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What's In A Name?

Whereas Bangkok is a mere 200 years old, Chiang Mai was founded in the late 13th century. 1996 was the official 700 year anniversary which makes Chiang Mai 716 years old.

It was once the capital of Lanna, an independent Thai Kingdom and has remained one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements of the Kingdom. The north was teak country where elephants used to work in the forests. It is the commerce that drew foreign entrepreneurs to north Thailand. As they wrote in journals and letters to their families about this beautiful area, evidence shows each wrote their own spelling of Chiang Mai. Written as a reminder during the 700 year celebration, the following article reminds us of the influence of the west in the history of northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai can be translated as New Town. In Thai script it is written in one word. Until recent years there has been no official method of transliterating Thai into Romanised form and many different versions of the name can be found. I myself have collected 120 different spellings from various books, letters, personal communications, and maps.

Ralph Fitch, the Englishman who visited Chiang Mai in 1587 (four hundred years ago) spelt the town Iamahey. In 1615 The East India Company favored Jangoma, while the early Portuguese used Chiangmai. The French called the place Xieng Mai, though the Dutch preferred Ischeen May and Tsieengh Maeij.

King Mongkut (r. 1851-1872), who wrote English well, seemed a bit uncertain in his own mind as to how he should spell the name of this town. He used the styles of Chiang May and Chiang-may as well as Zam-may.


???? Tiongh May;
???? Tjiang Mai;
???? Tschieng Mai
???? Tsching-mai;
1373 Lanna Xieng May;
1380 Chimai;
1544 Chiammay;
1544 Jangumaa;
1545 Jangomaa;
1552 Chiamai;
1552 Chiamai;
1553 Jangoma;
1572 Chiamay;
1587 Iamahey;
1587 Iamayhey;
1588 Jamahay;
1588 Jamahey;
1588 Tamahey;
1599 Jangomi;
1611 Xamoi;
1611 Xhamoi;
1612 Jangemay;
1614 Jangama;
1614 Kiangmai;
1614 Zangnomang;
1614 Zangomaye;
1615 Jagama;
1615 Jagoma;
1615 Jagomai;
1615 Jagoman;
1615 Jangamay;
1615 Janggamay;
1615 Jangnna;
1615 Jangomai;
1615 Jangoman;
1615 Jangomay;
1615 Janguma;
1615 Kiang-mai;
1615 Xiengmai;
1615 Zangomay;
1636 Jangonia;
1636 Jiengmai;
1636 Jongoma;
1640 Jangema.
1640 Tsieeengh Maeij;
1640 Tsieeng May;
1647 Ischeen Mey;
1647 Ischeen Mey;
1691 Chiamai;
1750 Chia Mai;
1752 Shia mai;
1791 Shiamai;
1791 Yangoma;
1794 Shia may;
1794 Shiamay;
1795 Zemme;
1800 Shiamai;
1801 Zemee;
1803 Chiengma.
1822 Chang-mai;
1822 Che-ung Mai;
1822 Jang-mai;
1822 Zimai;
1826 Zimay;
1828 Chang Mai;
1828 Che-ung Mai;
1831 Zamee;
1834 Zimmy;
1836 Jangoma;
1839 Chengmie;
1839 Zemmai;
1839 Zimmay;
1850 Xieng Mai;
1850 Xieng-mai;
1854 Xieng-mie,
1855 Saymmay;
1855 Shiangmai;
1856 Xieng mai;
1856 Xieng-mai;
1857 Chiang-mai;
1858 Chung Mai;
1859 Chiang May;
1859 Chiang-may;
1859 Zam-may;
1860 Kiang Mai;
1860 Xieng Me;
1860 Xiengmie;
1861 Ca-nah-ma;
1861 Ja-mah-ma;
1863 Changmai;
1865 Changmai;
1866 Cheang Mai;
1868 Cheangmai;
1870 Chieng Mai;
1871 Zimme;
1873 Chengmai;
1883 Chiungmai;
1884 Cheung Mai;
1885 Tsching Mai;
1885 Zimme;
1885 Zimme;
1885 Zimmei;
1885 Zinme;
1890 Chienghmi;
1890 Tyima;
1906 Chieng-mai;
1908 Schiengmai;
1910 Chieng-Mai;
1918 Siang Mai;
1930 Sandabul;
1932 Chiengmai;
1936 ChiangMai;
1937 C'ieng Mai;
1950 Chiangmai;
1956 Xieng-mai;
1967 Chiang Mai;
1971 Chieng May;
1980 Chieng-mai;

Written by Major Roy Hudson for the 700 Year Celebrations in 1996 and reproduced here with his kind permission.

(When discussing this article with Major Roy Hudson on 5th Sept 2012, he told me that he had been collecting the various names that he found for Chiang Mai from articles, books, personal letters and many other sources, after arriving in Chiang Mai as a British Army Officer during World War II. Since writing the article, Roy mentioned that he has collected at least another 50 or more names, and has promised to provide details including where the original article was published, and if possible, provide the original copy.
(Daniel- Web Developer).




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