MUEANG SAN BURI
The town of Sankha Buri better known as San Buri or Mueang Phraek is situated in Phraek Sri Racha District of Chai Nat Province and situated
along the
Noi River; a waterway known before as Khlong Phraek Sri Racha and likely a stretch of the old river bed of the Chao Phraya River. San
Buri was known as Mueang Phraek during the period of the Kingdom of Sukhothai. Mueang Phraek (Sarga Puri) was one of the frontier posts of
that kingdom and mentioned on the stone inscription of King Ram Khamhaeng (reign c. 1279 - 1298) as one of the southern tributary dominions. The
town was likely already occupied in the Dvaravati Period (6 - 11th century) and followed by Khmer rule (12th century) thereafter, before becoming
a frontier city of Sukhothai, when the political and military power waned after the death of King Jayavarman VII (reign 1181 - 1220?). It was an
important defensive post in both the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms.

Sukhothai went in rapid decline after the death of King Ram Khamhaeng and lost its political influence in the area of the Chao Phraya basin
immediately south of its borders. Mueang Phraek was likely annexed at the beginning of the 14th century by the Principality of Suphan Buri during the
reign of King Lo Thai (1298 - 1346/7) of Sukhothai and became later part of the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351 – 1767). Losing its function as a
frontier post, San Buri lost also much of its artistic and political significance.
We learn from the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya that King Intharacha I (reign 1409 - 1424) of Ayutthaya dispatched his second oldest son, Chao
Yi Phraya, to Mueang Phraek after disturbances in his vassal state Sukhothai in 1419. [1]

The King returned to the Capital and then appointed Prince Ai Phraya to live off Suphanburi, Prince Yi Phraya to live off Phræk Siracha,
[F: that is to say, San,] and Prince Sam Phraya to live off Chainat.
(Detail of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya)

San Buri must have been quite a large frontier post, as we still can see from the remaining ruined sites of Wat Maha That, Wat Phraya Phraek, Wat
Song Phi Nong, Wat Tanot Lai and Wat Phra Kaeo.

Most of the temples are believed to date back to the middle of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century when San Buri stood under the
Principality of Suphan Buri and later became part of the Ayutthaya Kingdom after King Intharacha I attacked and captured Ayutthaya. San Buri
features a blend of stupas featuring the Sukhothai, U-Thong and Ayutthaya style.

San Buri lost its importance due to the gradual silting over time of the western arm of the Chao Phraya River (present Noi River), which created,
especially in the dry season, problems for navigation, having an impact on trade and communication. The main Chao Phraya river shifted to its eastern
arm at
Ban Chai Nat, and people moved away. Administrative reform took place in the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and Mueang Chai
Nat was established on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, opposite the old town. The establishment of the new town was the death blown for
San Buri.

Chai Nat on Valentyn’s map (1726)

San Buri or Mueang Phreak is mentioned on Valentyn’s map "Groote Siamse Rievier Me-Nam Of Te Moeder Der Wateren In haren loop met de
vallende Spruyten Verbeeld"
published in his work "Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën" Volume 3, Part 2, Book 6, Chapter 1. The location is indicated
as "
Wat Pret" and features a pen drawing of the area.

The drawing shows a prang standing on a stepwise three-tiered base and topped with a Nophasun (1). Next to it is a prayer hall, while both hall and
prang seem to be surrounded by a wall. I presume this is either present Wat Maha That or Wat (Phraya) Phraek.

Opposite on the eastern bank, there seems to be a village (a group of houses) and another temple with a chedi of a form identical to Wat Tanot Lai.
No excavation has been performed on this riverside to my knowledge.
The remaining ruins of Mueang Phraek

Wat Maha That

Wat Maha That, also known as Wat Hua Muang, was built in 1354. The temple houses a ruined chapel with seated Buddha images and a
distinguished Lop Buri styled prang. The prang housing Buddha's relics is made of brick and stands on a square shaped base. It must have been the
most important temple of Mueang Phraek.
Wat Phraya Phraek

Wat Phraya Phreak is located north and adjacent to Wat Phra Maha That. The site features a chedi, remnants of a monastic hall, and some satellite
chedi. The name of the monastery refers to the Phraya (Governor) of Mueang Phraek.
Wat Song Phi Nong

Wat Song Phi Nong is located north from Wat Phra Maha That. The temple site refers to the two elder brothers of Chao Sam Phraya, who fought
each other for the throne in Ayutthaya after their father King Intharacha died. Both, Chao Ai Phraya and Chao Yi Phraya died in combat on elephant
at the Pa Than Bridge near Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya. Chao Sam Phraya became the 7th King of Ayutthaya under the name of Borommaracha II
(r. 1424-1448). Legend has it that King Borommaracha II built one prang and one chedi for his late brothers in this location.

Wat Song Phi Nong was established in the 14th century. The earliest building was located north of the main chedi and had a rectangular floor plan
with a dimension of 7.5 by 16.5 meters. It is estimated that this building was constructed at the same time as the initial main chedi.

The second phase was around the 15th - 16th century with the construction of the current main prang. The brick stupa is 15 m high, a height identical
of the prang in Chang Klat. The prang still has remains of beautiful stucco decoration and interesting Buddha figures in three of the niches. The site
was enlarged with new buildings such as an ordination hall a prayer hall and some satellite chedi.

The third phase occurred during the 17th century in which the gallery surrounding the main prang was expanded and the initial building left vacant.
Wat Tanot Lai

Wat Tanot Lai is a ruin north of Wat Song Phi Nong. The site features the ruin of a 23 m high bell-shaped chedi in Sukhothai style.
Wat Phra Kaeo

Wat Phra Kaeo is situated 2 Km south east of Wat Maha That, facing the Noi River. The temple houses a beautiful square-based stupa. in a
harmonious blend of the Lopburi and Late Dvaravati styles, as well as a relic chamber with a recessed base in the Sukhothai and Sri Vijaya styles.
Steve Van Beek writes that the stupa may have been patterned on Wat Chedi Sung in Sukhothai. [2] In front of the stupa stands a Buddha image hall
known as Wihan Luang Pho Chai, where a delicately carved sandstone lintel was found at the back of the image. This lintel depicts an image of the
God Indra riding the elephant Erawan inside a stylized shelter in a distinctive Khmer style, which dates back to more than 1,000 years ago. It is
believed that at the decline of the Khmer empire, someone must have taken this artifact from somewhere and carved the Buddha image out of it.
Footnotes:

(1) topped with "Nophasun", a pronged metal spire called Trishula and representing the weapon of the God Indra.

References:

[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 15 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat,
Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - King Intharacha, 1409–1424.
[2] Steve Van Beek, Steve (2012) - Arts of Thailand - Tuttle Publishing.
(Detail of Valentyn's map "Groote Siamse Rievier Me-Nam Of Te Moeder
Der Wateren In haren loop met de vallende Spruyten Verbeeld")