By Maung Maung Naing (Kengtung)
Historical places of Kengtung
Ethnic Shan tribes settled and lived together in Shan State (East) Kengtung region. From Kengtun Haw (Palace) 44 reigns of Saophas (Sawbwa in Myanmar) ruled the region from AD 1243 to 1962. Kengtung is located at an elevation of 2,700 ft. and is a gateway to border regions of China, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
In Kengtung the three hills of Swam Tong, Swam Mon and Swam Sat are situated at an imaginary vertexes of a triangle and the wards of the town are on or at the foot of the hills. Between the two hills of Swam Tong and Swam Sat is Naung Tung Lake about 33 acres wide lying on a north to south axis. Kengtung town was first established on the east of the lake and had many historical places like Swam Tong (also called Swam Kham or Zom Kham) Pagoda, Haw ground on which Kengtung Haw was built, Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, Aung Myay Nat Abode, old market, tomb of Saopha and Pa Leng Gate.
Swam Tong Pagoda, Kanyin Phyu tree and Standing Buddha
On top of Swam Tong hill on the east of Naung Tung Lake is Swam Tong Pagoda built hundreds of years ago. Due to repeated renovations it is now 226 ft. tall. The uniqueness of this pagoda is not having pagoda umbrella like other pagodas in the country. On top of Swam Mon hill is a several hundred years old Kanyin Phyu tree. The tree rises up to a height of 218 ft. and had a girth of 39 ft. 10 inch at the bottom of the tree. Even though the name of the hill was Swam Mon, it was also called One Tree Hill (Thit Ta Bin Taung) due to this lone tree rising high above it.
Southwest of the lake is Swam Sat hill and according to early Shan history there was once a pagoda on top of it. Digging on top of the hill in 1995 unearthed old Buddha images and based on research conducted, the ground was considered as a religious ground. In 1998 a Standing Buddha image 74 ft. 6 inch high was built on the hill. This huge Standing Buddha image is visible from all parts of Kengtung town.
History of Naung Tung Lake
According to a book written in 1930 that was a copy made from early Gon Shan writings, Kengtung was once a flooded area. Four hermits who came down from the north drained the water from the flooded area and after 7 years and 7 months, only a small lake remains. As the water recedes Hermit Tonga built a pagoda on top of Swam Tong hill. The small lake and the town took up the name of the Hermit Tonga and became Naung Tung Lake and Kengtung town.
Saopha administration and tradition
Earlier, Kengtung region was a vast canyon, gorge or ravine submerged in water surrounded by three hills. The town was established after the hermit built the pagoda. When the hermits drained the water, the submerged land became a fertile land where people came to settle. Later it became a town administered by Saophas. As the region had good climate and fertile land the town was barricaded in a 4 miles 1 furlong long wall with 12 gates and a moat to protect it from invaders. It becomes a tradition for a new Saopha to hold a coronation ceremony in the town. The town was owned by the hermit but it becomes a tradition to transfer administrative matters of the town from the hermit/monk to the Saophas and successive Saophas continued this tradition.
Today’s Naung Tung Lake
Naung Tung Lake had become a well known place in Kengtung. As it existed since the town was founded it became a landmark of the town. Not only was it a well known landmark locally but it was also known by neighbouring countries and had become a landmark for international tourists as well.
Nowaday, Naung Tung Lake had water inlet and outlet systems and the bank of the lake had iron fencing. There were two circuit roads around the lake, one for vehicles and one for pedestrians and trees and flowers were planted between the two roads. Benches were also placed for pedestrians to rest. Around the circuit road for vehicles are food stalls selling local delicacies, restaurants, hotels and houses. There’s also a physical exercise area with fitness and exercise equipments installed.
Western part of the lake is considered as a best view point. From there the Standing Buddha image can be seen to the southwest of the lake. Looking toward the south of the lake, the Swam Mon hill can be seen with the tall imposing Kanyin Phyu tree on top. In the evening the water fountain in the middle of the lake was brightly lit up with multi colour lights.
Loved and cherished place
Naung Tung Lake is a place loved and cherished by the locals. It was also a place that remains in the memories of visitors. Locals say visitors who went around the lake once will become so attracted or attached to it that they’ll come back again.
Naung Tung Lake flocks with walkers, joggers, families, children, picnickers and visitors in the morning and afternoon. During sunsets and evenings, Naung Tung Lake became a painting where artistes visualize images from their minds. (Translated by Zaw Min)