The Paths Glossary is a directory of cultural, historical, and geographical terms and topics addressed within articles on this site.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


A

Aranyavasi
A forest-dwelling sect in Thai Theravada Buddhism who are removed from the distractions of city life in order to better contemplate the Buddhist teachings.

ancestral houses
Large, intricately decorated wooden houses that housed multiple generations on Camiguin island.

Angkor
Capital of the Khmer Empire, located near modern day Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Angkor Thom
Walled city and final capital of the Khmer Empire built by Jayavarman VII.

Angkor Wat
Signature monument and Hindu temple mountain built by Khmer king Suryavarman II.

arogayasala
Standardized hospital temple design built throughout the Khmer Empire by Jayavarman VII.

Ashoka Pillar
Pillars erected by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka throughout the Indian Subcontinent, which were inscribed with the merits of Buddhism.

Ayutthaya
City in central Thailand and historic capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which was succeeded by the Thonburi Kingdom in 1767.

Ayutthaya Kingdom
Thai kingdom based in central Thailand, later referred to as Siam. Its capital was the city of Ayutthaya until the city was destroyed by the Burmese, forcing the state of Siam to relocate to modern Bangkok and found the Thonburi Kingdom in 1767.

B

baan
Thai world meaning house

Bai
Ethnic minority group centered in Yunnan, China.

Ban Chiang
The first advanced culture in Thailand based in Udon Thani Province, which mastered bronze working, rice cultivation, and elaborate pottery.

bang-bang man (棒棒军)
Dock porter in Chongqing who uses a long bamboo stick to carry goods through the city’s steep landscape

bannalai
Khmer monument commonly referred to as libraries and thought to house important documents, however, their true purpose is unknown.

bas-relief
An art style where surface material is removed to create an elevated image. It differs from a relief in that its features are shallower than the items it depicts.

Bayon
Signature monument of Jayavarman VII standing at the center of Angkor Thom. The original name was Jayagiri (“Victory Monument”).

Bay of Bangkok
The narrow northern tip of the Gulf of Thailand which runs along the coast from Hua Hin to Rayong. In the past, the Bay of Bangkok extended much farther inland.

Bayon style
Khmer architectural style lasting from 1180-1230 and characterized by laterite construction, less intricate carvings, and Buddhist themes.

Benzhuism
Local religion of the Bai people in which deified ancestors are worshipped.

Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX)
King of Thailand from 1946-2016.

Bo Ika Inscription
Sandstone tablet inscribed with Khmer and Sanskrit languages describing a kingdom outside of the Angkorian territory called Sri Canasa.

Borommarachathirat II
King of Ayutthaya from 1424–1448.

Brahma
Hindu creator god and member of the Trimurti.

Bo (僰人)
An ethnic group that once inhabited southwestern China. They were exterminated by the Ming Dynasty in the 1600s, leaving little knowledge of their culture or language behind.

Buddhism
Dharmic religion centered on the belief of karma and release from the cycle of reincarnation. Based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama.

C

Camadevi
Legendary Lavo princess and first ruler of Hariphunchai who brought Buddhism and Dvaravati culture to northern Thailand.

Camiguin
Volcanic island in the Mindanao group of the Philippines.

Cham
Austronesian ethnic group native to Southeast Asia that once controlled the Hindu Champa civilization in the region of modern Vietnam. Today, the Cham people are a minority in Vietnam and largely practice Islam.

Champa
An Indianized Hindu kingdom in ancient Vietnam known for constructing Tháp Chàm, their iconic Cham Towers dedicated to Shiva and other Hindu deities.

Chaotianmen (朝天门)
“Morning Sky Gate” located at the tip of Chongqing’s Yuzhong Peninsula where the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers meet. It still serves as the city’s main commercial docks for Yangtze River cruises.

chedi
Thai word meaning “stupa”

Chenla Kingdom
Early period (6th-9th Centuries CE) of independent Khmer states before being united into the Khmer Empire by Jayavarman II.

Chiang Mai
City in northern Thailand and historic capital of the Lanna Kingdom founded by King Mangrai in 1296.

Chiang Saen
City in northern Thailand and historic capital of the Ngoenyang Kingdom until the establishment of its successor, the Lanna Kingdom, in 1293 CE.

Chongqing (重庆)
City in southwest China known for its mountainous landscape and spicy food.

Christianity
Monotheistic offshoot of Judaism founded in the 1st Century CE and based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Chulalongkorn (King Rama V)
King of Thailand (Siam) from 1868-1910.

Confucianism
Indigenous Chinese religion promoting ancestor worship, filial piety, and duty to the state.

