The Temples of Khun Yuam
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Temples of Khun Yuam
Wat Muai To, a field hospital in World War Two
The Wat Muai To is Khun Yuam’s most well-known temple, located on the main road. According to information in the museum, this temple used to be two different temples: Wat Muai To and Wat Hua Wiang. During World War Two, to the north of Wat Muai To was Wat Hua Wiang. The temples were at slightly different elevations and separated by a small gate. Today, Wat Muai To has absorbed Wat Hua Wiang.
It has a large viharn with Buddha statues and a number of Shan-style chedis. Wat Muai To was an important place during World War Two. Khun Yuam was the logistical center for the construction of a road to Burma. The Japanese 56th division apparently had its headquarters at the temple.
Beautiful Wat To Phae
The Wat To Phae or Tor Phae is an ancient monastery situated in the plain and valley of the Yuam River. It is about 5 km from Khun Yuam, in the Shan village Baan To Phae. According to a legend, Lawa people once built a place of worship at this location.
A monk called Phrathammathani arrived in To Phae village more than one hundred years ago from Shan State. He practiced meditation at the site of the ruins of the Lawa sanctuary. He then asked the villages to reconstruct the monastery in 1918. Phrathammathani became the first abbot of the Wat To Phae.
Shan traders donated a large amount of money for the reconstruction, which was finished in 1920
The Ruby Curtain of Wat To Phae
Shan people also donated a piece of textile, called the “Ruby Curtain”, to the abbot. Burmese artisans created the curtain, that tells the story of the Buddha and contains pearl beads and 164 ruby stones.
During World War Two Japanese troops utilized the monastery as a communication and repair center. They also printed banknotes at the temple
In 1944 the temple became a field hospital for soldiers, retreating from Burma after their defeat at Imphal and Kohima in 1944. Allegedly they buried their dead in fields around the temple and at foot of the mountain.
Charming Wat Khum
The Wat Khum is in Khun Yuam proper, on the right side of the main road if you come from Mae Sariang. Khum seems to translate as lowland, which means that Wat Khum is in the lower section of Khun Yuam. It took me some time to find this temple as the location on Google Maps was incorrect.
Shan people funded the construction of this temple, which took place in 1824. The current monastery though dates back to 1899, according to an inscription on one of the columns in the Buddha Hall.
During World War Two the 56th division of the Imperial Japanese Army stationed soldiers at the temple and used it as a communication center.
Wat Muang Pon
The Wat Muang Pon is in the Shan village Muang Pon, which is about 12 km south of Khun Yuam. Coming from Mae Sariang the village is on the right side of the road.
The monastery belongs to the Maha Nikaya, one of the two principal monastic orders of Thai Buddhism. The monastery dates back to 1867. The Muang Pon monastery acts not only as the community and religious center of the village but also as the main institution to preserve and distribute the Shan culture to the new generation. It is a beautifully located temple, well maintained.
References for this article
I visited Khun Yuam several times over the years, most recently in June 2021. I will go back there as soon as I can. I stayed three nights in Khun Yuam and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Information at the temples and at the Thai-Japan Friendship Memorial Hall.
Hak Hakanson’s website Lanna in World War Two. Hak also sent me valuable information on Khun Yuam and the Japanese presence in Northwest Thailand during World War Two.
Oliver Hargreave, Exploring Chiang Mai, City, Valley and Mountains
Sarassawadee Ongsakul, History of Lanna, Chiang Mai, 2005
Michael Freeman, Lanna, Thailand’s Northern Kingdom, Bangkok, 2001
Hans Penth, A brief history of Lanna, Chiang Mai, 2000
Chotima Chaturawong, The Architecture of Burmese Buddhist Monasteries in Upper Burma and Northern Thailand: The Biography of Trees, Dissertation for Doctor of Philosophy, Cornell University, 2003
Yu Yu Thwin, A comparative study on the architectural characteristics of 19th and 20th century Shan monasteries in Southern Shan State of Myanmar and Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai University/Chiang Mai, 2008