Hamyon Wood Carving Collection, Kamthieng House Museum

Kamthieng House Museum’s wood carving collection – ‘Hamyon’. This intricate, carved wooden plaque above the bedroom door is considered a protective talisman for the family, dividing the private family space inside, from the public verandah space outside. Beyond this point, those who are ‘tang-phi’ (literally ‘of a different spirit’) meaning ‘of a different clan’, must ask permission of the ancestral spirits (phi pu-ya’) to enter.The ‘ham yon’ is variously believed to represent the protective power of the ancestral spirits, or of the male head of household. The latter is based on a loose interpretation of the word ‘ham’, meaning ‘testicles’, and ‘yon’ the northern Thai derivative of the Sanskrit word ‘yantra’, for ‘magic diagram or symbol’. But many northern scholars find this interpretation linguistically problematic.

The proportion of the ‘ham yon’ is base on the foot of the main male householder, multiplied by 3 or 4, according to status. Usually installed with a new house, the ‘ham yon’ plaque is taken down and beaten ritually to remove its power, each time the main male householder changes. A new ‘ham yon’ is then commissioned and installed with the proper rites. These ‘ham yon’ are only a part of carved wood collection, which were purchased by the Siam Society from northern Thailand in 1965. The whole collection includes cover 200 items. All of them are over 200 years old.


Hamyon with a motif of leafy vine in cloud pattern
Carved panel from a single piece of teak. It is an elaborate composition of cloud pattern and a bunch of vine with “Lai Kanok”.

Hamyon with a vase of plenty
Carved wood with design of “vase of plenty” (puranaghata)

Hamyon with perforated could motif
Perforated carved wood in could motif, framed in a rectangular shape.

Hamyon with a bunch of vine with leafy volutes
Oblong panel with lateral chevron leaf bands. Two leafy volutes join in central leafy stem bract, all decorated by small stylized volutes.

Hamyon with a bunch of vine and a central flower
The Motifs used in this carving piece is a bunch of vine with traditional Thai pattern called “Lai Kanok Kab” and “Lai Kan Khod”,arised from the central flower.

Hamyon with upper Chinese keys band
Lintel forming simple spanrail arch. 3 layers of decorative edging –upper lotus border above Chinese keys band, which surmounts a band of superimposed layers of petals, fanning out from a central tablet flower. The principal design consists of a large central lotus flanked by 2 smaller lotus flower. Leaves arise in pairs from above each flower, the arch is edged with 2 similar large leaves, and small rosettes are scattered among the leaves. The combination of varied designs results in a heavy appearance.

Hamyon with bow shaped arch and leafy vine
Oblong panel with superior rosette band. Bow shaped arch with heart center divides panel into areas under arch and spanrail, ornamented with leafy vine.

Hamyon with upper Chinese keys band
Lintel with simple spanrail arch edged with plain band. Upper Chinese keys band. Scrolls of foliage in “Lai Kan Khod” and “Lai Kanok” arranged with geometric precision in area above double arch.

Kamthieng House Museum
The Kamthieng House Museum is a museum in Watthana District, Bangkok, run by the Siam Society under royal patronage. It is a 160-year-old traditional teakwood house from northern Thailand.

The Siam Society under Royal Patronage was founded in 1904 in cooperation with Thai and foreign scholars to promote knowledge of Thailand and its surrounding region.

The Society premises on Asoke Montri Road in Bangkok house a library that has a unique collection including manuscripts and rare books. The Kamthieng House, a precious example of northern Thai architecture, houses a folk museum. Study trips are made to historical sites, cultural events, and nature sites in all corners of Thailand and overseas. Lectures are organized several times a month on a wide range of topics. The Journal of the Siam Society and the Natural History Bulletin are published annually and distributed free to members. The Society also publishes scholarly books; stages performances of music, dance, and drama; hosts exhibitions and conferences; and is involved in projects of cultural preservation.

Today, the Siam Society has a membership drawn from a broad spectrum of Thais and foreigners, and continues to operate as a non-profit organization dedicated to its founding cause.