Saturday, December 15, 2007

Moving Mueang

Something which kept me puzzled a bit when I was writing about the provinces on Wikipedia were references in the history about the town (Mueang) being "moved" to a new location. However this was a cultural prejudice, which finally became clear to me when I read the book "The Connection Phuket-Penang" by Ian Morson (ISBN 974-8298-24-8, Siam Society 1993). Talking on the former capital town of Phuket named Tha Ruea, it says on page 36:
Westerns are often surprised that Asian cities often ceased to exist or even moved to other locations. It is however quite understandable when it is realized that almost all the buildings were often simple wooden construction with thatched roofs. ... The only buildings that might survive in shattered form would be those of poor quality brick which would crumble away more slowly.

The ruins depicted are at Khu Bua (คูบัว), a settlement from Dvaravati times (6th to 10th century) just a few kilometers south of the town Ratchaburi. Though it not fully fits the topic of moving a town, because the town was abandoned in the 10th century and refounded by king U-Thong in the 14th century, that ruins of the former main temple of the town still put an example of what might stay behind of such a Mueang being moved to a new location. Sadly the small museum next to that ruins was closed for renovations when I visited there last year, so I have to go there again to learn more about that old town.

Another very recent example for a relocation of a town happened in Trang in the beginning of the 20th century. At first the center of the province was moved in 1896 from Khuan Thani to the coast of the Andaman Sea in Kantang, and after several floodings it was move inland again in 1916. One thing which still reminds on these relocations is the fact that the city pillar shrine (Lak Mueang) is still located outside the modern city.

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