Five years ago, Udom Somporn opened Chipatha Museum in the Muang district of his native Ratchaburi. He did this to preserve the cultural heritage of the Tai Yuan people, of which he is one. The 65-year old retired professor is now the head of the committee that runs the museum.
It was during the reign of Rama I that the Tai Yuan settled in this central province, coming form the Lanna kingdom in the north. They were a farming people that lived in tight-knit farming communities, and were accomplished weavers as well.
‘Chipatha’ is the Thai word meaning ‘miscellaneous’, meant to reflect the various artifacts on show inside the museum. Contained in the various exhibitions are examples of ancient farming tools, explanations about the traditional Tai Yuan lifestyle, many examples of their woven fabrics including silk with sophisticated embroidery and religious relics such as a 1,400 year old Buddha head.
Udom explains that very few remnants of the culture remain today, “Unfortunately, very few of our traditions have stood the test of time. Except for a ceremony held before the start of Buddhist Lent, there is not much around to remind others of our heritage. During the ceremony, senior Tai Yuans donning traditional costume offer alms and prayers to the spirits of their ancestors. That’s about all. I wanted to build a place that would enshrine our legacy.”