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