D

Dali
Historic town in southwestern China which was historic capital of the Dali Kingdom.

Daoism
Indigenous Chinese religion promoting detachment and non-purposeful action.

deva
Supernatural or god-like being in Hindu-Buddhist traditions

devaraja
Southeast “God-king” who was imbued with the divine right to rule the earthly realm.

dharmasala
“Fire house” temple design built along the Khmer Empire’s Angkor-Phimai road by Jayavarman VII.

Dharmasala Route
Important road from Angkor to Phimai and lined with 17 dharmasalas.

Doi Suthep (ดอยสุเทพ)
Revered mountain on the western edge of Chiang Mai. The mountain peak has been used by both the Hariphunchai and Lanna Kingdoms to house sacred Buddhist relic temples.

Dvaravati
Mon-Burmese ethnic group based in modern Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Responsible for the introduction of Buddhism (Theravada sect) to Thailand.

E

Emerald Buddha
Common English name of Phra Kaew Morakot, a legendary Buddha images which is currently housed in Bangkok after changing hands through several empires.

F

freighter
Massive ship used for transporting goods. Compared to a normal train car, a 1000-foot Great Lakes freighter can carry up to 40,000 tons.

Funan Kingdom
Early mainland Southeast Asian culture (1st-6th Centuries CE) which grew along the Mekong Delta coast with influence from the China-India maritime trades routes. Funan was among the first regional cultures to adopt an Indianized society .

G

Ganesh
Elephant-headed Hindu god who embodies prosperity and removal of obstacles.

Ganesh Chaturthi
Hindu festival celebrating the descent of Ganesh from Mount Kailash.

ghost town
A town nearly or entirely abandoned.

gopura
Entrance building to an important structure.

Grand Palace
Political and religious complex in Bangkok’s historic city center that served as the home of Thailand’s king.

Great Lakes
Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario located in North America along the U.S.-Canada border. Collectively these lakes hold 21% of the world’s fresh water.

H

Hanging Coffins (悬棺)
A burial custom of the Bo people in which wooden coffins were suspended from sheer cliff sides by still inconclusive methods.

Hariphunchai
Ancient name of Lamphun, Thailand and the historic capital of the Dvaravati Hariphunchai Kingdom.

Hariphunchai Kingdom
Dvaravati kingdom in northern Thailand (c. 750 – 1292 CE) centered in the modern town of Lamphun. Eventually conquered by the Lanna Kingdom.

Hinduism
Dharmic religion centered on the belief of karma and release from the cycle of reincarnation. It stems from Vedic teachings and one of the oldest extant religions in the world.

hot pot
A method of cooking by boiling meats and vegetables in a boiling soup at the table. Chongqing’s famous variation uses a spicy oil incorporating Sichuan peppers for a spicy, numbing taste.

Huế
The final imperial capital of Vietnam and the administrative center during its time as a French Colony.

Huiguorou (回鍋肉)
“Twice-cooked pork”, a cuisine from southwestern China

huŏguō (火鍋)
The Chinese name for hot pot

I

Indianization
A culture adopting Indian culture, religion, and social structures.

Isaan
Common name for the northeastern region of Thailand.

Islam
Monotheistic offshoot of Judaism founded in the 7th Century CE and based on the teachings of Mohammad.

J

Jayavarman VII
Mahayana Buddhist king of the Khmer Empire from 1181–1218 who conquered Champa, built Angkor Thom, and initiated massive engineering projects to rebuild the kingdom.

Jesuits
Catholic order of Christian monks who engaged in educational and missionary works during colonial times.

K

Kamphaeng Phet
City in Central Thailand and historically part of the Sukhothai Kingdom.

Kawila
Lanna prince who led successful campaigns against Burmese domination, liberating Chiang Saen. He led the rebuilding of Chiang Mai after becoming governor of Lampang under the Rattanakosin Kingdom.

Kengteng
City in northeastern Myanmar which was historically part of the Lanna Kingdom.

Kuena
Lanna king from 1355-1385 CE. He expanded the Lanna domain to its largest extent and founded the Lankawong school of Buddhism in Lanna.

Khmer
Austroasiatic ethnic group native to Southeast Asia and the majority inhabitants of the modern nation of Cambodia.

Khmer Empire
Hindu-Buddhist kingdom which ruled much of Southeast Asia from their capital at Angkor.

Khu Bua
Dvaravati city outside of modern Ratchaburi.

ku
Common name in Thailand for an ancient stone tower. Often used interchangeably with, or in combination with, prang, prasat, or chedi.

Kunming
The modern capital city of Yunnan Province.

L

Lake Superior
The largest and deepest of the Great Lakes.

