The Royal Collection of Lanna Art on display at Rai Mae Fah Luang or the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park, has been collected over the years by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under the patronage of HRH the Princess Mother. It represents the finest collection of religious and secular art and artefacts found in Thailand.
The collection consists of items dating from the Lanna period, beginning approximately 1600 A.D. "Lanna" refers to the Kingdom of the northern Thai peoples which was incorporated into the Kingdom of Siam by treaty approximately 100 years ago. Its culturally unique expression is marked by a distinct spoken and written language (related to but different from modern Thai) and a distinguished history of codified law. Its religious monuments reveal religious piety in the face of warfare and conquest by its neighbours
It is believed that religious implements, once consecrated, remain sacred in perpetuity. So, in deference to local beliefs, a selection of items from the collection are enshrined in the Haw Kaam (Golden Pavilion), the plans for which were based upon Lanna religious architecture.
The Haw Kaam is not a museum. The pavilion encapsulates the very essence of Lanna ritual. The art is displayed within its context, provisions having been made for those who wish to offer their respect.
Items housed in the Haw Kham include Buddha images or Pra Buddha Rup, palanquins to enshrine the images called Prasaat, Satthaphan candelabra, Tung Gradan (wooden standards), Khan Dawk containers in which floral offerings are made, as well as smaller religious items, textiles and architectural pieces.
Most larger items are of carved and embellished wood. In addition, the Wiang Tha murals are stored on the grounds of the Rai Mae Fah Luang. These were painted directly on the teakwood walls of a small temple in Prae province. The Wiang Tha murals were saved from dismemberment and sale in the antique trade and sent to the Rai Mae Fah Luang for safekeeping by the villagers themselves.
The Lanna kingdom was a rich historical period which has been little studied but much appreciated by connoisseurs of Southeast Asian art. In fact, the Royal Collection of Lanna Art was begun by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation in order to help save Lanna art from dissemination worldwide and make it possible for northern Thai people to be educated about their own cultural heritage.
The Rai Mae Fah Luang is also a botanical garden and home to children sponsored by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation's scholarship programme. Each year, children from disadvantaged homes are given encouragement through the scholarship programme to continue their studies to whatever level they choose to seek themselves. Their excellent academic record has taken them paths never before open to children of the hills. They all reside at the Rai Mae Fah Luang and the gardens are also a tribute to their dedication to the spirit embodied in the Mae Fah Luang Foundation charter.
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