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Spectacular pageant at Kad Theatre relates history of Wualai’s ‘Silver Temple’


Spectacular pageant at Kad Theatre relates history of Wualai’s ‘Silver Temple’

Elena Edwards
As part of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Wat Srisuphan, the ‘Silver Temple’ in Chiang Mai’s Wualai district, a spectacular pageant charting the temple’s history was held on the evening of June 16 at the Kad Theatre.

The Lanna ruler being carried in procession to the newly constructed temple.
The temple at Wualai has been the focus of the silversmiths’ community for several hundred years. It was rebuilt after the expulsion of the Burmese from Thailand following 200 years of intermittent occupation, during which time the original buildings had been totally destroyed. As mentioned in last week’s feature article on the celebrations at the Wat itself, the art of the silversmith is taught there to all who wish to learn, in order to keep alive the skills of this traditional Lanna craft.
On the evening of the pageant, the auditorium at the Kad Theatre was filled almost to capacity with local residents, students and community representatives. The farang community was hardly represented at all, unfortunately, as many would have loved this beautifully staged and performed history lesson!
The dance-drama itself was arranged in 9 progressive sections, encompassing the history of Lanna and the Chakri dynasty, as well as of Wat Srisuphan and the community it supports. Before the performance began, the representative of HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Air Chief Marshal Rangsan Disthabanchong, presented gifts to a number of people who had supported patronages to the temple, itself under Royal patronage. The governor of Chiang Mai, Amornphan Nimanant, was also present.

Dancers shown performing the traditional ‘Fire Dance’ with lighted candles, during the scene celebrating the building of the original temple.

Glittering costumes and a traditional dance set the scene, accompanied by Lanna music and song from a group of players at the left of the stage. The sound of rushing water and projections on the backcloth of old photographs of the beautiful Northern Thai wilderness of earlier days drew the audience forward through the founding of Chiang Mai by King Mengrai to the construction of the original temple complex. Sounds of birdsong and gently flowing streams introduced the developing Wualai community around the temple, filling the stage with drummers, dancers and villagers celebrating local festivals.

The musicians and singers who provided the traditional Lanna music accompaniment to the pageant, pictured with their instruments.

Two of the five traditional Thai dances, the Fire Dance and the Fingernail Dance followed, marking the establishment of the silversmiths’ craft around the temple, with dancers wearing the long, curved brass fingernails which accentuate the elegant hand movements.
For the next scene, the stage lighting faded to a gloomy blue, signifying the miserable years of occupation by Burma which resulted in the destruction of the Wat and the abandonment of Chiang Mai by its citizens. As the lights brightened again, armed warriors rushed in and staged a spectacular fight, driving out the Burmese invaders and redeeming the city. The stage became crowded with men, women and children, all working on the precious beaten silver products and lacquerware which defined and supported their community.
The final scenes depicted the visits of several generations of the Thai Royal Family to the Wat, and also included the recent visit of the English Princess Alexandra in November last year! As events from more modern times were shown, the musical accompaniment to the action on stage changed as well, becoming more contemporary and Western in style.
The pageant ended with, literally, hundreds of performers – professional dancers, musicians, local people and members of the Wualai ‘silversmiths’ village’, crowding the huge stage and celebrating the anniversary of Wat Srisuphan, the centre of their unique community.

The re-established Wualai community at work and play.

Warriors armed with swords and sticks, pictured defeating the Burmese occupation forces, driving them out of Lanna forever!

Celebrations of the visit of Thai Royalty
to Wat Srisuphan and its silversmith community.

Glittering costumes and beautiful dancers announce the beginning of the historical pageant at the Kad Theatre, part of the 500 year anniversary celebrations at Wualai’s Wat Srisuphan.