Last updated
King of Lan Xang
King of Lan Na
Statue of King Setthathirath
Pha That Luang, Vientiane
Coronation 1546
Predecessor Chiraprapha
Successor Mekuti
Predecessor Photisarath I
Successor Sen Soulintha
24 January 1534
Muang Sua, Lan Xang
Attapeu, Lan Xang
SpouseTon Thip of Lan Na
Ton Kham of Lan Na
Thepkasattri of Ayutthaya
Unnamed daughter of Sen Soulintha
IssuePrince Nokaeo Koumane
Princess Khau Pheng
Other Princesses
Regnal name
Samdach Brhat-Anya Chao Udaya Budhara Buvana Brhat Jaya Setha Maharajadiraja Buvanadi Adipati Sri Sadhana Kanayudha
Dynasty Khun Lo
Father Photisarath I
MotherYotkhamthip of Lan Na
Religion Therevada Buddhism

Setthathirath (Lao : ເສດຖາທິຣາດ; 24 January 1534 – 1571) or Xaysettha (Lao : ໄຊເສດຖາ; Thai : ไชยเชษฐาธิราชChaiyachetthathirat) is considered one of the great leaders in Lao history. Throughout the 1560s until his death, he successfully defended his kingdom of Lan Xang against military campaigns of Burmese conqueror Bayinnaung, who had already subdued Xieng Mai (Chiang Mai) in 1558 and Ayutthaya in 1564. Setthathirath was a prolific builder and erected many Buddhist monuments including Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, Haw Phra Kaew, Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan and the Pha That Luang in Vientiane.


King of Lanna

Setthathirath also known as Chaiyachettha or Chaiyaset or Jayajestha, Son of the King Photisarath of Lan Xang, he was crowned King of Lanna after the death of his grandfather, Ketklao the previous King of Lanna, who died without a male heir to the throne and gave his daughter Princess Yotkhamtip in marriage to his father King Photisarath of Lan Xang.

When King Ketklao died, there was no other descendant to succeed him. High-ranking officials and Buddhist monks therefore agreed unanimously to assign the Lanna throne to Prince Setthathirath in 1546. His name was lengthened to Chao Chaiyasetthathirath.

In 1548 King Setthathirath (as King of Lanna) had taken Chiang Saen as his capital. Chiang Mai still had powerful factions at court, and the threats from Burma and Ayutthaya were growing.

King of Lan Xang

After the death of King Photisararath, the nobles of Lan Xang were divided, a group supported Prince Tha Heua, another group of nobles led by Phya Vieng, Saen Marong and Kwan Darmpa supported Prince Lanchang who was born from an Ayutthayan princess. Prince Tha Heua and Prince Lanchang began to split the Kingdom up between them, when Prince Settathathirath was still in Chiang Mai. Hearing of the news of his half brothers, King Settathathirath quickly returned to Lan Xang leaving the affairs of Chiang Mai under Queen Chiraprapha's leadership, taking with him the Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha), the Saekkam and the Phra Phuttha Sihing images. He also claimed that taking the statue would allow his relatives the opportunity to venerate the image and make merit. The Nobles of Lanna felt that Setthathirath had stayed away too long, and sought another descendant of Mangrai dynasty to take the throne in 1551. They chose a distant relative of Setthathirath, the Shan Prince known as Mekuti. [1]

Settathathirath subdued Prince Tarua in Louang Phrabang, and sent his general Phya Sisatthamatailoke to go fight Prince Lanchang in the town of Kengsah, Prince Lanchang was defeated and fled to Thakhek, where the local Lord had him arrested and sent to Phya Sisatthama. The nobles that supported Prince Lanchang were executed, but Prince Setthatathirath pardoned Prince Lanchang and appointed him as governor of Seanmuang. Phya Sisatthama was thus made Lord of Viangchan, and given the title Phya Chantaburi, who built Wat Chan and Pia Wat that can be still found in Viangchan today.