Lampang
City in northern Thailand historically known as Khelang Nakhon. Founded by the Hariphunchai Kingdom to control the Wang River Basin, the city was later absorbed by the Lanna Kingdom.

Lamphun
City in northern Thailand and the historic capital of the Hariphunchai Kingdom.

Lankawong
A sect of Theravada Buddhism based on Sri Lankan teachings.

Lanna Kingdom
Thai kingdom based in northern Thailand and northwestern Laos. Its capitals included Chiang Rai, Wiang Kum Kam, and Chiang Mai.

laterite
Red clay-like soil which hardens when dry and is used in many types of construction.

Lavo Kingdom
Dvaravati kingdom in central Thailand centered in the modern town of Lopburi. Eventually conquered by the Khmer Empire.

Lawa
Ethnic minority group who constructed three walled cities in the Chiang Mai valley: Wiang Nopburi, Wiang Ched Lin, and Wiang Suan Dok. They are also referenced in historic writings as Lua, Milukku, Tamilla, and La.

Lopburi
City in northern Thailand and historic capital of the Lavo Kingdom founded by the Dvaravati culture. It was subsequently ruled by the Khmer Empire and the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Lianglukou (两路口)
Subway station in central Chongqing where lines 1 and 6 meet.

Lua
Common local name for the Lawa people of northern Thailand. Not to be confused with the Lua people of Laos.

Luobiao (洛表)
Small town in southern Sichuan province where the largest concentrations of Bo hanging coffins are located.

M

Mahabodhi Temple
Ancient Buddhist temple located in Gaya, India built on the location where the Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

Mahayana Buddhism
A sect of Buddhism focused on the reverence of bodhisattvas.

mandala
Political system found in historic Southeast Asia in which tributary states surrounded a central power without being directly administered by them.

Mangrai
Final ruler of the Ngoenyang Kingdom (Chiang Saen) and founder of the Lanna Kingdom from 1291-1311 who established Wiang Kum Kam in 1286 and its successor Chiang Mai in 1293.

Mekong Delta
Low-lying river delta making up much of southern Vietnam where the Mekong River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Mekong River
The world’s 12th longest river, which flows from the Himalayas through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vetnam, into the Pacific Ocean.

Michigan
U.S. State bordering Canada and 4 of the 5 Great Lakes.

Mindanao
The southern island group of the Philippines

Ming Dynasty
The ruling dynasty of China from 1368-1644 CE. Ming doctrine was characterized by isolationist policies and focus on internal matters and expansion.

Mon
Ethnic group originating in Myanmar who established the first civilizations in modern Thailand. The Mon kingdoms in Thailand are collectively referred to at Dvaravati.

Mongkut (King Rama IV)
King of Thailand (Siam) from 1851-1868.

Mount Kailash
A mountain in southwestern Tibet considered the dwelling place of Shiva and associated with Mt. Meru in Hindu-Buddhist traditions.

Mount Meru
The metaphysical mountain said to represent the structure of the universe in Hindu-Buddhist cosmology.

Muang Sema
Abandoned Dvaravati city in modern Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The Muang Sema ruins contain both Dvaravati Buddhist and Khmer Hindu temples.

Muang Sing
Walled Angkorian city on the western edge of ancient Khmer territory, near the Burmese border of of modern Thailand.

N

naga
Mythological serpents in Hindu-Buddhist tradition said to possess divine powers.

Nakhon Pathom
The first settlement of the Mon-Dvaravati culture which existed from c. 500-1000 CE. Also known as Nakhon Chai Si.

Nakhon Ratchasima
City established in 1656 by the Ayutthaya Empire as a frontier outpost to fortify their control in the area.

Nakhon Si Thammarat
City in southern Thailand and the historic capital of Tambralinga.

Nestorian Christianity
Sect of Christianity believing in a dualistic nature of Jesus Christ and was prevalent in the former Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantine Empire.

Ngoenyang Kingdom
Tai kingdom based in Chiang Saen, which was succeeded by the Lanna Kingdom after the establishment of Chiang Mai

O

Oc Eo
An ancient port city of the Funan culture located in the Mekong Delta, modern-day Vietnam.

Ontario
Most populous Canadian Province bordering the United States and 4 of the 5 Great Lakes.

P

pastoral region
An area under the oversight of a Catholic Archdiocese.

Perfume River
River that flows through the historic Vietnamese capital of Huế.

Phayao
City in northern Thailand and historic center of the Phayao Kingdom before becoming part of the Lanna Kingdom.

Phimai
Walled city of the Khmer Empire dating back to at least the 600s CE. The city stood at the end of the important Angkorian Dhammasala Route.

