Chiang Mai National Museum
- Chiang Mai National Museum is a regional museum of the north, and as such, its exhibits concentrate on the preservation of art and culture of the immediate area, Chiang Mai and Upper North Thailand, the historical Kingdom of Lan Na. Although it is a large museum with a collection of over 1 million exhibits, it is compact, and a visit is recommended as an introduction to the art and cultural history of this part of Thailand. Together with the nearby Tribal Museum, both can be viewed in half a day. Those people especially interested in Lan Na art should also visit the art exhibition in the National Museum Bangkok.
Chiang Mai National Museum
Chiang Mai National Museum is divided into 6 topics or galleries:
- The natural and cultural background of Lan Na
- The history of Lan Na
- The history of Chiang Mai under the Kingdom of Siam
- Trade and economy of the old Lan Na kingdom
- Social development including agriculture, education, international relations
- The styles of Lan Na art and the history of art in Thailand
The first gallery contains a detailed geological and ecological history
of Lan Na Kingdom, including photographs of archaeological sites as
recent as 1956. Tools formed from river pebbles unearthed from these
sites suggest the existence of prehistoric civilization dating back
possibly 500,000 years ago. The exhibits of bronze and iron tools,
pottery and ornaments show the development of these cultures through
the millenniums. The earliest records of the North mention the Lua
people, who still live in the mountains today in very primitive
conditions. Their clothing and jewellery are displayed here as well.
The Buddhist Kingdom of Hariphunchai was the first state in the North
developed in the 7th century. There are examples of its ceramic arts,
which were very much influenced by the Dvaravati art.
- The second gallery details the history of Lan Na and the founding of Chiang Mai in 1296. The kingdom became very wealthy owing to the trade routes that extended to Burma and China.
- This gallery showcases an extensive collection of artefacts from this era when Buddhism flourished and there are many examples of glass, bronze and gilded images of seated Buddhas, all in the Buddha subduing Mara position. Lan Na ceramics were all of a high quality, especially those produced in the 15th century. In the grounds outside the museum, there are exhibits of kilns used during this period. Most were small, and the ceramics were usually produced for domestic and religious use. Examples on display include a green glazed jar, and earthenware water jug, lamp and lantern. They were often traded in exchange for rice, salt and forest products.
- The third gallery deals with the period from 1782, when Chiang Mai came under the influence of the Kingdom of Siam and the rule of Rama 1, after 200 years of Burmese rule. Rama 1 re-established Chiang Mai city, and assisted the various Kings of Chiang Mai with politics, administration and the renewal of Lan Na. There are several ornamental coats of the last King of Chiang Mai, Chao Kaeo Nawarat. After his death in 1939, Chiang Mai came under the rule of the central government of Thailand.
- The fourth gallery shows the development of trade and economy of the Lan Na Kingdom from 1782 to 1939. Trade was traditionally done by foot, oxcart, pack horses, elephants and boat. In 1921 the railway was opened up to the north, and roads followed. Chiang Mai’s trade, banking and investment businesses developed dramatically, not only with goods coming in from overseas, but also from the influx of traders coming to develop these industries.
- The fifth gallery follows on from the last one in detailing the social development of this region.Traditionally the production of arts and crafts has always formed a large part of the economy of the north, so we see examples of weaving, lacquer ware, a spinning wheel and loom.