In 1553 King Setthathirath sent an army to retake Lanna from Mekuti but was defeated. Again in 1555 King Setthathirath sent an army to retake Lanna at the command of Sen Soulintha, and managed to take Chiang Saen. For his success, Sen Soulintha was given the title Luxai (Victorious) and offered one of his daughters to King Setthathirath. In 1556 Burma, under King Bayinnaung invaded Lanna. King Mekuti of Lanna surrendered Chiang Mai without a fight, but was reinstated as a Burmese vassal under military occupation. [2] [3]

In 1560, King Setthathirath formally moved the capital of Lan Xang from Luang Prabang to Viangchan, which would remain the capital over the next two hundred and fifty years. [4] The formal movement of the capital followed an expansive building program which included strengthening city defenses, the construction of a massive formal palace and the Haw Phra Kaew to house the Emerald Buddha, and major renovations to That Luang in Viangchan. In Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong was constructed perhaps in compensation for the loss of status as the former capital of Lan Xang, and in Nakhon Phanom major renovations were made to That Phanom. [5]

The Burmese invasions

In 1563, a treaty was signed between Lan Xang and Ayutthaya, which was sealed by the betrothal of Princess Thepkasattri (whose mother was Queen Suriyothai of Ayutthaya). However, King King Maha Chakkraphat instead tried to exchange Princess Kaeo Fa, which was immediately rejected. [6] In the midst of the disagreement, the Burmese invaded northern Ayutthaya with the assistance of Maha Thammaracha the royal viceroy and governor of Phitsanulok. It was only then in 1564 that King Chakkraphat sent Princess Thepkasattri to Lan Xang along with a massive dowry in an attempt to buy back the broken alliance. [7]

While the procession was en route, Maha Thammaracha ambushed the princess and sent her to his overlords in Burma; she committed suicide shortly thereafter or en route. Facing the threat of a superior Burmese force, King Chakkraphat had lost a potential alliance with Lan Xang, the northern territories of Ayutthaya and his daughter. To prevent further incursions, King Chakkraphat became a vassal of Burma and had to deliver both himself and his son Prince Ramesuan as hostages to King Bayinnaung leaving another son Prince Mahinthrathirat as a vassal in Ayutthaya. [7]

The Burmese then turned north to depose King Mekuti of Lanna, who had failed to support the Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya in 1563. [8] [9] When Chiang Mai fell to the Burmese, a number of refugees fled to Viangchan and stripped of supplies. When the Burmese took Viangchan they were forced into the countryside for supplies, where King Setthathirath had organized guerrilla attacks and small raids to harass the Burmese troops. Facing disease, malnutrition and demoralizing guerrilla warfare, King Bayinnaung was forced to retreat in 1565 leaving Lan Xang the only remaining independent Tai kingdom. [10] [11]

Covert plans

In 1567, King Mahinthrathirat approached King Setthathirath with covert plans for Ayutthaya to rebel against Burma by launching a counterattack against Mahathammarachathirat in Phitsanulok. The plan would involve an overland invasion from Lan Xang with assistance from the royal navy in Ayutthaya passing up the Nan River. Mahathammarachathirat was in Burma at the time, and Maha Chakkraphat had been allowed to return to Ayutthaya as Burma was facing small rebellions in the Shan areas. [12]

The plan was discovered and reinforcements were sent to Phitsanulok. Realizing Phitsanulok was too fortified, Setthathirath withdrew his attack, but set up a devastating counter ambush on his retreat to Vientiane in which five pursuing Burmese generals were killed. Seizing on the weakness, King Chakkraphat ordered a second attack on Phitsanulok in which he successfully took the city, but could only briefly hold it having suffered repeated heavy losses. [12]

King Bayinnaung sent a massive invasion in 1568 in response to the uprising. In early 1569, the city of Ayutthaya was directly under threat and Vientiane sent reinforcements. The Burmese had planned on the reinforcements however and Setthathirath fell into a trap. [13] After a two-day struggle the Lan Xang forces prevailed at the Pa Sak Valley near Phetchabun, at which point one of the commanding generals from Nakhon Phanom broke south toward Ayutthaya. The Burmese rallied and were able to destroy the divided forces, and Setthathirath had to retreat toward Viangchan. [14]

