The name ‘Nan Chang’ was recently given to the temple in 2003 in honour of the landowner. It was also known as ‘Wat Ping Hang’ (literally means River Ping is drifting away) as the old course of River Ping is in vicinity. Before the excavation, this area was full of small mounds and clusters of ruins. The excavation reveals an enormous group of historical remains lying 2 metres below the ground level.
Despite the lack of evidence that accounts for the origin of Wat Nan Chang, the immense numbers of components found onsite clearly indicate that the temple might be a place of great importance and was possibly built when Wiang Kum Kam reached its peak in the sixteenth century. Ancient remains and artifacts recovered during the excavation reveal that this temple was among the most significant temples in Wiang Kum Kam. It is the only place where the special type of ‘mondop’ (a square-base building with pyramidal roof carried by columns) was found, a mondop with four clusters of columns. The main stupa also has a special feature. The smaller stupas are built at its four corners.
A large jar containing Chinese pottery of the Ming Dynasty ( 1,368-1,644 A.D.) and a jar containing human bones were found during the official excavation. Speculating from the soil layer that the jars were found buried in, these finds were possibly placed on-site long after Wiang Kum Kam’s abandonment. The study of sediments at this temple also reveals the truth that Wiang Kum Kam had been deserted long before the flood occurred and the deposition that buried Wiang Kum Kam under the ground took place after the Burmese occupation of Lanna.
The temple is located amidst the longan orchards privately owned by local residents. It is located among other deserted temples: Wat Pu Pia, Wat That Khao and Wat E-Khang. It is now under the care of the Fine Arts Department, which bought the land from local owners. The excavation and restoration was conducted from 2002-2004.
Temple layout and architecture
The temple faces northeast or the direction where the old course of River Ping lies. The temple ground covers several clusters of ancient remains. The layout of Wat Nan-Chang is similar to other contemporary temples. However, the presence of several clusters of constructions has made this temple a precious source of archaeological evidence. Mondop and smaller assembly halls were found behind the main stupa. Archaeological evidence suggests that these constructions went through several modifications and temple extension over time. There are also few wells onsite indicating that Wat Nan Chang might host a large number of residents or might serve a large number of people back in the time when Wiang Kum Kam is still prosperous.
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.