A Hidden Gem: The Bangkokian Museum

The Bangkokian Museum is also known as the Bangkok Folk Museum. In Thai, it is called Phiphithaphan Chao Bang Kok (พิพิธภัณฑ์ชาวบางกอก). This museum is located in the Bangrak district only several hundered meters from the Chao Phraya River and hence not far from the well-known Oriental Hotel. It is placed at Soi Charoen Krung and Maha Set Road.

Entrance to the Bangkokian Museum (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)*

Entrance to the Bangkokian Museum (photo: Amporn Konglapumnuay)*

The Bangkok Folk Museum has two wooden houses which date back to the time of World War II. These teak houses are behind a wooden gate, in the back of a garden. Thus, the museum captures the spirit and lifestyle of middle-class people in Bangkok during WWII and the after war period.

A Hidden Gem: The Bangkok Folk Museum*

A Hidden Gem: The Bangkok Folk Museum*

This museum was once the home of the Suravadee family*

This museum was once the home of the Suravadee family*

The houses, built in 1937, were the home of the Suravadee family. They became a museum to preserve Thai lifestyle of early Bangkok and have been managed by the Bangkok  Metropolitan Authority since 2004. Today, Ms Waraporn Suravadee is the caretaker of the museum which was once her residence.

The living room*

The living room*

Ms Waraporn Suravadee*

Ms Waraporn Suravadee*

In the first building, there is an ancestors’ quarters upstairs. There are many valuable objects but also everyday items of the Suravadee family who used to live there. Some treasures include precious Benjarong jars. These jars are made from Thai porcelain, painted in five basic colours black, green, yellow, red and white. The technique dates back to the time of King Rama V (1858-1910). What is more, the museum also habours other amazing porcelain art which stem from the early Rattanakosin period.

A display of porcelain from the Rattanakosin era*

A display of porcelain from the Rattanakosin era*

Some more porcelain in a cabinet*

Some more porcelain in a cabinet*

In the ground floor are the dining rooms, library and offices. Upstairs are the neat bedrooms with cabinets and closets. There are also valuable objects like antique jewelry for instance.

The Library at the Bangkok Folk Museum*

The Library at the Bangkok Folk Museum*

A neat bedroom*

A neat bedroom*

At the rear, behind the main building, is the second house of the museum. This place was supposed to be the clinic of Dr. Francis Christian who was the stepfather of Ms Waraporn. However, he passed away before he could move in. For instance, there you find his amazing cigar collection displayed and an old kitchen with typical utensils dating back to the war period.

Dr. Francis Christian was the stepfather of Ms Waraporn Suravadee. This bust was created by Prof Silpa Bhirasr. *

Dr. Francis Christian was the stepfather of Ms Waraporn Suravadee. This bust was created by Prof Silpa Bhirasri*

Kitchen utensils from the war era*

Kitchen utensils from the war era*

In addition, you can also admire some stunning antique jewelry. Do you like the amazing purple spider brooch? I do 😉

Antique jewelry*

Antique jewelry*

A beautiful dresser from the war era*

A beautiful antique teak dresser*

In a nutshell, we may say that the Bangkokian Museum is one of the important heritage buildings in Bangkok like the Jim Thompson House, Suan Pakkad Palace and Vimanmek Palace. If you are in Bangkok, this place is worth a visit for sure 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(All pictures in this post, credit to Amporn Konglapumnuay)




Woodcarving – A Famous Thai Art Form

Woodcarving can be regarded as a characteristic decorative Thai art form. It reflects the fertility and vitality of nature in technique and subject matter. Wood has been primarily used for furniture and religious objects, and thus not so much for creating Buddha statues. Hence, woodcarvers have sought their inspiration primarily in nature and mythology since they have been free of restrictive iconography.

Thai Woodcarving

Carved facade at Thawan Duchanee's Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

Carved wooden facade at Thawan Duchanee’s Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

Woodcarvers have employed a composite technique that allowed them to carve single parts of a work separately and later assemble them. Thus, the art work appears spontaneous and effortless, hence paralleling the creativity of nature.

In tropical countries like Thailand, wood is an abundant material that is also considered to have a kind of spiritual quality. Therefore, trees are considered to house spirits. Among these spirits, the most well-known to Thai people are Phra Sai (the spirit of the banyan tree) and Phrase Pho (the spirit of the pipal tree). These are frequently mentioned in Thai literature and are included in the group of heavenly spirits. The other two famous spirits are Nang Tani (the woman spirit of the banana tree) and Nan Takian who is the female spirit of the hopea tree. Nevertheless, teak wood is preferred to other wooden material because it is easy to carve and relatively resistant to the elements and insects.

Large Carving on Wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bikkhu)

Thai woodcarving from the most recent past: large carving on wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

The earliest Thai woodcarving pieces date from the 16th century. The high-point of this Thai art form is found in images of lesser religious figures which date from the late Ayutthaya period, i.e. the 17th to early 18th century. For instance, the collection of the National Museum in Bangkok includes such fine pieces like the mythical dancer and celestial swan Kinnari (in Thai: กินรี).

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

The Kinnari is a mythological figure, an inhabitant of the Himaphan (Himalaya) forest, that is half-human and half-swan. It is a symbol of feminine beauty, grace and cultural accomplishment. The Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok is 110cm high and dates from the 17th to early 18th century. Its tail is in a stylized design which is called ‘kranok’. It is often found in Thai art.

Peaceful head wood carving by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

‘Peaceful head’ by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

In fact, there had been a rich developing tradition of woodcarving in Thailand over prior centuries. However, earlier works, before the 17th century, did not survive. Nonetheless, this amazing workmanship continued into the early Bangkok period. Nevertheless, in the most recent past, Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee also created stunning wall and façade carvings at Baan Dam, the Black House Museum in Chiang Rai.

Even today, woodcarving is a prominent art in Thailand. Thus, the finest wood sculptures have been closely associated with architecture, animals being a favourite subject. You can buy objects carved from wood at special markets like the cultural and craftsman’s market in Chiang Mai. The following video shows you which kind of objects are created and available at these markets. In addition, it also relates something about the history of this art form (in Thai).

By the way, there is also a new privately-owned museum named Woodland in Nakhom Pathom Province. The presentation is about a fantasy land and Grandfather Teak who relates the story of the woodmen in thousands of elaborate woodcarvings. These sculptures are from a collection owned by Narong Thewphaingarm and his father. There are three areas in the exhibition: firstly, the Story of Woodland, with over 5,000 wooden objects, secondly, Woodland Village where you find restaurants and souvenir shops, and thirdly, the Resort, which is the former residence of the owner’s family.

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Finally, we may say that Thai woodcarving has a great tradition in Thailand. It is a very elaborate, amazing and stunning craft that requires a lot of skill by the craftsman.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Treasures from The National Museum Bangkok, Selected by The National Museum Volunteers Group, 4th reprint 2006)