6 June 2024

Walking down a dark and quiet alley next to a Buddhist temple or a graveyard at night is probably not a great idea. However, going to the museum at night and searching for beauty in the dark is not only a cool notion but also very rewarding.

And that’s exactly what the Bangkok National Museum is inviting culture vultures, art connoisseurs, and night owls to experience until April 24 with “Night at the Museum.

Formerly the Front Palace, the Bangkok National Museum is one of Thailand’s top museums, home to a collection of sculptures and antiquities.

With thousands upon thousands of artifacts to see at night, the Museum can seem a little overwhelming for visitors, but here are five pieces you won’t want to miss.

ROMAN LANTERN

Asia Arts exhibition room, Mahasurasinghanat Building

This lantern with a lid moulded in the likeness of the face of Silenus, the Roman god, was discovered in Pong Tuek, Kanchanaburi Province. The handle is a palm leaf, with two dolphins colliding. It is thought the lamp was crafted in Alexandria, Egypt when it was under Roman rule around the 6th Buddhist century and was brought to the country by Indian traders. Kanchanaburi, like Suphan Buri province, was part of an ancient trade route where antiquities like Roman coins have been discovered.

A Roman Lantern with a lid moulded in the likeness of the face of Silenus, the Roman god. It was found in Kanchanaburi, Thailand’s west.

Luang Por Khao Sila Khao is recreated from pieces of sculpture found in various locations.

THE BUDDHA PREACHING THE FIRST SERMON

Prabas Phiphitaphan Building

This sitting Buddha image, also known as Luang Por Khao Sila Khao, is in the Preaching the First Sermon posture. The Dvaravati-style Buddha sits with his legs hanging, his monastic robe drawn between his legs, and his raised hand gesturing the turning of the wheel of Buddha law – or dharma. The Buddha image – as amazing as it is beautiful – is recomposed from pieces of sculpture found in various locations. The head and buttocks are from the Wat Phrayakong temple in Ayutthaya province, while the chest, legs, and feet are from the Wat Phra Men in Nakhon Pathom province. A Thai art conservationist recreated the beautiful sculpture by using a wedge to hold five pieces together.

SUKHOTHAI INSCRIPTION NO. 1

Sukhothai Exhibition Room, Prabas Phiphitaphan Building

The Ram Khamhaeng Inscription.

Discovered in 1833 by King Mongkut (Rama IV), Sukhothai Inscription No. 1 (also known as the RamKhamhaeng Inscription) is a stone stele bearing the earliest Thai script. Among other things, the text describes the Sukhothai Kingdom during the reign of King Ram Khamhaeng. It not only records the invention of Thai language scripts, which serve as the foundation for the modern scripts used by 60 million Thais, but the stone stele tells the tale of Sukhothai, a Thai state founded in the 13th century, and its good governance, rule of law, economic freedom, and religious morality. The UNESCO World Museum’s Memory of the World Award has been bestowed upon Sukhothai Inscription No. 1.

PHATTHAMAPHANI BODHISATTAVA

Srivijaya Exhibition Room, Mahasurasinghanat Building

Avalokiteshvara

Phatthamaphani Bodhisattava, is a Srivijaya-era bronze torso depicting Avalokiteshvara – a much- revered Buddha Amitabha in Central Java in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It was found in Chaiya district Surat Thani Province. Avalokiteshavara stands leaning to the side. His face is rounded with arched eyebrows and a prominent nose. He gazes downward. His left shoulder is covered with fabric and Brahmin sacred string adorned with deer heads. The bronze torso of Avalokiteshavara is not only one of the most beautiful and most widely recognized sculptures of Avalokiteshavara in Thailand, but it also shows the connection between Thailand’s south and Central Java.

GANESHA MURTI

Srivijaya Exhibition Room, Mahasurasinghanat Building

The four-armed Ganesha Murti was seated at Candi Singhasari Temple before being presented to King Chulaongkorn (Rama V) of Siam by the Dutch Regent of Java Island during the monarch’s passage to Java in 1896. Made of volcanic rocks, the much-revered elephant-headed Hindu deity sits on the throne of the human-skull sculpture, while his four hands hold an axe, a bunch of rosaries and, of course, cups of dessert.

Ganesha Murti at Bangkok National Museum.

Roaming the Night

Night at the Museum is available from 4pm to 8.30pm from April 20 to 24. Museum tours, with guide, are available daily in English at 5.30pm and in Thai at 6pm, 6.30pm and 7pm. Attendees must be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative antigen test result issued within the previous 24 hours.