The Burmese then focused their attack on Ayutthaya and took the city. King Setthathirath upon reaching Vientiane ordered an immediate evacuation. The Burmese took several weeks to regroup and rest having taken Ayutthaya, which allowed Setthathirath to rally his forces and plan for prolonged guerrilla warfare. The Burmese arrived in Viangchan and were able to take the lightly defended city. Just as in 1565, Setthathirath began a guerrilla campaign from his base near the Nam Ngum River, northeast of Vientiane. In 1570 Bayinnaung retreated, Setthathirath counterattacked and more than 30,000 were taken prisoner, along with 100 elephants, and 2,300 pieces of ivory from the retreating Burmese. [14]

In 1571, the Ayutthaya Kingdom and Lan Na were Burmese vassals. Having twice defended Lan Xang from Burmese invasions, King Setthathirath moved south to conduct a campaign against the Khmer Empire. Defeating the Khmer would have greatly strengthened Lan Xang, giving it vital sea access, trade opportunities, and most importantly, European firearms which had been growing use since the early 1500s. The Khmer Chronicles record that armies from Lan Xang invaded in 1571 and 1572, during the second invasion King Barom Reacha I was slain in an elephant duel. The Khmer must have rallied and Lan Xang retreated.

Death and aftermath

In 1571, a conspiracy between Lord Phya Nakhon and the former abbot of Wat Maximavat, who held personal grudges against Setthathirath, led to the king's murder in the southern frontier of the country. He was 37 years of age.

Because Setthathirath left only a toddler as his heir, prince Noi Hno Muang Keo Koumane, the child's maternal grandfather, a military commander of common birth named Sen Soulintha, declared himself king. This began a period of turbulence, with different kings ruling unsteadily for short periods, which saw the country finally conquered by King Bayinnaung in 1574, and the toddler son of Setthathirath taken to Burma. with a fratricide by a crown prince; with a rebellion led by someone claiming to be Setthathirath-resurrected; and with a nine-year period in which the country had no king. (The Burmese would rule Laos for eighteen years.) Quarrels and conflicts among the feudal nobility and their followings led to disruptions and unrest within the population.

With the country in chaos, Prince Noi Hno Muang Keo Koumane was always recognised as the rightful king by the people of Laos who campaigned for his return for many years. They finally succeeded when they sent a delegation to Burma after he had come of age in 1590. Released from captivity in Burma by King Nanda Bayin, he returned to Vientiane where he was crowned in 1591. Declared his independence from the Burmese in 1593, but suffered several attacks from them throughout his reign.

There was little peace in Laos until King Sourigna Vongsa ascended the throne in 1637 (possibly in 1638).


  1. Princess Dharmadevi (Ton Tip) - (m. 1546) daughter of his maternal grandfather, Brhat Muang Ket Klao Setharaja, King of Lanna
  2. Princess Dharmakami (Ton Kam) - (m. 1546) daughter of his maternal grandfather, Brhat Muang Ket Klao Setharaja, King of Lanna.
  3. Princess Devisra Kshatriyi (Tepsakatri) - (m. 1563), younger daughter of Maha Chakkraphat King of Ayudhya (r. 1548-1564; 1568-1569) by Queen Suriyothai
  4. a daughter of Phragna Sen Soulinthara Lusai - King of Lan Xang (r. 1546-1551)
    1. Prince Nu Muang Kaeva Kumara (Phragna Nakorn-Noi No Muang Keo Koumane) - King of Lan Xang (r. 1571–1572(?); 1591-1598)
  5. a lady from Indapatha-negara
  6. by unknown women
    1. Princess Khau Pheng - (married in 1560 with Prince Kham Khon (Kham Done) Prince of Xieng Xouang (d. 1567), younger son of Prince Su Bun Lan Thai, Prince of S’ieng Wong S’ieng Wang

See also


  1. Wyatt & Wichienkeeo (Ed.) (1995), p. 120–122.
  2. Simms (1999), p. 71–73.
  3. Stuart-Fox (1998), p. 78.
  4. Simms (1999), p. 73.
  5. Stuart-Fox (2006), p. 61–72.
  6. Wyatt (2003), p. 80.
  7. 1 2 Wyatt (2003), p. 81.
  8. Harvey 1925: 167–168
  9. Maha Yazawin Vol. 2 2006: 266–268
  10. Simms (1999), p. 73–75.
  11. Stuart-Fox (1998), p. 81–82.
  12. 1 2 Simms (1999), p. 78–79.
  13. Wyatt (2003), p. 82.
  14. 1 2 Simms (1999), p. 79–81.

