When East Meets West

The Special Exhibition “When East Meets West: A Variety of Royal Treasures at the Wang Na”

            The Special Exhibition “When East Meets West: A Variety of Royal Treasures at the Wang Na” exhibited in Issaret Rachanuson Residence between 2nd July -31st August, 2014. This exhibition has the purposes to present King Pinklao’s Biography is a position of the second King of the Kingdom of Siam that the time when Siam was entering a period of great change at the moment the country is facing the entry of international Western Hemisphere, trade to the missionary and political causes that had been effects and the changes, which led to the development of Thai modern later period.

           Another important purpose of this special exhibition, In addition to knowledge, understanding the prestige and honor in King Pinklao to Thai people and Thailand as to give visitors and Thai people are all involved to due the record about King Pinklao in order to convey the information and distribute the awards to be widespread and more widely. King Pinklao had studied about the possibilities of the Western world until expertise until can be used and modified for the benefit of the nation. Building, materials and documents that due to him successor to the present was evidence as overwhelming and put some on display in this exhibition

            The exhibition of “When East Meets West: A Variety of Royal Treasures at the Wang Na” is held at the Issaravinitchai Pavilion inside the compound of the Bangkok National Museum. It consists of three main topics:

             Topic 1: The King of Wang Na
             Topic 2: The Embodiment of Eastern Philosophy
             Topic 3: The Opening of Siam to the Wesern World

Topic 1: “The King of the Wang Na”
           The exhibition is focused on the biography of King Pinklao, starting from his childhood when he was in the position of Prince Chuthamanee or Somdej Phra Chao Look Yather Chao Fah Chuthamanee, son of King Rama II of Rattanakosin. He was a brother of the future King Rama IV. In the reign of King Rama III, at age 12, he was promoted to the rank of “Somdet Phrchao Nong Yather Chao Fah Krom Khun Issaret Rangsan”
          After joining the military, he took part in both army and navy activities. He because one of the key figures in military affairs from the period of King Rama III to the reign of King Rama IV.  During the reign of King Rama III, he was in charge of artillery and army sniper divisions and was also commander in chief of the Volunteer military, which consisted of Vietnamese, Indian and Cham troops. Being fluent in English, he was able to learn about industrial systems from the West, thus was active in building many ships and fortresses. Furthermore, he commanded many battles as a leader in the Royal Navy.
          In the reign of King Rama IV, he was appointed to the position of Wang Na but his rank became higher than any previous Viceroy, because his position was elevated to be at the same level as the King of Siam, and he was highly honored as indicated world view, he was known as the Second King of Siam, and he was highly honored as indicated by the multitude and variety of souvenirs and gifts bestowed upon him from various foreign countries. These were presented to him on a status equal to that of the king of Siam.
        Other benefits bestowed upon the Second King tock the form of the many pavilions that were added to Wang Na Palace, such as the Khotchakarn Prawet, Mangkhala Phisake, Ekalongkot, the High Pavilion, Phudtan Pavilion and the Throne, etc. Today, some of these have already been demolished.
        The Phra Thinang Khotchakarn Prawet or the Elephant Mounting Pavilion (in front of Buddhaisawan Chapel) was the first pavilion built in a tier-roof structural from that was constructed in the Wang Na palace as the attribute to the Second King.
        The Seven Tiers Throne or “Phra Thaen Raja Banlang Bowara Sawetashat,” to be seated when meeting the grand audience and when presided over royal and Buddhist ceremonies. The illustrated picture was when the throne was used as the pedestal for King Pinklao’s Urn duing the funral ceremony at the Issara Vinitchai Pavilion in 1865.

Topic 2: The Embodiment of Eastern Philosophy
         The exhibition aims to relate how Eastern philosophies shaped King Pinklao’s life, they can be seen in his education, his duty as preserver of customs and religion according to royal heritage, and his service to his country. He trained on elephants and horse, and because capable in weapons, wresting, as well as in art, literature and music. He promoted and nourished arts that continued various royal customs and traditions.
         He became accomplished in the higher level of palace arts and sciences that require meticulous accuracy and elaboration of details as traditionally practiced in the court.
        When he lived in the Wang Na, he nourished the arts by encouraging the promotion of royal ceremonies and religious practices. During his life, he also restored and renovated many temples. He arranged for the transfer of many Buddha images to be enshrined in temples as the main image; examples include Phra Buddha Sihing from Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram was enshrined in the Buddha Sawan Chapel. Phra Luang Pho Suk was enshrined as the main Buddha image of Wat Ratchaphatikaram ubosot. Phra Saen Muang Chiang Tang was enshrined at Wat Hong Ratnaram, and finally, Phra Serm from the city of Nong Khai was enshrined as the important Buddha image in the Phra Raichawang Boworn Satharn Mongkol, (of the Wang Na). This Phra Serm image is at present enshrined in the vihara of Wat Pathum Wanaram.
         His outstanding ability and intellect is eqully displayed in the fields of literature and music. They are expressed in his written verse, and in his playing of many musical instruments, his favorites were in playing the flute (Kaen) and in singing  and playing serenades in a Northeastern style music “Aew”
        Furthermore, he was open to other Eastern philosophies as demonstrated by his acceptance of Chinese traditions. His even had a Chinese Name “Joeng Sae Joeng” Chinese influences were on display in the court of the Wang Na, many of his pavilions were built in Chinese style, he collected Chines blue and white ceramics and patron of the Chinese opera troupes who entertained in the Wang Na.
        Some of his belongings were of Chinese origin, for example, the royal bed of Chinese style was made of stone and decorated with mother of pearl inlay, as was his thone equally adorned with Chinese motifs. The collection contains as plaque written in Chinese calligraphy whose words pay respect to King Pinklao. Chinese lanterns, Chinese furniture, and painted blue and white ceramics in the collection are futher evidence that these elements of Chinese origins once adorned the Wang Na.

Topic 3: The Opening of Siam to the Western World
           This section of the exhibition presents King Pinklao’s acumen and admiration of Western contributions. He was fluent in English and capable of learning much about Western sciences. He applied it to his many duties, especially his military tasks, he wrote a textbook on The use of Artillery and supervised the building of steamships. He developed a good understanding of modern Western concepts, and astutely applied inventions of the West to Siamese requirements. In constructing some pavilions he used Western architectural designs, and furrished them with Western furniture and accessories. He added severai Western motifs to some of his pavilions; one example is the Issarat Rajanusorn Pavilion, formerly known as the Wang Na Chan pavilion, located on the Wang Na palace grounds.
          He designed a name card for himself, a Western custom not used in Siam at that time. He grew a Western-styled mustache. He even named his son, “Gorge Washington” in the spirit of being modern and in knowing of Western history, etc.
         Siam was entering a period of big changes that began during the later years of Rama III. During that time, many powerful Western nations approaches Siam to establish a relationship with them. King Pinkhlao was well known to foreigner as the brother of King Rama III, of high status, and the one who was in charge of and had control over Siamese military forces. He was also appreciated for his great fluency in the English language, and was conversant with Western customs. Under the rign of King Rama IV, he became elevanted in rank and known to the West as the Second King of Siam. He played an important role in maintaining the independence of Siam from attempts of colonization by Western powers.