Crafts from the Hands of the Hills… To the Hands of The Queen Exhibition

In an occasion of Mother’s day in Thailand, I’ll write about the latest exhibition I just happened to visit today. ‘Crafts from the Hands of the Hills… To the Hands of The Queen’, an exhibition in celebrating of the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit 7th Cycle Birthday, organized by The SUPPORT Foundation.

I’ve heard that the exhibition is very beautiful and touching, so I asked my mother to accompany with me today. The exhibition are shown at The Queen’s Gallery, Ratchanamnoen Klang road near Phanfa bridge. You can visit there from now until 11th October 2016.


The exhibition separated into 5 floors, narrates all Thai Hill Tribes. First floor shows textile arts that were inspired by Their Majesties royal duties.




Walk up to 2nd floor, the way they exhibit each story of each Hill tribe is very easy to understand yet touching at the same time. We can learn Their Majesties royal duties by each tribe’s embroidery. Also their handicrafts distinguish the tribes.

Within this exhibition, they show textile arts that narrate life style of 6 Hill Tribes in Thailand that also reflect the royal initiative projects.



Let dig deep in detail of each tribe, starting with Mien (Yao).



1. Mien or Yao



Mien means human who is not under anyone’s power. The legend says that more than 20,000 years ago, their ancestors inhabited the plains around Dongting Lake, along Yangtze River. After that they resisted the tyrannical authorities, and eventually departed into the mountain forest, scattered to different places and divided into several families.

About 100 years ago, Mien migrated from China to Thailand through two routes. One way was to cross the lake in the South of China and other way was to travel to Thailand through the North of Vietnam and Lao.




Their Majesties royal projects were shown through the details of embroidery. The artist have done a great job to combine drawings and local textiles altogether in many different shapes.




Like this piece above, Silk Embroidery of Life Scenes, the drawing says that Her Majesty the Queen encouraged the Thai hill tribes to beautifully embroider the patterns of each tribe to bring supplementary income.

Let say I’ll write in this platform afterwards. By introducing to each hill tribe, describing how and where they first originally came to Thailand and then showing few pieces of each tribe that related to royal projects.




2. Akha or E-gaw

I was informed by the staff that the local people prefer to be called Akha.
He said it’s more polite.



Akha means ‘Away from wetland’, they live in high mountains. Originally from Mainland China, because of political instability reason, they searched for the new homes. Akha arrived in Thailand in 1892 through two ways: First route was from Myanmar to Thailand through Mae Chan District, Phaya Prai Village. (presently Mae Fah Luang District) to Doi tung mountain. Second route was along borders of Myanmar and Lao that connect Mainland China to Thailand’s Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai.



Royal Provision of Coffee Plants
The Majesties the King and the Queen encouraged Thai hill tribes to plant Arabica coffee in substitution for narcotic plants that they used to grow in Chiang Rai, Phayao and Chiang Mai.



Glittering Fireflies Never to Disappear
Her Majesty the Queen, realizing the benefits of fireflies, asked Queen Sirikit’s Botanical Garden in Chiang Mai to gather all the data concerning the fireflies for further conservation of the species.



Warmth-Giving Wool
The first Royally Initiated Project on raising sheep and fowls began at Ban Rom Fah Thong, Amphoe Wiang Kaen, Chiang Rai in 1998. Wool derived from the project has woven into warm clothing items for people in Northern Thailand and woolen products to sell for additional income.



3. Lisu or Liso



Lisu means cultivated people. With the most colourful costume, their brave heart and free spirit are reflected in the use of vigourous, clashing colours.

The origin of Lisu are on the upstream of Mae Khong River and Salween River in Yunnan Province. Most Lisu people believe that their own kingdom was taken away by Chinese. Decades of tribal wars drove Lisu people to Thailand. In 1921, The Lisu settlers built their first community in Baan Huay San, Chiang Rai. Years After they have spread to other area in many provinces in Northern Thailand.



Jin Hua Pigs
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Royally Initiated Model Farm in a degraded forest area at Ban Mae Tung Ting, Chiang Mai, was set up. The project hired local poor villagers and those in nearby villages and trained them in agriculture and weaving. As for animal husbandry, Her Majesty the Queen gave the Jin Hua pig, which is a famous breed and tasty meat presented to Her Majesty the Queen by the government of China.



Return of Elephants to the Forest
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s concern for the elephants resulted in initiating the project “Return of Elephants to the Forest” on January 14, 1997 at Doi Pha Muang, Lam pang, with the principle that elephants live safely in the forests without causing any trouble for the humans.



Check Dams for a Better Life
His Majesty the King advised villagers to construct check dams along waterways or brooks by using raw materials already in existance locally to deter the vicious strength of water in the rainy season. Check dams will keep water in the brooks for villagers to use in the long run and return the forests to their luscious green.



4. Lahu or Muso



Muso is Burmese language, meaning hunter. Muso people are known for their skill in hunting with wooden crossbow. Muso’s origin is in Tibet and the Southwest of China. They later moved to the South of China and divided into two branches. One branch journeyed to Myanmar in 1840, and has been found residing in Northern Thailand since 1980. The other settled down in Lao and Vietnam.



Rainbow Trout Farming
Rainbow trout are suitable to be farmed in 10-20c water on the hills as a food source and can generate income for the Thai hill tribes under the royally initiated project called “Small House in the Big Forests” Doi Dum, Chiang Mai.



Production of Honey
Her Majesty the Queen advised the Small House in the Big Forest Project to raise Indian honey bees (Apis cerana) in nature. This approach is beneficial to the fruit and vegetable orchards.



5. Karen


Some scholars are convinced that Karen people lived in the Southeast China. Driven from their motherland, they migrated to the borders between Myanmar and Mon. Karen people that have presently settled in Thailand were all from Myanmar, only there no evidence of when they reached Thailand. It has been assumed that their migration began since Late Ayutthaya period.



6. Hmong



Hmong means free people, fled the Tibetan highlands, Siberia and Mongolia for China. They left China for Thailand during the carnage in 1857. There are two groups of Hmong: Blue or Green Hmong and White Hmong. Hmong is the second largest Hill Tribe population in Thailand, after Karen people.



Rice from Mother
Her Majesty the Queen’s royal command to establish a High Altitude Agricultural Development Station at Ban San Ti Suk-Ban Khun Kam Lang, Phayao.



Wax-drawn Cloth
Wax-drawn cloth has been the original intellectual art of the Thai hill tribes for ages and passed down from generation to generation. Wax is boiled until it melts; then hot wax is used to draw or write on hemp cloth before it is dyed by indigo, or “khram” in Thai. The indigo dyed cloth would be boiled again to remove the wax. The beautiful design drawn on the hemp cloth still remains. Once the wax-drawn cloth became popular and in high demand, the Hmong Tribe created a variety of printing patterns to be used in the production of wax-drawn cloths to meet a growing market demand. However, the SUPPORT Foundation will only accpet the original wax-drawn cloth using the ancient
technique to sell to the public.




The Queen’s Gallery information

101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, Borwonniwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200 THAILAND

Gallery Hour:
10.00 am. – 7.00 pm. daily
except Wednesdays

Admission FEE:
50 baht

Student (with current ID) / Senior Citizens / Monks and Priests


Public Bus:
2, 10, 12, 15, 44, 47, 56, 60, 68, 70, 79, 157, 159, 183, 201, 503, 509, 511, 556

Sansaeb Express Boat:
Phan Fah Stop

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