It’s not a sight you see very often — a member of a foreign royal family at the Forbidden City. Earlier this month, Thailand’s Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, the youngest daughter of the ailing King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, graced the former imperial palace with her presence, with a kneeling entourage in tow.
In a series of photographs released on her Instagram account (@tzilah_mardy), the 57-year-old princess was seen at the palace with her loyal subjects on bended knee. It is Thai custom to kneel (or crawl) when in the presence of royals.
While on a visit at the Forbidden City in Beijing on 13 June, Her Royal Highness also gave a performance on the guzheng, a Chinese zither, alongside her instructor, Chang Jing.
At the mini-concert — it is not clear who was in attendance — Princess Chulabhorn and her instructor performed well-known traditional Chinese numbers such as “Spring River in the Moonlight” and “Full Moon”.
The princess is said to have fallen in love with the sound of the guzheng during her visit to China in 2000. Since then, she has dedicated much of her time to learning the instrument.
On this trip, Chulabhorn also met with the Minister of Culture, Cai Wu, in preparation for the 7th “Thailand and China: Two Lands, One Heart” concert which will be held next year. This event was initiated by the princess in 2001 and has been an important Sino-Thailand cultural exchange program for promoting friendship of the two countries.
“The latest coup in Thailand has very significant geopolitical implications,” Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former deputy bureau chief with Reuters in Bangkok, tells Shanghaiist. “The traditional Thai elite are decisively turning their backs on democracy, in favour of long-term authoritarian rule. The United States is obliged by its official ideology to condemn this, but China has no such qualms, and so we are seeing the Thai elite becoming increasingly anti-American and turning towards China.”
“Chulabhorn makes frequent visits to China, often to play Chinese instruments appallingly badly in special concerts, and she will be a key player in the growing ties between Beijing and Bangkok,” says the British journalist, whose new book “A Kingdom in Crisis” will be out this October.
“Chulabhorn’s older sister Sirindhorn also has very close ties to China, and the Chinese government has built a palatial residential compound for her outside Beijing,” adds Marshall.
Princess Sirindhorn with then-Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing, April 5, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua].
Just another day on telly: Thai TV host Woody Milintachinda kneels at the feet of the princess after an interview.
In one interview, Woody Milintachinda is seen tasting a cake that Princess Chulabhorn gives her dog.
Here, Princess Chulabhorn displays her mastery of the guzheng. Watch and be mesmerised!
By Christy Mak and Kenneth Tan