Phra Kaew Morakot
The legendary “Emerald Buddha” image carved from a single piece of jade which is currently housed in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew.

Phra Pathom Chedi
Buddhist stupa in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand which originated as a Dvaravati temple and claims to be the largest in the world.

Phra Phrom
Thai representation of the Hindu god Brahma.

phra that
Common term in Thai temple names meaning “Buddha relic”, referencing the temple supposedly housing a relic of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Also spelled “phrathat”.

Phra Saenswae
Cast bronze Buddha image from the Lanna Kingdom.

prang
A Khmer Hindu tower representing Mount Meru and taking the form of a lotus bud. Thai architecture later adopted the design into their Buddhist temples.

prasat
Thai and Khmer word meaning “castle”, “tower”, or “temple” most often used in reference to Khmer stone prangs and ruins, and occasionally for Thai brick stupas.

Q

R

Ramkhamhaeng
Legendary king of Sukhothai who is popularly credited with creating the Thai writing system.

Ramkhamhaeng Inscription
Inscription discovered by King Mongkut at Sukhothai which is allegedly the first instance of Thai writing created by Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai.

Rattanakosin Kingdom
Thai kingdom and successor to the Thonburi Kingdom. Based in Bangkok and founded in 1782, the Rattanakosin era lasted until 1932, when political reforms transformed the kingdom into the modern nation of Thailand.

Recollects
French order of Franciscan Christian monks who took a vow of poverty to pursue a life of spiritual reflection.

rectory
The residential building provided by a church for its minister or priest.

Roman Catholic Church
The largest branch of Christianity, established in the 3rd-4th Century CE and based in Vatican City.

S

Saint Lawrence Seaway
Waterway connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Saint Mary’s River
River connecting Lake Superior to Lake Huron and the St Lawrence Seaway.

San Kamphaeng Kilns
Lanna-era pottery kilns located east of the city of Chiang Mai.

San Ku
Ruined Buddhist temple atop Doi Pui dating from the Hariphunchai Period.

Sathmahal Prasada
A 7-leveled pyramidal stupa from Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. Its unique design appears to have influenced the architecture of several ancient Thailand kingdoms.

Sault Ste. Marie
French settlement along the St. Mary’s River which served as an important trading post. Known locally as “The Soo”.

Shancheng (山城)
“Mountain City”, a popular nickname for the Chinese city of Chongqing.

Shwedagon Pagoda
Buddhist stupa in Yangon, Myanmar that claims to be the largest in the world.

Siam
The unified Thai state that began in the Ayutthaya Kingdom and continued through the Rattanakosin Kingdom into modern Thailand.

Sichuan (四川)
Province in southwestern China made up of mountains, river valleys, and sections of the Tibetan Plateau.

Siddhartha Gautama
A legendary prince born in Lumphini, Nepal who would go on to found Buddhism. Known generally as the “Buddha”.

Si Thep
Dvaravati city in Phetchabun Province that was later occupied by the Khmer Empire.

Soo Locks
Artificial locks built in first built in 1855 to facilitate safe passage between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes.

Sri Canasa
A polity referred to in the Bo Ika Inscription discovered at Muang Sema.

Srivijaya
Empire based in Sumatra which controlled or influenced Buch of the Malay archipelago circa 600-1200 CE.

stupa
Buddhist monument used to enshrine sacred relics or memorialize important figures. Its dome, bell, or otherwise tower-like appearance is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the cosmic mountain said to represent the structure of the universe in Hindu-Buddhist cosmology.

Sukhothai
City in central-northern Thailand and abandoned capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom.

Sukhothai Kingdom
Thai kingdom based in central-northern Thailand, after the overthrow of Khmer rules. Its capital was the city of Sukhothai, which was later conquered and absorbed by the Ayutthaya Empire.

Sumanathera
Sri Lankan monk who resided in Sukhothai before being invited to Chiang Mai by King Kuena, He gifted the Lanna King a Buddha relic which is now housed at Wat Suan Dok and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

T

Tai peoples
Ethnic group originating in Southern China that migrated south during the Mongol invasions, eventually founding the kingdoms hat became Thailand and Laos.

Ta Prohm
13th-Century Khmer Buddhist temple built by Jayavarman VII in honor of his mother. Popularized by the film “Tomb Raider”.

Tang Dynasty
The ruling dynasty of China from 618-907 CE, which embraced trade with the outside world and was accepting of foreign ideologies.

Taungoo dynasty
The ruling dynasty of Myanmar from 1510–1752. It waged wars with and conquered several surrounding kingdoms, including Siam, Lanna, and Lan Xang.

