3c. Thai Royal Gifts in Perspective: Symbols of a Lasting Friendship

Photo of King Chulalongkorn in 1881 - Gift of King Rama V, 1881
Thai Royal gifts to America began with very traditional types of gifts, the “Gifts of Welcome”, the “Gifts of Respect” khru’angrachabannakan, and the khru’angyot, or bestowal of insignia of rank. The kru’ang yot gift was very specific as to timing, content, and designated receiver, and was the basis for later elaborations and manifestations of the Thai Royal Gift. Over a 160-year time span, the Thai Royal Gift has changed in every one of its aspects.
The king does continue to bestow insignia of rank upon Western heads of state from time to time; however, by the end of King Chulalongkorn's 43-year reign, much of the traditional insignia worn by the king and noblemen at court had been replaced by Western symbols.  Western-style military uniforms had for the most part replaced the imported Indian Benares silks; new Western-style medals replaced other insignia; and the power of the king was no longer measured in the number of people, craftsmen and others, whose labor he controlled. The king's power had to confront and become more analogous to a Western power in some respects -- the Kings became great benefactors, and prevented colonial encroachment through Western-style treaty agreements; the Kingdom gained new wealth from international trade. 
Shadow Puppet of 5 Monkeys in a Chariot - Gift of King Rama V, 1876
Royal Funeral Chariot - Gift of King Rama V, 1876
Thai Royal Gifts have changed from being part of a tribute-fed redistributive system centered on the court to the type of gift that focuses instead on the role of the Thai court as benefactors of Thai tradition, emphasizing the artistic talents and accomplishments of the people of Thailand.  






Gallery 1

1a. Robert's Treaty, 1833

1b. Harris Treaty, 1856

1c. Status & Rank of the Presidents

Gallery 2

2a. H.M. King Chulongkorn's Gifts

2b. Centennial Exposition, 1876

2c. 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

Gallery 3

3a. Institutional Gifts

3b. Recent Gifts to the US

3c. Thai Royal Gifts in Perspective

Copyright 2000 Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved.