Bangkok Post reviews
Rich heritage of the 'Rose of the North'
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: May 23, 2013 at 8:13 am
The new Lanna Folklife Museum showcases Chiang Mai's glorious past
The front gate of the Lanna Folklife Museum.
The white colonial style two-storey building still displays the sign that says "Municipal Court of Chiang Mai", but the interior has been totally renovated to showcase the beauty of centuries-old northern heritage.
Opened last December, the Lanna Folklife Museum is located on a verdant plot of land which once belonged to Chao Inthawarorot Suriyawongse, the 8th ruler of Chiang Mai.
The museum is the brainchild of Chiang Mai Municipality Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn whose aims are to revive Lanna culture, educate the young generation about the North's distinctive culture and history, as well as make the museum a new tourism attraction in the old town.
"Tourism is the main industry of Chiang Mai. We have our own culture and heritage which need to be preserved and passed on to next generation," said the mayor.
Chiang Mai was built as the capital of the Lanna kingdom in 1296 and was the centre of power in the North for more than two centuries.
"Students throughout the country study the same historical textbooks. But there is local wisdom inherited from the Lanna kingdom which we do not want to disappear. We want the new generation to absorb the knowledge while visiting the museum so that they can learn and understand our northern culture and history by heart," Tussanai said.
In the old town of Chiang Mai, there are at least two other venues that showcase Lanna culture. One is the long-established Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre, the other is the Chiang Mai Historical Centre, which opened last December at the same time as the launch of the Lanna Folklife Museum.
"The three facilities are located not far from one another and together they provide valuable background knowledge about our city," the mayor said.
The municipality invested about 70 million baht in the Lanna Folklife Museum and another 50 million baht for the Chiang Mai Historical Centre.
"We worked with experts as well as private collectors to make sure what we present benefits your visit," he said.
The Lanna Folklife Museum features 18 exhibition rooms related to religion, culture, ways of life and costumes. The exhibits are presented in a modern format which lets you touch certain displayed items such as local ingredients or some life-size models. You are also allowed to take photos inside.
"The first couple of rooms are devoted to the architecture of Lanna-style temples and ceremonies and show the activities of people in a temple. In the past, people's lives were centred around the wat from birth to death," said a museum guide.
You can see samples of northern-style Songkran festival, tung, or northern-style flags which are used for decoration and various bronze Buddha images. Also displayed are reproductions of murals of well-known temples in Chiang Mai such as Wat Phra Sing which has unique paintings telling the story of Sangthong, a Thai folk tale written by King Rama II. There are also rooms that display pieces from private collectors, such as old phasin (sarong) that belonged to Chiang Mai-born Chao Dara Rasmi who was Princess Consort of King Rama V, various sets of betel containers and utensils of commoners and rulers, fine silver ornaments and exquisite embroidered works.
Another highlight is the private collection of Buddha images. It shows various designs and sizes of Chiang Saen and Lanna Buddha images which boast some very impressive craftsmanship.
Each display in the museum has brief information in both Thai and English. The museum also employs Chinese-speaking student volunteers to act as guides for Chinese tourists.
The Lanna Folklife Museum is a good start for those heading for Chiang Mai. After walking through the exhibition rooms in this compact museum, you are bound to see the "Rose of the North" in a different light.
- The Lanna Folklife Museum is located on Phrapokklao Road opposite the Three Kings monument in the heart of the old town. It is open from Tues-Sun, from 8.30am - 5pm and closed on Monday.