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 Chiang Mai  (Thailand) 

Chiang Mai (CM) means “New City”, Located 700 km north of Bangkok in the Mae Ping River basin and is on average at 300 m (1,000 ft) elevation. Surrounded by the mountain ranges of the Thai highlands, it covers an area of approximately 20,107 km

(8,000 sq. mi). 

CM, Thailand’s second largest city, is located in Northern Thailand, 696 km. (435 miles) north of Bangkok. CM province has a total population of 1,688,200 (2019), 49% men, 51% women.  Approximately 28% are aged under 25. The city’s history as a trading centre has brought together diverse peoples throughout the centuries, resulting in a rich mix of Northern cultures, including Tai yuan, Lu, Khern, Shan, Mon, Karen, Hmong, Mien, Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Lua.  In 2016, the Gross Provincial Product (GPP) per capita of Chiang Mai province was 130,034 Baht (at current market prices) or approximate 4,280.72 USD per capita. 

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Today, it remains an important centre for trade and commerce and has become a hub for educational and cultural institutions, as well as a major tourist destination. CM hosts 7 universities, more than 12 museums, 30 galleries, 3 theatres and 1 International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

CM province has subdivided into 25 districts, 204 sub-districts and 2,066 villages. There are 210 local government units, including the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization (CMPAO), 1 City Municipality, 4 Municipalities, 116 District Authorities, and 89 Sub-District Authorities. The CMPAO has authority and responsibility to develop the city in economic and social areas. CM has forged close connections with sister cities: Uozu, Saitama and Hokkaido in Japan; Kunming, Harbin, Shanghai, Chengdu, Qingdao, and Chongqing in China; Kengtung in Myanmar.

Chiang Mai is recognized as the craft centre of Thailand and is one of the premier places in Southeast Asia for handicrafts., with a variety of antiques, silver jewellery, and embroidery, Thai silks and cottons, basketry, celadon, silverware, furniture, lacquerware, woodcarvings, and parasols etc.

CM situated on tropical Monsoonal environment, Chiangmai typical domestic architecture in villages and towns were mainly bamboo and thatch, a few urban and religious buildings were made of teak and hard wood. Most houses and homes were of stilted-design, featuring wooden floor above the ground, accommodating seating and sleeping, therefore levels of floor space was more concerned than dividing room walls. Formal offerings and honouring manner of Chiangmai culture required elevating platform utensils or small furniture, exhibiting feature of being proper, in both animistic or religious events. The seven centuries of  Chiangmai and related regions brought about endless designs of trays, containers, elevating bases, boxes, bowls and covers  boasting the creative crafts of Chiang Mai style.

Fresh flower, leaves, banana trunks, fruits, food and textile are often characteristics of animistic offerings among the people. Woven bamboo, baskets, boxes, and mats, along with perforated rice paper, coloured papers, dry flowers and seeds were also used in ceremonial offering, along with dyed cotton, and woven textiles of various designs lavishing many ceremonies.

The most outstanding craft of Chiangmai and Northern Thailand has been the ceremonial utensil both at home and religious places done in “Lacquerware”. Natural sap is found throughout monsoonal forest areas of Southeast Asia since ancient time. The “Melanorrhea Usitata” produce liquid from its inner tree-bark which turns black when dried, coating almost anything solid with a firm film shinning skin. The black lacquer is applied over coiled or woven bamboo objects to create finishing for all kinds of trays, bowls, boxes, and many other designed forms. Any colour pigments cannot change this blackness of Melanorrhea Usitata, except red cinnabar (Mercuric Sulphide). Hence almost all tradition lacquerware crafts in the world normally, come in black and red only. Often real beaten gold-leaf is put onto the surface break up the monotony of blackness, making it royal and precious looking.


CM Cultural Crafts have their own identity in style and technique such as:


Umbrellas/ parasols: These are inextricably associated with Bor Sang District where villagers have been engaged in their manufacture for at least 200 years. All materials, silks, cottons, Sa paper (manufactured from the bark of the mulberry tree), and bamboo are produced or found locally.

Fabric: Local woven fabrics of CM have diversified styles, techniques and motifs in accordance with their origins, manifesting the abilities, creativity and wisdom of each ethnic group. In the past almost all communities wove fabric because clothing is an important factor of a human life. Thus, CM women had to know how to weave fabric.

Silverware: Traditional skills and a guaranteed content of at least 92.5% pure silver invest bowls, receptacles, and decorative items.

Lacquerware: made of wood, bamboo, paper in the form of receptacles, ornaments, and various souvenirs.

Woodcarving: Major woods and materials include teak, rosewood, and rattan. Items may be unadorned or carved in traditional or modern designs. Woodcarving is a traditional Lan Na art featured in numerous temples. In recent years, woodcarving has increasingly embellished furniture, gracing screens, chairs, tables, beds, figurines, carved elephants.


Pottery: Products include high-fired Celadon which is produced in many forms, including dinner sets, lamp bases, and decorative items.


Sa (mulberry) paper products: Sa products that come in different, distinctive designs include cards, notebooks, stationery, boxes, bags, photo frames, lanterns, gift wrapping paper.


Hill Tribe products: These include silver ornaments, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and pipes of intricate design, and embroidered items including tunics, jackets, bags, purses, caps, and dresses. Hill Tribe designs and motifs were accomplished by meticulously quilting small patches of this old worn fabric together. The wares also had lots of hand embroidery which together with the quilting created these fascinating items.


Over 159 communities around  Chiang Mai work on cultural crafts and folk art. such as: Wua Lai silver and metalworking community, making temple art and jewelry; Muang Sart Luang Village making mulberry paper, lanterns for Yi Peng;  Baan Tawai woodworking community; the Sri Pan Krua and Baan Nantaram lacquerware making communities; and the Baan Pa Pong basket weaving community.  

Artisanal cloth is woven in highland and lowland communities around Chiang Mai, including of Mae Rim, Chomthong, Sanpatong, Sankampheang, Mae Chaem, and Fang district. Many Lahu and Lisu and Mien communities produce embroidery, Hmong produce woven hemp cloth decorated with wax-resist designs, as well as accessories.

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