วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 8 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553

one of the first thai women to study nursing in the early years of the 20th century, her intelligence and hard work earned her a scholarship to continue her studies in public health in Boston, United States. As fate would have it, His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkhla was studying medicine at the time at Harvard University. When the young prince met the beautiful 18-year-old nursing student, it was by all accounts love at first sight and, after a brief courtship, they were married. Sadly, however, after only a few years of happiness, she experienced the double tragedy of first losing her husband to illness and later her first born son shortly after he was proclaimed King of Thailand. Fondly known by Thais as the Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother, she showed immense fortitude in living a long and fruitful life, much of it devoted to helping the poorest subjects of the Kingdom.On her visits to northern Thailand in the 1960s, she was particularly touched by the plight of hill tribes in the remotest border areas of the country. At that time, many of these people were poorly integrated into Thai society. Although compulsory schooling was the norm in the rest of Thailand, large numbers of hill tribe children received no formal education at all, mainlydue to the isolated location of their villages. Under the Royal Patronage of HRI I the Princess Mother, the Royal Border Patrol Police set up hundreds of schools for hill tribe children :and villagers In the far flung corners of the Kingdom. She also used her own private funds to support the establishment of the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation that promoted arid preserved traditional tribal handicrafts such as fabric and basket weaving to help hill tribe people supplement their meager incomes from farming.At the time. there were very few roads to the remote villages she visited HRH and the Princess Mother was obliged to get around by air force helicopter. To the people of the hill tribes she became known as "The Royal Mother who descends fromthe sky'', or Mae Fah Luang in Thai, which later became the name of the foundation set up to continue her selfless work. The legacy of her charitable work has had profound effect on the lives of the rural people of northern Thailand and many of the projects she started continue to operate for the well being of communities in the remotest areas of the country.One of her more accessible projects is located just outside of Chiang Rai, known as the Rai Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park. Originally set up in 1973 as an education and development centre for young people from impoverished tribal communities, it has helped hundreds of students gain a formal education and integrate as equals into Thai society. The success of the project and improvements in infrastructure over the years means that most hill tribe children now have schools near to their villages. In 2003, the beautiful 26-hectare grounds were transformed into a centre for the study and conservation of Thailand's Lanna heritage, another area of keen interest to HRH the Princess Mother.Dating from around AD 1296, the Lanna Kingdom encompassed much of northern Thailand, its influence reaching into the Shan states of Burma, Yunnan in China and deep into neighbouring Laos. The Lanna states were only incorporated into Thailand a century ago and remained culturally distinct from the rest of the Kingdom until relatively recently. Although it has been little studied, Lanna culture is much appreciated by connoisseurs of Southeast Asian art especially for its superb religious architecture and artefacts.When word of the efforts being undertaken by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation to develop a Lanna heritage collection became known, it attracted interest and support from local residents who donated a steady stream of Lanna items in their possession. These were added to the items presented to HRH the Princess Mother as gifts and has pre-empted many priceless pieces of Lanna art from being lost forever. Today, the Rai Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Centre holds the finest and most extensive collection of religious and secular art and artefacts to be found anywhere in Thailand and provides an opportunity for northern Thai people to learn about their cultural roots and heritage.Nakorn Pongnoi has been Director of the Rai Mae Fah Luang for nearly 30 years and has been the driving force behind carrying out the vision of HRH the Princess Mother,
first implementing the educational program for hill tribe children and since 2003 developing the Art and Cultural Centre into what it is today. Jokingly he says that he should also be called the chief gardener as he has devoted so much effort into creating the magnificent gardens Mat embellish the centre. Hundreds of trees, shrubs, orchids and flowers lovingly collected and planted over the years have transformed the centre into an oasis of peace and tranquility for Chiang Rai residents and visitors alike.
In Thai, rat means orchard, as the land on which-the centre Stands was originally just that. Under Nakomn's guidance they have become much more, a conscious reflection of the natural landscape in which the Leona culture was nurtured. Indeed, many of the artistic motifs used in Lanna designs and decorations were drawn from nature and the gardens are often visited by local artists as a continuing source of inspiration "Chiang Rai needed a park, a place for the city
dwellers to relax," says Nakorn. More than that, he believes Chiang Rai also needed a place of tranquility where the People cold contemplate their roots and Northern Thai Culture As a result of his efforts, visitors will find the paths and walkways that meander around the landscaped gardens dolled with lotus ponds and rest pavilions an invitation to relaxation -and contemplation.
Set in the grounds are fine examples of Lanna architecture that house both the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. Chief among the buildings is the magnificent Haw Khan (Golden Pavilion) that was constructed in the -traditional Lanna style as a gift from the people of Thailand on the occasion of the 90th birthday of HRH the Princess Mother. The Haw Kham houses the religious art and artefacts that have been collected over the years by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. In Thailand it is believed that religious implements, once con ecrated, remain sacred in perpetuity and the objects in the interior of the Golden Pavilion.
Haw Kham are displayed in an appropriate context that allows devotees to offer their respects following the Lanna Buddhist ritual. Of these, a 300-year-old Lanna-style teakwood statue of the Lord Buddha enshrined in the pavilion is of special interest. Each evening, the ritual candelabra placed around the Buddha image are lit to pay respect to the Buddha image in a reverential and spiritual ceremony. In a similar but smaller pavilion, the Haw Kham Noi, are the unique Mang Ta murals that were originally painted directly onto the teakwood walls of a small temple in Phrae province. Dating from the 19th century, the murals depict scenes from daily life and are considered as an invaluable record of northern Thai culture from that time. In addition to these major pieces, in a separate building known the Haw Kaew, the Gallery of Lanna Cultural Arts displays secular objects from the Lanna period, ranging from boats to musical instruments to domestic and agricultural implements. These everyday objects are made with such care and elegance they can be considered artworks in themselves. Among the rare objects is a life-sized teak tiger used in a Laotian royal palace for kneading sticky rice.Today, the Rai Mae Fah Luang is not only a living museum but a vibrant venue for a variety of cultural events, including art exhibitions as well as music and dance performances that take place. in the Sala Kaew, a Lanna-style open-sided pavilion, and the surrounding gardens. A visit to the Art and Cultural Park is a must for anyone passing through Chiang Mai and is the perfect point of departure for exploring the dramatic mountainous landscape of northern Thailand that HRH the Princess Mother held so dear to her heart.