Elaborate details, traditional elements and centuries-old artistic techniques perfecting the cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej wouldn’t have been possible without the Office of Traditional Arts, whose primary mission is to preserve the most unique arts of the Kingdom for the next generation. Better known to Thais as Chang Sib Mu, the origins of this office can be traced back to more than a few hundreds years.
When King Rama I established Bangkok as the new capital of the kingdom of Rattanakosin in 1782, he gathered together skillful craftsmen to help create the grandeur of a new era, and to preserve the beauty and arts of the previous Ayutthaya kingdom, which was regarded the most sophisticated at the time. The term Chang Sib Mu was used to call these artisans, those who possessed outstanding skills in drawing, engraving, modeling, figuring, plastering, molding, gilding, lacquering and wood carving. These artisans served different princes and aristocrats until King Rama V, during his reign, ordered them to register with the Bureau of the Royal Household.
In 1911, his son, King Rama VI, commissioned the establishment of a Fine Arts Department, which included the Chang Sib Mu artisans. The department, unfortunately, was dissolved in 1926 due to economic recession and political reformation. When the office was reestablished in 1933, the Chang Sib Mu artisans were registered under the Office of Architecture and Craftsmanship, and it was not until 2005 that these artists was allotted their own organization called the Office of Traditional Arts or Samnak Chang Sib Mu.
Applications into the organization are accepted every year. One needs to pass various examinations involving drawing and sketching, as well as other skills, to be able to be train in the most traditional methods in the Kingdom.