Wualai Silversmiths Village in Chiang Mai

Wualai Silversmiths Village is located in Wua Lai Walking Street. The village that produces silverware which has become Chiang Mai’s famous and precious handicraft. Creating silverware is both art and craft which require delicacy for the beautiful and unique design that is the characteristic of Wualai silverware.

The origin of the beautiful local silverware from Ban Sri Suphan, Chiang Mai was shown through evidences that it was since King Mangrai founded Chiang Mai and negotiated with Bagan to bring craftsmen to Chiang Mai in order to teach townspeople the skill. This created the local silverware industry which has been carried on through generations especially the silverware making of Ban Sri Suphan’s craftsmen specializing in raising and carving silver bowls which promoted the craftsmen to be artisans in Chiang Mai’s capital in the past. The skill had been passed on their offsprings who later became craftsmen and they expanded the silverware industry to other villages.

Before 1957, most of the villagers in Wualai had done farming and when they were free, they would be silversmiths as succeeded from their ancestors. Family members were main labors and almost every house had a small factory within there called “Tao Sao”. The family members would help each other creating silverware for their daily life’s use or for trade. For trade, they would buy silver from the Chinese in Chiang Mai’s downtown before forge and raise it into different products. The products are mostly bowl, paddle and tray. Normally, the ones who forge and mold silver would be men such as father, husband or son and, for carving and selling at a market, it would be mother or daughter’s duties.

When there was a trade between different groups, knowledges and intellects about silverware became more various. For the material, they used rupee from Myanmar and some other coins from Xishuangbanna because they were easy to find. Wualai silverware was traditionally popular for only some products such as Lanna’s traditional bowl, tray, footed tray, receptacle betel, etc. However, because the government later campaigned for officers and people to wear traditional Thai costumes, the silverware was additionally used to make women’s accessories. Nowadays, Wualai silverware is not only used to make kitchen utensils, but also for accessories and decorations. For example, some architectures in Chiang Mai have silver decorated on the roof like Wat Sri Suphan which is a symbol of this silverware.

Categories: Asia, Travel

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