The House of Many Elephants

Lots of wooden elephants

Only few tourists visit Baan Jang Nak, the House of Many Elephants in Northern Thai language. Baan Jang Nak is in the village Ban Buak Khang in San Kamphaeng District, Chiang Mai. It is maybe too far from Chiang Mai but also many residents of Chiang Mai, Thai or expat, have never been there. All the people I have brought to this extraordinary place have been awestruck upon entering this museum annex workshop.

Phet Wiriya is the founder of Baan Jang Nak. Phet is a descendant from the Tai Yong people who migrated to Lamphun province more than 200 years ago. King Kawila forcible resettled Tai Yong in Chiang Mai province in the beginning of the 19th century. Objective was to repopulate areas that were depopulated after decades of warfare in the aftermath of more than two centuries of Burmese occupation.

Stone elephants
Elephants at Baan Jang Nak

Tai Yong from Shan State

The Tai Yong arrived in Ban Buak Khang in 1813. They came from Muang Yong aka Mongyawng in Northern Shan State, now in Myanmar.  At least this is according to the text under the statue of Kramom Surayuangsa, the 34th ruler of Muang Yong, at Wat Buak Khang. It was the last forced resettlement under King Kawila of Chiang Mai.
The Tai Yong are Tai Lue but are known as Tai Yong because they came from Muang Yong. Their language is similar to other Tai languages and is closely related to Tai Yuan, which is also known as Northern Thai language.

Man carving wood
Elephant woodcarving at Ban Jang Nak

Elephants and paintings

Baan Jang Nak is home to hundreds of beautiful wooden elephants and elephants of different material, created by local carvers. In front of the house, there is a replica mammoth made from thousands of wood chips. On the ground, floor artists are at work on wooden elephants. You will also see an elephant made of different materials. It is a fascinating place.
If you are lucky, you can meet Phet Viriya in person. On the first floor, there is an exhibition of elephants, and you can also find Phet’s magnificent pencil drawings, that was on show recently at Chiang Mai University, depicting the migration of the Tai Yong to Chiang Mai. Baan Jang Nak is worth a visit when you are in Chiang Mai.

The House of Many Elephants features in these tours: