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Ghosts of the New CitySpirits, Urbanity, and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai$
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Andrew Alan Johnson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839390

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839390.001.0001

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(p.32) 2 Foundations
Ghosts of the New City

Andrew Alan Johnson

University of Hawai'i Press

In Northern Thai (Lanna) palm-leaf texts and myths, the city was a sacred center, a mandala, but it was so in multiple ways, simultaneously. In these texts, Chiang Mai becomes the bastion of Buddhist power in a faithless jungle, it was a home for kingly power in a lawless land, it was the home of guardian spirits ensuring fertility in an uncertain environment, and, finally, it was an urban center in an uncultured wilderness. Similarly, each of these ways of being urban are performed through seasonal rituals that reenact the city’s relationship with the countryside. Urbanity, in each of these, ensures prosperity, it is center-oriented, and it draws in and assimilates the wild.

Keywords:   Urbanity, Buddhism, animism, kingship, Thailand, mandala, sacred space, Lanna, ritual, myth

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