Jim Thompson House



Jim Thompson House

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One of the best-preserved traditional Thai houses in Bangkok and finest museums in the country is the former home of Jim Thompson. The entrepreneurial American revived the art of Thai silk weaving following its demise during World War II. His house stands in a flowerfilled garden across from the ancient silk weavers’ quarter of Ban Khrua. In 1959 Thompson dismantled six teak houses in Ban Khrua and Ayutthaya province and reassembled them here in an unconventional layout. Thompson was an avid collector of antiquities and artworks from all over Southeast Asia. His distinguished array, which spans 14 centuries, is attractively displayed, and left much as it was when he mysteriously disappeared in 1967. Unlike many other domestic museums, this feels like a lived-in home.

Jataka Paintings

This panel, in the entrance hall, is one of eight early 19th-century paintings in the house showing scenes from the Vessantara jataka. These depict Prince Vessantara as an incarnation of the Buddha.

Burmese Carvings

This wooden figure of an animist Nat spirit is among Thompson’s extensive collection of Burmese images. When Buddhism developed in Burma, it incorporated the preexisting worship of Nat spirits.

Dvaravati Torso of the Buddha

This torso, made of limestone, is in the garden. Dating from the early Dvaravati period (7th century), it is said to be one of the oldest surviving Buddha images in Southeast Asia.

Who was Jim Thompson?

An architect by profession, Thailand’s most famous American came here in 1945 as the Bangkok head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner of the CIA. In 1948 he founded the Thai Silk Company Ltd., turning the ailing industry into a thriving business once again. Thompson became a social celebrity in Bangkok and finally achieved mythical status following his disappearance on Easter Sunday 1967 while walking in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Explanations for his vanishing include falling from a path or having a heart attack to more sinister suggestions of CIA involvement.

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