iSee Hainan Temple

Where the Hainan Chinese worship the sea goddess

Sea goddess in the Thai mountains

When traders from the tropical Chinese island of Hainan arrived in Lampang, the first thing they did was build a temple to worship their two most popular goddesses: the one from heaven and the one from the sea.

To find a sea goddess shrine so far inland is pretty unique. Chinese settled in coastal towns all across Asia, Macau, Penang, Melaka, Medan, Yangon and Phuket, but when they migrated to Thailand almost 200 years ago, they also moved further up north the Wang river. The busy trading town of Lampang became a go-to destination.Many did well in the timber trade and invested their fortunes in local property and businesses, the Chinese becoming a key driving force in the economy of Lampang Old Town (Kad Kong Ta).

Shipping a shrine

Go inside to find the two goddesses, e Chao Mae Tub Tim -from the sea- is on the left and Chao Mae Sawan -from heaven- is on the right. The wooden statue at the centre of the shrine was shipped to Lampang here all the way from China in 1857 to be the centre of the local Hainan community.The original Hainan shrine was made of wood, but in 1962 replaced by the current sturdy concrete structure. The only thing remaining from the past is the colour. It’s still yellow! A picture from 1983 hanging on the right sidewall shows the first shrine management committee sitting in front of the yellow building. This is the shrine’s oldest picture.

Musical chairs

The Hainan shrine changed location three times since its arrival in Lampang two centuries ago. In 1916 when the railway station opened the whole business district moved south and the shrine with it. Later the worshippers moved it to a spot near the clock tower until finally in the 1960’s the shrine came back to its roots by the Wang river.

Opens in a new window