…. and an umbrella from Bosang village will definitely come handy!
This small community 10 kilometres east of downtown Chiang Mai, in
Sankamphaeng district, is widely known for its umbrellas and painted
silk fans. The art of umbrella-making is at least 200 years old in
Each tiny little detail is hand-crafted. The frames are made from
bamboo, the covers are cotton or mulberry paper. Intricate designs of
birds, flowers, dragons are painted for decoration. Umbrellas and
parasols come in a dozen or so sizes, from tiny little key-chains to
huge waterproof umbrellas that can protect an entire family from a
downpour or strong sunshine.
Every year, in January, Bosang craftspeople organise Bosang Umbrella
Festival, one of many small, colourful village handifcrafts fairs in
the region during the cool season. They showcase the very best of
their work, decorate shopfronts and streets, have special deals for
You can admire the dexterity and artwork of the elderly craftspeople
as they demonstrate each step of the process.
It is unheard of to have a local festival without a beauty pageant!
The girls were riding their bicycles along the village holding
umbrellas, of course.
As usual, the local children are invited to dance and play music on stage.
You can ride a horse cart along the main road of Bosang, a nice little
trip to take in the relaxed, colourful atmosphere.
Recently, the local media reported an alarming drop in the number of
umbrellas sold on the overseas markets. Global recession and
competition from other craftspeople in the region have hit Bosang
It is always sad and somewhat ironic that it is demand from ten
thousand miles away that helps preserve traditions in a small village
over here. If nobody buys the umbrellas, will those old wrinkled hands
show all the tricks to the young ones? Will the young ones care? After
all, you can buy a cheap factory-made umbrella at BigC. After all, it
is not a very glamorous career to craft bamboo umbrella frames for a
one-baht profit per piece for the next twenty years.
Come rain, come shine…. what does the future gold for Bosang and its
What role do you think traditional arts and crafts can play in a
rapidly modernising society such as Thailand?
The handicrafts fairs will keep them going. Lanna culture classes at
schools will definitely help. Overseas consumers are likely to come
back. But will it still be real and alive?