It is believed that Wat Chang Kham is the renowned temple ‘Wat Kan-Thom’, which has been repeatedly referred to in the ancient chronicles and oral histories. According to the chronicles, Wat Kan-Thom was built in the reign of King Mhangrai when Wiang Kum Kam still functioned as the capital city of Lanna. He commanded a craftsman called ‘Kan-Thom’ in his Royal Court to import wood from Chiang Saen, another city-state in the Kok river basin, and build a wooden viharn at the so-called Wat Kan-Thom.
As a few inscriptions with the name ‘Kan-Thom’ were recovered at Wat Chang Kham , it has been speculated that Wat Chang Kham might be formerly known as ‘Wat Kan-Thom’. However, it is also possible that such inscriptions were brought from other temples in Wiang Kum Kam. In addition, other archaeological finds found onsite such as votive tablets, Mon inscription, and pottery clearly indicate connection to the Haripunchai culture.
Currently, Wat Chang Kham is located at the heart of Wiang Kum Kam and still in use as living monastery. It is surrounded by densely populated areas. The low-lying rice field to the east of the temple is being developed in to housing estates.
There are two clusters of archaeological remains. These two groups of constructions were built at different times: one was built in the Haripunchai Period long before the establishment of Wiang Kum Kam and another was built after Wiang Kum Kam was established. The viharn in the first cluster faces west, which is different from other ordinary Lanna temple layout, whilst the components in the second cluster clearly fit in Lanna traditional culture.
The ubosot (congregation hall) located between the two clusters was possibly built or modified in the reign of King Rama V of Siam. The building also faces west like other constructions that were built or modified around the same time.
The constructions that face west in Chiang Mai are generally influenced by Burmese style. However, considering the time that the ancient monuments in the first cluster at Wat Chang Kham were built, they are much older than the Burmese influenced architecture.
The ancient monuments in the second cluster clearly show an influence on Lanna culture. However, later modification also suggests the influence of Burmese and Siamese culture at the time. The main stupa decoration clearly represents Burmese motifs, such as floral stucco and the Buddha image style.
Information from "Historical visit to Wiang Kum Kam: first capital of Lanna"
By Mr. Kraisin Ounjaijin
Archaeologists Specialist, Head of Archaeological Group,
The 8th Regional office of Fine Arts Department, Chiang Mai.