CHANDRA KASEM PALACE
Chan Kasem Palace is situated on the west bank of the Front City Canal (1). The
palace is located on the city island in the northeastern area near the Hua Ro market in Hua
Ro Sub-district of the city. It can be accessed via U-Thong road. Opposite the palace on
Ko Loi - the floating Island - we find the
Mondop Monastery. The palace is generally
known by Wang Na or Front Palace, as it was located to the east of the
Grand Palace.

Prior the fall of Ayutthaya

The northeastern corner of the present Ayutthaya City Island was in the beginning of the
16th century dry land situated outside the city wall fortifications. Until the first fall of
Ayutthaya in 1569, the
City Wall was situated along Khlong Makham Riang also formerly
called Khlong Nai Kai. In the south it reached the Chao Phraya River, while in the north it
ran into
Khlong Ho Ratanachai - a canal running from Wat Tha Sai  - where it joined the
Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, towards the Khu Khue Na Canal (present Pa Sak River), dug
in the early years of the foundation of Ayutthaya.

Wat Song was located in the northeastern corner. Prior the extension of the city walls and
the deviation of the
Lopburi and the Pa Sak Rivers the area south of the monastery was
used to feed and corral elephants.

After the first fall of Ayutthaya in 1569, King Maha Thammaracha (r. 1569-1590),
realized the poor defenses of the city and the use of the dry land in front of the city walls
between the Nai Kai canal and the Khu Khue Na canal by the Burmese attackers. Maha
Thammaracha started to upgrade the defenses of the city. He assessed that the eastern
part of the city needed a better defense, especially at the northern junction of the Khu
Khue Na canal. Hence he ordered around 1577, the building of a fortified palace on the
strategic spot. The palace was named Wang Mai (New Palace).

The defense walls around the city were extended to the Khu Khue Na canal in 1580 and
the canal itself was dug 20 m wide and 6 m deep from its junction with the Lopburi River
until Bang Kaja Village. A new wall was built in the north-east which included the Chan
Palace and received fortifications such as the Maha Chai, Khwang and Phet Fortresses.

Now we have to go back a little bit in time. Prince Naresuan, the eldest son of King
Thammaracha, was born in 1555 at the Chan Palace near the Nan River in Phitsanulok.
After the Burmese invasion of 1564, King Bhureng Noung, took Prince Naresuan as a
hostage to Burma in order to secure the fidelity of his father. In 1571 Prince Naresuan
was allowed to return to Siam in exchange for one of his sisters, who became a wife of
the Burmese king. He was appointed Maha Uparat (viceroy, second king) and sent to
govern Phitsanulok as it was customary. In May 1584 Prince Naresuan proclaimed
Ayutthaya's independence at Mueang Kraeng and threw off the Burmese yoke.  Siam had
to prepare for war. Ayutthaya had lost a great deal of its population in the latest war with
Burma and a series of Cambodian invasions. In order to be prepared for an armed
encounter with Burma more population was needed. As Phitsanulok was quite well
populated, King Maha Thammaracha ordered the people of Phitsanulok to move over to
Ayutthaya at the same time as the Maha Uparat. The latter took residence in the newly
built palace and became at the same time responsible for the defense of the strategically
important northeastern corner of the city island - an area which will prove fatal for
Ayutthaya in 1767. The people from Phitsanulok continued to call the place Wang Chan,
the same name as the palace in Phitsanulok. (2)

After the death of his father, King Maha Thammaracha, Prince Naresuan ascended the
throne and appointed his younger brother, Prince Ekathotsarot to be the viceroy.  He
called the latter's residence "Chan Bowon Palace" (3).  Since that time the palace became
the residence of every Uparat.

