A mysterious wooden house on stilts
A Muslim trader called Ch’un Chowng-lin, aka Zheng Chong Ling, built the Wongluekiat House around 1909. This wooden house on stilts is opposite the Ban Ho Mosque on Charoenprathat Road Soi 1. This is the location of the popular Friday morning Yunnan market.
Most Chiang Mai residents have seen this house, but few know its history. It is one of the historic houses of Chiang Mai that should be protected. I once was able to enter the house many years ago. It has been in an abandoned state for decades but not neglected.
A Chinese immigrant from Yunnan
He was born in 1873 in Kunming, Yunnan, and was a descendant of the Chinese explorer Zheng He (1371-1433). He transported goods from Kunming via Kengtung to Mae Sai, Lamphun, Lampang and Chiang Mai. These Chinese traders are known as Chin Haw or Chin Ho. Some of them, such as Ch’un Chowng-lin, were muslims and settled in the neighbourhood that became known as Ban Ho (the house of the Ho people).
After he married a woman from Tak they settled in Chiang Mai in 1905. Ch’un Chowng-lin became a very successful and respected businessman over the years. The Siamese government gave him a contract to deliver mail with his horses within Chiang Mai province. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Ban Ho Mosque and the adjoining religious school in 1916.
Ch’un Chowng-lin makes a name for himself
Ch’un Chowng-lin was also involved in the construction of the Khun Tan railway tunnel. This tunnel cuts through the Khuntan mountain range and is the long railway tunnel in Thailand. Ch’un Chowng-lin was responsible for the transportation of construction materials to the site. His business made him a wealthy man and he became a landowner. When the construction of the railroad got nearer to Chiang Mai about one hundred years ago, he donated 40 rai of his land. I don’t know if the land was used for the railway station or somewhere else.
A reward for public service
For his public service Prince Kaew Nawarat, the 9th and last ruler of Chiang Mai, bestowed him with the title “Khun” and gave him a Thai family name: Wong Lue-kiat. From then on he was known as Khun Chowng-liang Lue-kiat (ขุนชวงเลียงฤาเกียรติ). His family now uses the name Wongluekiet (วงศ์ลือเกียรติ). He became a leading citizen of Chiang Mai and had a good relation with Prince Kaew Nawarat. When Chiang Mai airport was established in 1924 he donated more than 225 rai of his own land to the airport. He passed away in 1964 during a pilgrimage to Mecca. He was one of the most respected members of the Muslim community in Chiang Mai.
The Friday Yunnan Market
I can’t remember when this market appeared on the scene for the first year. However, it has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. There are certain Yunnanese and muslim specialties for sale, that you can’t buy anywhere else. The market has a very local atmosphere. If you are in Chiang Mai, consider to pay a visit to this market. It starts in the early hours and ends before noon.
Sources on the Wongluekiat HouseThis is a summary of the information about Khun Chowng-liang Lue-kiat I could find online and in the book “Islamic Identity in Chiang Mai City” by Suthep Soonthornpasuch. If someone knows more sources either in English or in Thai, please let me know.
The Wongluekiat House is not yet on Google Maps. For the time being we use the location of the Yunnan Friday Morning Market. There are more heritage houses in the Charoenprathet neighbourhood.