The Erawan Museum

The Founder’s Intent

Since ancient times, Thai culture has constantly grown prosperous. It would have been meaningful for our past and present if the cultural splendor, through our knowledge and wisdom, could last forever.

The question is, why has such precious culture been undermined?

Is it because of people’s oblivion of their national culture, or are there other significant factors hidden behind?

After thinking thoroughly about this matter, it is obvious that Thai cultural prosper has gradually been wilting away because our cultural essence has never been properly acknowledged among modern people through proper means. We never have a proper way to make modern people thoroughly understand their cultural essence.

With rare opportunities to learn about the long-inherited culture, how can people appreciate and acknowledge it?

Being aware of this, we must take action right away and exert all efforts to support our cultural mission.

However, as the cultural scope is expansive, being composed of varied aspects including philosophies, beliefs, literature, arts, history, people, ways of living etc., we, therefore, are obliged to continue our mission determinedly and confidently.

Lek-Praphai Viriyahphant

Founder of the Ancient City Group



To educate modern people on history because the past events are like a compass and a rudder for a vessel’s safe and smooth navigation.


To use arts heritage that have long been collected and unceasingly high in value as evidences of the spiritual development in Eastern societies where religions serve as a tool to sustain world peace.


To introduce to the world Asian traditions and cultures which also are used to instruct those who have been lost in scientific prosper which causes them to be materialism and worldly-minded.


To make known the founder’s wish to make the Erawan Museum the heritage of humankind that will eternally remain.

The Founder's Biography
Mr.Lek and Ms.Praphai Viriyahphant

The Founder of The Ancient City,
Sanctury of Truth, and Erawan Museum

Mr.Lek Viriyahphant was born in 1914 into a Chinese businessman's family in Sampeng, Thailand. Mr.Lek went to university in Shanghai, China. During his time in Shanghai, he had the chance to travel and was able to immerse himself in rich culture and history of various regions around the world. He developed a keen interest in arts and cultures and accumulated professional knowledge and a profound understanding of arts, religions, philosophies, and cultures since an early period of his life. Until eventually when his father back in Thailand fell ill, he chose to come back to Thailand to help with the family business. Later, through work relationships, he met his wife and lifelong friend Ms. Praphai Viriyahphant who became a partner and inspiration throughout his business career.
His interests in the arts started from reading and collecting antiques when he was still a businessman. The more he understood how precious these antique pieces were, the more he felt a strong sense to preserve them. This inspired him to build the Ancient City, with the hope to bring all the great works in Thailand to showcase for people in the area to see and learn about.

Mr.Lek and Ms.Praphai Viriyahphant
During the Wedding

Mr.Lek and Ms.Praphai Viriyahphant

Mr.Lek and Ms.Praphai Viriyahphant with their children

Besides the founding of the Ancient City in 1981 Mr.Lek also founded the Sanctuary of Truth in Banglamoong in Chonburi Province, this was created from the inspiration that Mr.Lek got from the Cold War Era. The world is competing only in the materialistic forms. He wishes to found the Sanctuary of Truth for people to understand the truth in religion and philosophy, and the message of peace by using the architects and arts as a medium to pass this message through.
In 1992 Ms.Praphai Viriyahphant, Mr.Lek's wife passed away, she was his other half in life and work, sharing his passion for arts and culture in work and the path of life. She passed away from diabetes on 29 April 1992, and this has brought upon Mr.Lek a deep sorrow. He placed her body in a lotus-shaped pagoda at the Ancient City in Samut Prakan Province.
No matter as he got older, Mr.Lek was not the person to waste any of his valuable time, he was thinking and imagining about acquiring treasured art pieces all the time. Mr.Lek has a goal to create the land in the Bang Pakong District for it to be a travel destination with culture. The building shall have a three-headed elephant as the epicenter. However, after designing the building, it was unable to be done for its large scale, therefore, his idea and design was kept unused back then. It was not until years later that his western friend expressed that he would like to build a building in the shape of an apple, a symbol of his hometown. Then Mr.Lek's idea about building the Erawan Museum building reemerged. He chose Samrong in Samut Prakan to be the location and the museum was built while displaying all arts and artifacts and were collected.
Mr.Lek Viriyahphant passed away of old age on 17 November 2000, and for all his contributions, he received a royal acclaimed during his burial ceremony.
Mr.Lek and Mr.Praphai Viriyahphant were given a royal cremation ceremony together at Thep Sirin Temple on 4 September 2001.

Although Mr.Lek and Ms.Praphai Viriyahphant are gone, their children and grandchildren are always continuing their works.

From the Ancient City, Sanctuary of Truth, and the Erawan Museum, their legacy have always been under meticulous care until today.

About The Erawan Museum and Construction Period
A Brief History of The Erawan Museum

The construction of The Erawan Museum begins with a sketch from the paper. Mr.Lek then commission the craftsmen of the Ancient City to build a model out of clay, then he contacted the architect to build the structure of the building many times, using various technologies and materials, including fiber, foam, and bee's wax.

The Erawan Museum held a ceremony of erecting the memorial stone on 17 July 1995, 10 years was spent for the building process. The elephant body was 29 meters in height, the structure of the body and the head was made from the H and I shaped iron, similar to weaving. The side was made from a 10 parabola iron structure. While the most difficult part to create was the head of the elephant, since it was protruding without any pillar's support. The architects and engineers who designed it have to come up with a complex system to pull the weight of the head part to be transferred to the four legs. Then the four elephant legs then are supported by the concrete below. The building that took the weight is 14.6 in height, the structure was made from iron and concrete. The weight of the whole elephant was then dispersed around the outer ring and the roof. The whole building is 43.6 meters which are equivalent to 14 floors building. The width of the building is 12 meters and the length around 39 meters, the weight of the elephant is 150 tonnes and the weight of the head itself is 100 tonnes.

The process of putting together the head of the Erawan Museum started from the lower level when the iron structure was done, craftsmen then put the copper sheet on by one of the structure. For accuracy everything is taken off then numbered, then the crane will lift the structure and the copper sheets are then again attached to the structure in the air. The bronze sheets lined all of the exteriors of the Erawan Museum, the thickness is around 1.2 mm and the size is all different, starting from 4x8 ft to the smallest one that is hand-sized. Everything was put together by hand, ten of thousands of pieces of copper sheets were put together. This also makes Erawan Museum the first outdoor sculpture that is completely handmade using the copper sheet with the striking technique. It was finished and was opened to the public upon its completion in 2003.