In 1605, Prince Ekathotsarot (r. 1605-1610/11) became king and appointed his son
Prince Sutad to be the deputy king at Wang Chan. King Narai (r. 1656-1688) was prior
his throne ascendancy in 1656, the Uparat for many years residing at Wat Chan.  Another
name change took place when King Narai (r. 1656-1688) was on the throne and the
palace was called the Bowon Sathan Mongkhon Palace (4), meaning the Palace of the
Excellent Site of Auspiciousness, a translation we can find back in Cushman's Royal
Chronicles of Ayutthaya. [1]

In the beginning of the reign of King Phetracha (r. 1688-1703), the king appointed his son
Prince Sorasak, to be the Uparat and called his position Krom Phra Racha Wang Bowon
Sathan Mongkon; the title derived from the name of the palace. When Prince Sorasak
came on the throne in 1703 (as King Sua or King Tiger), he appointed his son Prince Tai
Sra to be the Krom Pra Racha Wang. After Prince Tai Sra was crowned as King
Phumintharacha (r. 1709-1733), Prince Borommakot (r. 1733-1758) became Uparat
and stayed at the palace for 14 years, even being already on the throne. In 1744, a fire
broke out at the  Chan Bowon Palace and the Uparat had to move to the Grand Palace.
The King ordered the reconstruction of the palace, so that the  deputy king could occupy
his former residence again. [2]

In 1767 the palace bore the brunt of the Burmese attack as the defense walls in its vicinity
were pierced. The Palace was burned and ruined in the Burmese attack of Ayutthaya.

After the fall of Ayutthaya

During the reign of King Rama I until King Rama III, bricks were taken from Ayutthaya
and transported to Bangkok for the building of its city walls and temples.

King Mongkut (r. 1851 - 1868) ordered the reconstruction of the Chan Boworn Palace
in order to make it his residence when visiting Ayutthaya and changed its name to Chan
Kasem Palace; the word "Kasem" being "happy or joyous". The foundations of the former
buildings of the Phiman Rataya throne hall and the Phisai Sanlalak throne hall were used to
reconstruct the former buildings. Some of them were only finished during the reign of King
Rama V. The reconstruction must have started in 1851. In 1854, King Rama IV went to
Ayutthaya to see the situation of the palace. He put Chao Praya Maha Siritam, the
governor of Ayutthaya, in charge of the reconstruction project which was finalised around
1857. He also ordered the repair of
Wat Senasanaram and Wat Khamin. The following
years more constructions were added to the palace.

King Chulalongkorn (Rama V r. 1868 - 1910) reconstructed the Bang Pa-In Palace as
his holiday dwelling. Chan Kasem Palace became in disuse, left abandoned and ruined
again.

In 1895, Rama V - busy making administrative reforms - decided to re-use the Chan
Kasem Palace and gave order to improve it again and to turn it into a Governmental office
(5). The Governor of Ayutthaya had the city wall of Ayutthaya pulled down in 1895 and
constructed the present U-Thong Rd  around the city. King Rama V appointed his
brother, Prince Marupongsiripat to be in charge of  a project which consisted of restoring
the Phiman Rataya Pavilion to be the Governor's Office, the Chaturamuk Pavilion to be
the Governmental hall; a big building at the corner inside the northern wall was changed to
be the Communal Hall (6), the theatre at the front of the pavilion was changed to be the
Provincial Hall (6), the building at the front of Phiman Rataya Pavilion became the
Provincial Court, while the Royal Storage and the elephant house were changed into a
prison.

Phraya Boran Rachathanin, the governor of Ayutthaya and a well-known historian, kept
his antique collection at the palace. In 1902 Prince Damrong Rachanuphab suggested to
establish a museum called “Ancient Museum” by using the horse stable as an exposition
hall. King Rama V ordered during a visit in 1904, to move all the antiques to be exhibited
at the Chaturamuk pavilion. Some additional construction was done for exhibiting the
objects and the whole was called the “Ayutthaya Museum”.

