Spirited Away (Twice)

From The Nation:

Work began in Chiang Mai yesterday to remove a fountain at the Chang Pheuk Gate. The fountain, which has been the subject of a seven-year dispute between the Chiang Mai Municipality and the Fine Arts Department, will be re-installed at Suan Lanna Rama IX Park.

Published on July 13, 2007

A ritual to apologise to supernatural spirits was held at 8am yesterday before work began.

Astrologer Sukit Phutasin said the gate had served as a triumphal entranceway to the city for Lanna kings and the fountain had blocked the old path, thus bringing "suffocation" to the city and "creating discomfort to residents". Removal of the fountain was the only solution.

Municipal clerk Ken Santitham said the order to remove the fountain was issued on February 5 to facilitate an inspection for artefacts underneath the site, believed to be on top of the ancient city's wall.

"After the removal is complete, the Fine Arts Department will turn the area into a public space like the Tha Pae Gate," he said.


It's a conflict between ancient and not so ancient history. The North of the city was historically seen as it's "head" or "front" and therefore the northern Chang Pheuak (White Elephant) gate was the entrance point into the city not only for royalty, but also for its guardian spirits. The old fountain was constructed in the 1950s in the style of the day, clearly incorporating European style elements. In the early 1990s the fountain was removed, alleging the same "obstruction" as cited in the article above. It was rumoured at the time that the Lord-Mayor of Chiang Mai had moved the fountain to adorn his private garden although no proof of this allegation has ever been published. In 1999 the fountain was reconstructed exactly as it had been, drawing immediate complaints from the Fine Arts Department. A compromise was reached that the fountain itself could remain but that the water pumps had to be moved further form the old city wall. As long as the "old powers" (read: Thai Rak Thai Party members) held sway in Chiang Mai the situation did not change and it seemed that the fountain was used as a resting place for tourists wandering the city. Now here's hoping that the municipality will decorate the gate in a environmentally friendly way and create a green resting place instead of leaving it to the torrents of ever increasing traffic.

Here are a few pictures of the "damage":

IMG_5110 IMG_5113 IMG_5117

Posted: 15 July 2007

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