Related Research Articles

Lan Na Indianized state centered in present-day Northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries

The Lan Na or Lan Na Kingdom, also known as Lannathai, and most commonly called Lanna and Lanna Kingdom was an Indianized state centered in present-day Northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries.

Lan Xang Kingdom in Southeast Asia from 1353 to 1707

The Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao existed as a unified kingdom from 1353 to 1707.

Photisarath King of Lan Xang

Photisarath son of King Visoun of Lanxang, is considered to be the most devout of the Lao kings. He banned spirit worship and built temples upon the sites of spirit shrines. His elephant fell and crushed him while he sought to display his prowess to the diplomatic corps. His son Setthathirath returned from Chiang Mai to succeed him to the throne of Lan Xang.

Fa Ngum King of Lan Xang Lao: ພຣະມະຫາກະສັຕຍ໌ ແຫ່ງ ລ້ານຊ້າງ

Somdetch Brhat-Anya Fa Ladhuraniya Sri Sadhana Kanayudha Maharaja Brhat Rajadharana Sri Chudhana Negara ລາວ: ສົມເດັດ ພຣະບາດ ອັນຍາ ຟ້າ ລັດທຸຣັນຍາ ສຣີ ສັດຕະນາ ຄະນະຍຸດທາ ມະຫາຣາຊ໌ ພຣະບາດ ຣາຊະທໍຣະນາ ສຣີ ສັດຕະນະ ນະຄອນ, better known as Fa Ngum, established the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang in 1353.

Bayinnaung 16th-century King of Burma who expanded the First Toungoo Empire to its greatest extent

Bayinnaung Kyawhtin Nawrahta was king of the Toungoo Dynasty of Burma (Myanmar) from 1550 to 1581. During his 31-year reign, which has been called the "greatest explosion of human energy ever seen in Burma", Bayinnaung assembled what was probably the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia, which included much of modern-day Myanmar, the Chinese Shan states, Lan Na, Lan Xang, Manipur and Siam.

Ekathotsarot King of Ayutthaya

Ekathotsarot or Sanphet III ; 1560 – 1610) was the King of Ayutthaya from 1605 to 1610 and overlord of Lan Na from 1605 to 1608/09, succeeding his brother Naresuan. His reign was mostly peaceful as Siam was a powerful state through the conquests of Naresuan. It was also during his reign that foreigners of various origin began to fill the mercenary corps. In particular, the king had a regiment of professional Japanese guards under the command of Yamada Nagamasa.

Maha Thammaracha (king of Ayutthaya) King of Ayutthaya

Maha Thammaracha, Maha Thammarachathirat, or Sanphet I, formerly known as Khun Phirenthorathep, was a king of Ayutthaya Kingdom from the Sukhothai dynasty, ruling from 1569 to 1590. As a powerful Sukhothai noble, Phirenthorathep gradually rose to power. After playing many political turns, he was eventually crowned as the King of Siam.

Maha Chakkraphat King of Ayutthaya

Maha Chakkraphat was king of the Ayutthaya kingdom from 1548 to 1564 and 1568 to 1569. Originally called Prince Thianracha, or Prince Tien, he was put on the throne by Khun Phiren Thorathep and his supporters of the Sukhothai clan, who had staged a coup by killing the usurper King Worawongsathirat and Sudachan.

Mahinthrathirat King of Ayutthaya

Mahinthrathirat was king of Ayutthaya 1564 to 1568 and again in 1569. He ruled his first reign as a vassal of Toungoo Burma before restoring his father in 1568 as the sovereign king. He became king again in 1569 after his father's death during the Third Siege of Ayutthaya by Toungoo forces. Mahinthrathirat was the last monarch of the Suphannaphum Dynasty as the kingdom fell to the Burmese in 1569. Mahinthrathirat was known for his efforts to counter Burmese and Phitsanulok power by seeking alliance with Setthathirath of Lan Xang.