The Fine Arts Department declared the "Ayutthaya Museum" on 12 February 1936 to be
a National Museum with the name
National Museum of Chan Kasem.
Text, map & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - August 2009
Updated April 2015
View of the Sur Par Assembly Hall
View of the Chaturamuk Pavilion
View of the Chaturamuk Pavilion
Main Entry
View of the Phiman Rataya Throne Hall
View of the Phisai Sanlalak Hall
Palace Gate
Palace ground
Palace ground
Palace ground
View of the Phisai Sanlalak Hall
Palace Gate
Palace description prior the fall of Ayutthaya

If we look at one of the better maps of ancient Ayutthaya published in 1750 by Jacques
Nicolas Bellin and based on inputs from 1687 during the Reign of King Narai, we see
that the Chan Palace had a rectangular shape and was walled. It was bordered by the
city defense wall to its northwest and northeast and by a canal - Khlong Ho Ratanachai -
on its southern flank. The palace had two forts: one fort was in the northwest corner and
another one stood in the southeast. Two buildings lied parallel with the palace's
northeastern wall; one building lied parallel to the northwestern wall, while two buildings
on the east side lied parallel with the eastern wall. Wat Senasanaram is situated outside
the palace walls but still inside the palace area. It is although clear that maps indicated
only the most important structures; so many more should have existed.

The Chan Palace had an inner and outer wall, identical to the Grand Palace. The height
of the outer wall was 3.5 meters. Between the inner and outer wall there was a space of
a meter, enabling the guards to patrol between the walls. The whole length of the wall
was around 960 meters. There were 6 big gates and 4 smaller gates (8). Inside the
complex there were many buildings, for different government functions. There were three
dwellings, located north, south and west of the palace complex. The roofs of the eastern
and western dwelling were two-tiered, while the southern building had a three-tiered roof.

The southern building was called Pra Thi Nang Phiman Rataya and contained the throne
hall. The dwelling was completely gold coated, why the interior was painted red. The
northern and western buildings were called Pra Paras. There were also storage rooms,
three stables, three elephant pens and one pool.

Nantana Hengpujaroen [0] writes that according to some old documents the walls
around Chan Kasem Palace had a length of 50 Sen  or approximately 2000 m. (7)  The
palace occupied an area roughly going from the Unmilled Rice Fort (Pom Khao Phluak)
and Wat Tha Sai towards the Maha Chai Fort; going down to the Ho Ratana Chai Gate
and running back along the Ho Ratana Chai canal towards the  Unmilled Rice Gate. The
palace area should have included at least eight monasteries being in the north-east: Wat
Khamin, Wat Song,
Wat Khun Saen, Wat Khian and Wat Tha Sai; in the south Wat
Senasanaram; in the east Wat Khwang and Wat Prasat. All by all, roughly the
northeastern tip of the city island. The issue of a large palace ground as mentioned here
although, was heavily discussed by some scholars and rejected.

Remains of the throne hall, along with ruined columns were excavated at the Provincial
District Court (southeast of the palace). Many ruined foundations were found on the
former prison area (northwest of the palace). Both the court and the prison were initially
supposed to be outside the palace. It is now although clear that the ancient palace had
more surface area than the present one. (8)

Two historical documents (9) mention that the initial Front Palace,
was sited in a
cramped space near the royal palace. Later, this Janchaloem Palace became the
residence of the Maha Uparat while the Front Palace King went to reside in
Janbowon Palace [Chan Kasem], fifty sen away from the Royal Palace. Inside
there is an audience hall with four wings but no peak. There are many other
buildings, large and small, in front and behind, with swan-tail finials and multi-
level roofs, but none has a peak. There are many  lodges, large and small, for the
inside and front. There are several treasuries, a full complement of attendants, an
arsenal for guns, big and small, an arsenal for other weapons, stables for
elephants and horses, stores for carriages, halls for various craftsmen, and a court
sala for deciding lawsuits for all departments. There is a  big sala, known as the
official sala of the front palace, for nobles waiting to attend audience. There are
duty salas for Mahatthai, Kalahom, Port Department, Palace Department, Land
Department, City Department, all six used for judging cases under each of the six
departments in the Front Palace. There is also a Registration Hall in the Front
Palace, two jails under the prison governor for holding criminals, an  elephant
landing, water cloister landing, patrol salas at the corners, and boathouses for
royal barges and for various procession boats at Wat Thong Pu and Wat Prasat.
There is no gunpowder store no tattooing hall, no mint. Inside the Janbowon
Palace is one wat called Wat Khun Saen, complete with ordination hall, preaching
hall, teaching hall, relic stupa, and other stupas, but no monks because it is inside
a palace.
[3]

