Violence, Warfare, Sports, and the Lanna State during the Mangrai Dynasty

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Charn Panarut


This research studies a development of violence in contexts of the Lanna state and everyday life. This paper investigates social meanings and functions of sports as well as a sociological model for contemplating sports and social classes in Lanna by using first-hand accounts in pieces of evidence, particularly chronicles, poems, laws, and inscriptions. Previous studies overlooked day-to-day life of the Lanna society and the Lanna people’s perspectives. The nationalist theme also dominated a study of sports in Lanna. Nevertheless, following Lanna people’s perspectives, sports were related to warfare training, social hierarchy, and social mobilities of sportsmen in relationships with other people.

This research applies the concept of Norbert Elias for illuminating functions, mobilizations, and controls of violence in social relationships, including warfare and sports. In the Lanna context, sports were part of warfare (see Elias and Dunning, 1986). Sports were related to betting on social honors, merits, lives, promotions, assets, animals, slaves, cities, and states, which might lead to rises or declines of social statuses of sportsmen and those who involved (see Binde, 2005b). If a sport game was highly linked with an actual war, it would bring about a bloody warfare and a promotion usually got in a case of winning battle. Furthermore, sports in entertainments, organized by the Lanna state, were not regularly held as they were arranged by the Khmer and Ayutthaya states. It was only in the early sixteenth century, the Lanna King organized annual entertainments to attract people from all strata so that they would be impressed with hierarchical relationships as well as the King’s charisma and possession of dexterous warriors. The concept of theatre state is also fruitful for considering sports in Lanna (see Geertz, 1980).


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Panarut, C. (2022). Violence, Warfare, Sports, and the Lanna State during the Mangrai Dynasty. Journal of Human Sciences, 23(1), 109–142. Retrieved from
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