Prince Ramesuan was a Siamese prince and military commander during the Ayutthaya period in the 16th century. He was a son of Prince Thianracha and Suriyothai, thus he was a member of the Suphannaphum Dynasty. He was the first of five children: his younger brother Mahin and three sisters Sawatdirat, Boromdilok and Thepkassatri. After the Second Siege of Ayutthaya War of 1563, he and his father were sent to Pegu (Bago) in March 1564. He later became a commander in the Royal Burmese Army, and died in November 1564 of illness during a military campaign to Lan Na.

Wisutkasat or Borommathewi (บรมเทวี), was a Siamese Queen and Princess during the Ayutthaya period in the 16th century, born Sawatdiratchathida (สวัสดิราชธิดา) to Prince Thianracha and Suriyothai. She was a mother of two kings (Naresuan and Ekathotsarot, and the maternal ancestor of the Sukhothai Dynasty, which ruled Ayutthaya from 1569-1629.

Agga Maha Thenapati Binnya Dala was a Burmese statesman, general and writer-scholar during the reign of King Bayinnaung of Toungoo Dynasty. He was the king's most trusted adviser and general, and a key figure responsible for the expansion, defense and administration of Toungoo Empire from the 1550s to his fall from grace in 1573. He oversaw the rebuilding of Pegu (1565–1568). He is also known for his literary works, particularly Razadarit Ayedawbon, the earliest extant chronicle of the Mon people. He died in exile after having failed to reconquer Lan Xang.

Nawrahta Minsaw was king of Lan Na from 1579 to 1607/08, and the first Burmese-born vassal king of Lan Na. He was also an accomplished poet.

Burmese–Siamese War (1568–1569)

The Burmese–Siamese War (1568–1569) was a military conflict fought between the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (Siam) and the Kingdom of Burma. The war began in 1568 when Ayutthaya unsuccessfully attacked Phitsanulok, a Burmese vassal state. The event was followed by a Burmese intervention which resulted in the 2 August 1569 defeat of Ayutthaya, which became a Burmese vassal state. Burma then moved towards Lan Xang, occupying the country for a short period of time until retreating in 1570.

Chakkaphat Phaen Phaeo (1415–1481) reigned as King of Lan Xang from 1442 to 1480, succeeding the Maha Devi after an interregnum of several years. He was born in 1415 as Prince Vong Buri, the youngest son of King Samsenthai by Queen Nan Keo Yot Fa daughter of King Intharacha of Ayutthaya. When he came of age he was appointed as Governor of Vientiane. He was invited to ascend the throne several times during the succession dispute orchestrated by the Maha Devi, but refused. The Council of Ministers finally persuaded him to become king in 1441, after they had failed to find any other candidate. He still refused to be crowned and avoided the ceremony for many years. Finally bowing to custom in 1456, he was formally coroneted and assumed the reign name and title of Samdach Brhat-Anya Chao Sanaka Chakrapati Raja Phen-Phaeo Bhaya Jayadiya Kabuddha. The regnal name is significant because it translates in Pali to cakkavattin, meaning "Universal Buddhist Monarch." Vong Buri, and the court, were claiming enough political and religious power to unify the kingdom, and warn surrounding kingdoms, despite the upheaval caused by the Maha Devi and interregnum in Lan Xang from 1428-1442.