There were two fresh markets in the immediate vicinity of the Front Palace; one was
called the
Front Palace Earth Gate Market and situated on Earth Gate Road (Pratu
Din), while the other was called
Front Palace Elephant Landing Market and situated
at the Elephant Landing Gate (Pratu Tha Chang). [4]

In the account of King Kirti Sri's Embassy to Siam in 1750 A.D. we find a paragraph on
a visit to the Front Palace:
On the seventh day of the solar month Thula, being
Wednesday, in the morning, two officers came and accompanied us in boats to
near the palace of the Uva Rajjuruio. There, in a two-staged octagonal hall hung
with cloths of diverse kinds, among gorgeous gold worked carpets stretched on the
floor, was the sub-king himself seated on a marvelously wrought royal throne.
Beautifully engraved swords of solid gold, trays and boxes of gold and silver, and
various royal ornaments were placed on either side; there was a golden curtain
drawn, and on this side of it the great ministers were on their knees making
obeisance Here we were ushered in and introduced; the sub-king inquired after our
welfare, and betel was handed around on trays. We were then shown some books
that were not to be found in Lanka at the time; we gazed at them in reverence,
bowing our heads before the holy paper, and were graciously informed that these
books and the priests would be given to us. Next a great feast of rice was served
for us and our attendants after which we received permission to withdraw.
[5]

Present Palace description

The most important buildings of the latest palace were as follows:

The
Phlapphla Chaturamuk pavilion was made of wood. It was located in the north-
east of the palace. The pavilion was built on the foundations of an ancient building
belonging to the palace before the fall of Ayutthaya. The building measured 65 m long on
27 m wide and basically the structure consisted of two connected pavilions with a two-
tiered roof . The building was the residence of King Rama IV when visiting Ayutthaya
and included a throne-hall. The pavilion had six gables with different decorations based
on the King’s emblem. In 1904, this building was changed into a museum. During the
reign of King Rama VII, Phraya Boran Rachathanin repaired the pavilion. The whole
structure was broken down and rebuilt with new material. The shape of the building was
slightly changed. The height of the pavilion was raised two meters. The old gables were
ruined and were replaced with gables consisting of wooden sculptures.

The
Phiman Rataya Hall is a group of four buildings. They are situated at the center of
the palace area and built on the foundations of a building belonging to the ancient palace
(10). At the northwest side of the building, there is an open court contained by three
small buildings. The buildings are in semi-European style and made of brick and plaster.
The group was built in the reign of King Rama IV, but only finalised in the reign of King
Rama V. In 1896 it was used as the Governmental and Provincial Administrative office.

The
Maha Thai building was built in the reign of King Rama VI.  The building is situated
in the south western corner of the palace. The length of the building on its west side is 50
meters and on its south side 65 meters, while the width is about 10 m. It was built by
brick and plaster. After 1932 the building was used as the Office of the Prosecuting
Attorney of Ayutthaya and later got different functions until in 1993 it was returned to be
part of the Chan Kasem National Museum.

The
Phisai Sanlalak (Sanyalak, Sallak, etc)  hall was an observatory.  The tower was
built by King Rama IV on the original foundations dating back to King Narai's reign.
Rama IV used it for astronomical observations. It has  four stories and measures 15.80
on 7 meters with an height of 22 meters. The tower is located in the south-east area of
the palace.

The
Sur Par Assembly Hall is running parallel with the eastern wall and located a the
back of the Phiman Rataya Hall. The building measures 20 meters long and 11.20
meters wide and is built with brick and plaster. The hall has only a single story with a
double-tiered classical tiled roof. It was built in the reign of the King Rama IV and
served as the Club for the "Wild Tigers Corps". The building became later the Office of
the National Library.

