A number of exquisite and rarely seen traditional Thai crafts have been displayed at a permanent exhibition “Arts of the Kingdom,” in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok, where visitors may appreciate Thailand’s national heritage.
All the masterpieces have been created by craftsmen from the SUPPORT Training Center, located in the compound of Chitralada Villa, the royal residence of Their Majesties the King and Queen in Bangkok. The center is operated by the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, known in short as SUPPORT.
The SUPPORT Foundation was established by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in 1976 to promote local arts and crafts and provide supplementary income for farm families. This organization came into being following her frequent visits to rural areas of the country to obtain first-hand information about local people. Her Majesty noticed farmers’ difficult living conditions and found that their fine craftsmanship in arts and crafts should be preserved for future generations. She wanted to see farmers engaged in supplementary occupations to earn more income and spend time fruitfully. Her awareness of the importance of preserving Thai arts and crafts resulted in the establishment of the SUPPORT Foundation under her patronage.
Before the Arts of the Kingdom became a permanent exhibition in 2008, it had been arranged as a special and grand exhibition on significant occasions, such as the celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s fifth cycle, or 60th, birthday anniversary in 1992 and the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne in 2006.
Each art object on display reflects excellent craftsmanship, and some pieces took one or two years to complete. For instance, a miniature royal barge is modeled after Suphannhong, which is known as a masterpiece of Thai cultural heritage, and it has also become an outstanding symbol of Thailand. Suphannahong, or the Golden Swan, is a major barge used in a royal barge procession, held only on special occasions.
Butsabok is a small throne pavilion with a square tent-like structure that tapers from the base up to an ornately decorated tiered roof topped by a spire. It is an artistic creation combining several crafts, such as woodcarving, coloring, and gold and silver making.
Phuttan Khram Thong Throne, a royal seat, is modeled after the original one, made of wood, which is now on display at the Bangkok National Museum. It is made of iron covered with gold niello and decorated with diamonds and gems and green beetle wings.
Phra Wo Siwikakan, or the Royal Palanquin with Two Poles, is used in a royal cremation ceremony for a king, a queen, or a high-ranking royal who contributed significantly to the nation. It is an open seat with four poles, with curtains on all poles.
The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, which is the location of the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition, was constructed in Western style more than 100 years ago. The Western style of architecture is blended with intricate Thai furnishings and topped with domes. The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall is the venue for the inauguration of the National Assembly. On the auspicious occasion of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne, this throne hall was used to receive foreign monarchs and royalty attending the ceremony of the presentation of congratulations to His Majesty the King.
Operating hours are from 10.00 to 18.00 hr, except Monday. Admission costs 150 baht for the general public and 75 baht for students with student ID cards. Visitors should remember to dress appropriately.