Sen Soulintha, Saen Surintha or Sen Sourintha (1511–1582) was born Chane Tian and became King of Lan Xang reigning 1571-1575 and again 1580-1582. Sen Soulintha was not of noble birth, rising from royal page to King Setthatirath’s Chief Minister. During the succession disputes in the Kingdom of Lan Na between King Setthatirath and King Mekuti, Sen Soulintha served Setthatirath as a general and successfully took several cities of Lan Na including Chiang Saen for which he was given the honorific name Lusai meaning “victory.” Sen Soulintha supported Setthatirath in leading the guerrilla campaigns during the Burmese invasions of King Bayinnaung. When Setthatirath died near Attapeu under suspicious circumstances in 1572, Sen Soulintha led the armies of Lan Xang back to Vientiane. A succession dispute erupted, which nearly led to civil war and provided a pretext for another Burmese invasion ordered by Bayinnaung and led by the Chief Minister Binnya Dala. Sen Soulintha defeated the Burmese and Lan Na forces led by Binnya Dala, an event which led to the latter’s exile, only to face a more massive invasion led by Bayinnaug the following year. Sen Soulintha again attempted to resort to guerilla tactics, but lacked popular support from his seizure of the throne. He and his son Ong Lo were captured by Bayinnaung and exiled to Pegu. The Burmese placed Setthathirath’s brother, and former Ouphahat or Viceroy, Prince Tha Heua on the throne. According to the Luang Prabang chronicles it was this brother, who had led a rebellion in Luang Prabang and tried to seize the throne from Setthathirath on the death of their father Photisarath. Prince Tha Heua took the regnal name Voravongsa and reigned under Burmese suzerainty from 1575-1579. Voravongsa was never popular, and drowned with his family while attempting to flee Vientiane in the face of popular uprising. In 1579, Bayinnaung dispatched a sizable army to restore order. According to Lao histories Sen Soulintha was then installed as king a second time in 1580. By that time Sen Soulintha was an old man and reigned only for two years before his son ascended the throne as Nakhon Noi and another succession dispute ensued.

Voravongsa I was king of Lan Xang reigning from 1575–1579 with the regnal name Samdach Brhat-Anya Chao Brhatasena Vora Varman Raja Sri Sadhana Kanayudha but he is commonly referred to in both Lao and Burmese chronicles by his title of Maha Oupahat or Viceroy. Voravongsa was taken prisoner by the Burmese in 1565 during the occupation of Vientiane. In 1575 following the third of a series of Burmese invasions of Lan Xang, Voravongsa was appointed by Bayinnaung as a vassal within the Taungoo Empire. Voravongsa had few supporters even within the Burmese court; he reigned for only four years before facing a popular rebellion which would threaten to overtake the capital in Vientiane. Voravongsa attempted to flee back to Burma, but were killed en route. To reestablish order the Burmese dispatched another army, and would install Sen Soulintha as vassal from 1580-1582.

Nakhon Noi briefly occupied the throne of Lan Xang from 1582–1583 on the death of his father Sen Soulintha, who himself had been appointed as a vassal to the Toungoo Empire from 1580-1582. Nakhon Noi took the regnal name Samdach Brhat Chao Samdach Brhat Chao Negara Nawi Raja Sri Sadhana Kanayudha. Little is known about his brief rule, it does not appear in the sources that the Burmese were at the origin of his selection to succeed Sen Soulintha and were instead informed belatedly. If he had supporters in the royal court of Lan Xang they were few and quickly became unhappy with his rule. Within the year the royal court had petitioned King Nanda Bayin for his removal. According to various versions of the chronicles it is cited that Nakhon Noi “did not rule with fairness,” or keep to the religious and behavioral precepts which were traditionally required by a sovereign. Other versions record that he simply had made enemies at court, or was perceived as illegitimate because he was of common origins. Either at the hands of the royal court, or the Burmese, Nakhon Noi was deposed, arrested, and returned to Pegu. After Nakhon Noi was deposed a period of interregnum occurred from 1583-1591 which historian Paul Le Boulanger describes as a period of “absolute confusion,” among the factions at court. The chronicles again agree that it was only after the period of succession crisis that a petition was finally sent in 1591 to Nanda Bayin by the Lao sangha and Lan Xang court asking for Prince No Muang, the son and legitimate heir of Setthathirath, to be appointed as king. Nanda Bayin confirmed the request and Prince No Muang would take the throne as Nokeo Koumane and reign Lan Xang from 1591-1596.

Wisutthithewi was queen regnant of Lan Na from 1564 to 1578.


Preceded by
King of Lan Xang
Succeeded by
Sen Soulintha
Preceded by
King of Lanna
Succeeded by