The Royal horse stable is situated along the northwestern wall. The stable measures 17
m long on 6 meters wide and is built of brick and plaster. The building dates from the
reign of King Rama IV. Phraya Boran Rachathanin used the stables for his
Ancient
Museum
. It is now an office of the National Museum.
Footnotes:

(1) called Khu Khue Na.
(2) Some scholars wrote that the palace was called "Chand Palace", the word "Chand" meaning sandalwood, a wood reserved only for the building of royal
residences. [6] Although a translation discussion is not at the order here, this writer believes the word "Chan" could also be translated as "Moon". Anyway
"Happy Moon Palace" sounds a lot better than "Happy Sandalwood Palace" or not? - certainly as sandalwood was used to knock Royals to heaven.   
(3) "Bowon" meaning "Excellent".
(4) "Mongkhon" meaning "Auspicious".
(5) In 1895, a new provincial administration was set up. The Circle Administration (Monton Tesapiban) consisted of provinces grouped according to
geography and governing convenience. The provincial administration was governed by a Circle Governor selected from highly-qualified people, trusted by
the King. The County of Krung Kao was established consisting of Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, Saraburi, Lopburi, Phromburi and Inthaburi and ruled by a
Governor. District Administration was set up under the provincial administrative level.
(6) This building does not exist anymore.
(7) Sen is a traditional Thai unit of length equal to 40 m.
(8) During excavations in 2003 a part of the northern wall was excavated on the former prison location. The wall was about 140 cm thick. A three meter
wide gate was uncovered, with fragments of wooden poles from the door. The gate floor was in brick fishbone style. It is assumed that a part of this wall is
also situated under the Provincial District Court east of the actual palace. The old palace walls were longer than the one reconstructed in the reign of King
Mongkut.
(9) The two historical documents are: the Testimony of the King Who Entered a Wat (Khamhaikan khun luang ha wat) and the Testimony of the King from
Wat Pradu Songtham (Khamhaikan khun luang wat pradu songtham). The documents were derived from the testimony of prisoners taken to Burma after the
sack of Ayutthaya in 1767.
(10) Earlier excavations indicated that the Phiman Rataya building was built on the base of an ancient building, which consisted of brick and plaster, while the
outside was sealed with cement and decorated with a lotus pattern. This base was found at a depth of about 130 to 140 cm and belonged to the first
construction from the 16th century. The same was valid for the Chaturamuk Pavilion. There were even foundations found at a depth of 140 to 180 cm, likely
belonging to the 15th century.

References:

[0] This article used partly some historical data (especially data of the Ratanakosin period) from "The study of Chantharakasem Palace for developing the
Management Plan" - a thesis written by Miss Nantana Hengpujaroen in 2003 (Silpakorn University). The document is registered as ISBN 974-464-0731.
[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006).
[2] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 439 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat &
Royal Autograph.
[3] Phanna phumisathan Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya: Ekasan jak Ho Luang - Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the palace - Dr Winai
Pongsripian - Bangkok (2007) - page 56 / Translated by Chris Baker in the Final Part of the Description of Ayutthaya - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol
102 (2014) - page 205-6.
[4] P.E. Pieris - Religious Intercourse Between Ceylon and Siam in the Eighteenth Century - Bangkok Siam Observer Office, 1908 - page 28.
[5] Chris Baker - Before Ayutthaya Fell: Economic Life in an Industrious Society - Markets and Production in the City of Ayutthaya before 1767:
Translation and Analysis of Part of the Description of Ayutthaya - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 99, 2011.
[6] Discovering Ayutthaya - Charnvit Kasetsiri & Michael Wright (2007) - page 120/121
(View of the Chaturamuk Pavilion)
(View of the Chaturamuk Pavilion)
(View of the Sur Par Assembly Hall)
(View of the Phiman Rataya Throne Hall)
(View of the Phisai Sanlalak Hall)
(Palace Gate)
(Main Entry)
(View of the Phisai Sanlalak Hall)
(Palace Gate)
(Palace ground)
(Palace ground)
(Palace ground)
Remnants of the old palace on the former prison site
(Remnants of the old palace on the former prison site)
Remnants of the old palace on the former prison site
(Remnants of the old palace on the former prison site)
(Detail of Plan De La Ville De Siam by  
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin - Ca. 1750)