowered heads and the hands in a wai (palm to palm). Whenever somebody passed the princess, he or she would lower the head of respect.

Ketsanee Seehamongkol from Dokmai Garden gave the Princess a fresh Buddha hand fruit (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) and a bowl made of mai dhaeng wood (Xylia xylocarpa) coated with mother of pearl and lacquer. The fruit was unknown to the princess who fancied this unusual gift. We discussed the Orchid Ark and the need for protecting the Lanna orchids, and the princess blessed us and the orchid project.

Eric Danell

Ketsanee Seehamongkol and Eric Danell hand over a bowl with a Buddha Hand to Princess Dr. Chao Duangduan Na Chiang Mai.

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