Theravada Buddhism
“The “Doctrine of the Elders” branch of Buddhism which draws its teachings from the Pali Canon. This sect is popular in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Thonburi Kingdom
The historic successor of the Ayutthaya Kingdom founded in 1767 in modern Bangkok. It was succeeded by the Rattanakosin Kingdom in 1782.

Three Pagoda Pass
Mountain pass in western Kanchanaburi Province linking Thailand and Myanmar. 

Tilokaraj
Lanna king from 1441-1487. An ardent patron of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism, he renovated many temples and artworks during his reign.

Trimurti
The Hindu trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.

Tự Đức
Emperor of Vietnam from 1847-1883.

tuk-tuk
Motorized rickshaw commonly used as a taxi in Southeast Asian countries.

U

ubosot
The ordination hall of a Buddhist temple.

Upper Peninsula
The northern peninsula of Michigan.

V

Vietnam War
A conflict occurring between South Vietnam and North Vietnam from 1955-1975. The United States entered the war in 1965 as per the Truman Doctrine to contain the spread of communism. The North Vietnamese army declared victory after the withdrawal of the United States in 1975.

viharn
The main worship hall in a Buddhist temple.

W

Wasuthep
Fabled Lawa hermit monk who is said to have founded Wiang Misankorn and Hariphunchai, and invited Camadevi to rule Hariphunchai.

wat
Thai word meaning “temple”

Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaram
Temple in Bangkok famously known as the Marble Temple.

Wat Chammathewi
Iconic square-based stupa from the Hariphunchai Kingdom (modern Lamphun) which influenced many other similar stupas in Thailand. Also known as Wat Ku Kut.

Wat Jed Yod
A sprawling temple complex in Chiang Mai built in 1455 CE by Lanna King Tilokarat to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Buddhism.

Wat Pa Daeng
Temple in the west of Chiang Mai established by monks of the New Lankawong school of Buddhism.

Wat Phra Kaew
Common name of Wat Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, known in English as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and part of the Grand Palace complex.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Sacred mountaintop temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand which is said to house a Buddha relic brought by the Sri Lanka Monk Sumanathera.

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai Worawiharn
The central temple of Lamphun founded by the Hariphunchai king Athitayarat in the 1150s CE to enshrine relics supposedly originatting from Siddhartha’s ancient visit to northern Thailand.

Wat Suan Dok
“Flower Garden Temple”, a historic temple west of Chiang Mai built to by King Kue Na to house the Buddhist Relic from the Sri Lankan monk Sumanathera.

Wat Umong
Iconic “tunnel temple” located in the forests west of Chiang Mai. Built in the 14th Century.

Wat Yang Kuang
Temple in Chiang Mai where 500-year-old ruins were discovered under the existing buildings.

wiang
Lanna Thai word for “walled city”

Wiang Chet Lin
Fortification built by Lanna King Sam Fangkaen over the ruins of Wiang Misankorn.

Wiang Misankorn
Lawa city at the base of Doi Suthep founded before the Hariphunchai Period. Later renovated into Wiang Chet Lin during the Lanna Period.

Wiang Kum Kam
The first city established by the Lanna Kingdom in the Chiang Mai valley. Abandoned after successive years of flooding to establish Chiang Mai.

Wiang Nopburi
Abandoned Lawa walled city used as a based from which to build Chiang Mai. Located in the northwest corner of Chiang Mai’s Old City in the current location of Wat Chiang Man.

Wiang Suan Dok
Abandoned Lawa walled city used by Lanna royalty as a garden. In 1371, Wat Suan Dok was established in the center of Wiang Suan Dok.

Wiang Tha Kan
A satellite city of Hariphunchai later occupied and expanded by the Lana Kingdom.

Wilangka
Legendary ruler of the Lawa people who waged war on Hariphunchai with 80,000 men after being rejected by Camadevi.

X

xiānghuǒ qián (香火钱)
Literally “incense money” whereby monetary offerings are made at temples and other sacred sites in order to gain supernatural blessings from ancestors or the Buddha. 

Y

yaksha
Spirits in Hindu-Buddhist tradition which are often employed as guardians and seen as statues protecting important religious buildings.

Yibin (宜宾)
A large district located in southern Sichuan province.

Yooper
Endonym for people inhabiting the Upper Peninsula (U.P) of Michigan.

Yuan dynasty
The ruling dynasty of China from 1271-1368 CE. Yuan was founded after the Mongol conquest of China and continued expansion of their territory.

Yunnan (云南)
Province in southwestern China consisting of many ethnic minorities, with landscapes ranging from jungles to snow-capped mountains.

Yuzhong (渝中)
The central and most historic district of Chongqing

Z