As he approached the end of his years, Kiarti Srifuengfung, a Chinese-Thai industrial magnate based in Bangkok, dreamed of building a monument that would enable those sharing his roots to honor the country of their ancestors within the Kingdom of Thailand. He chose the form of a burial pagoda, because in Chinese tradition, a man who has lived a noteworthy life, especially one who has gained wealth and power, has typically built such structures to provide a place where his descendants may worship, and to leave behind something of social worth. He envisioned the project also as a unique architectural legacy to the Thai country, in thanks for the opportunities it had provided him and his family.
In addition to expressing his gratitude for his Chinese and Thai heritage, Khun Kiarti’s intent was to share lessons that had enabled him to be productive, successful, and happy. His trajectory had carried him in one short generation from his humble beginnings in the village of Suphanburi, where his father was a tailor, to the heights of Asian commerce. One source of counsel which had taught him much and for which he felt thankful was The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In it, he found tales that offered parallels to his own history.
After Khun Kiarti's death in 1992, his eldest son, Chaikiri Srifuengfung, on behalf of his mother, his two brothers and three sisters, and their children, made his father’s dream a reality. Out of gratitude and filial piety, Khun Chaikiri constructed three pagodas set in formal grounds, working with Archarn Tirawan Wantanothai of the Department of Fine Arts and Archarn Ronarit Dhankoses, an esteemed restoration expert with Thailand’s Bureau of Archaeology and National Museums.
It is the family’s hope that visitors will profit from the wisdom of the Three Kingdoms, whose episodes have been richly interpreted here by superb artisans, most notably in a series of interior and exterior murals in several media.
EXCERPT FROM AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DESCENDANTS OF KIARTI SRIFUENGFUNG
(engraved on the central wall of the Main Pagoda)
How are you at your time of reading this letter? I am fine except that I live on Sunset Boulevard and must prepare myself when the sun in me sets and I must journey into the unknown. I can go onwards only when I have completed what I have set out to do in this lifetime. I have done everything except for the pagoda.
My legacy to you is to last a lifetime, and your children’s’ lifetime. There is wisdom in heeding to the teachings of your ancestors. Hold my teachings to your heart and they will be your guiding light, in good as well as difficult times. You will be charged with my vibrant energy and my unending zest for life.
Where do I start? I start with the now of May 1991. The Persian Gulf war between Iraq and the Allied Forces led by the United States has ceased, while Thailand just had her martial law lifted since the February 23, 1991 coup d’etat toppled the Chartchai Choonhavan government. The National Peacekeeping Council under General Sunthorn Kongsompong and General Suchinda Kraprayoon has appointed Anand Panyarachun as the prime minister and the caretaker government until the next election. What happens in our country and in the world is very important. Stay informed because we are all interrelated in small and big ways.
In politics, have friends in high places, but do not enter politics, nor side with one party against another. I tell you this so that you will have no enemies. All the parties are working for the good of the country; that is all that is important. It’s the same for religion. All religions teach people to be good and avoid evil. Therefore say not that one religion or ideology is better than another, but give homage to all good and great leaders and allow free thinking in your home.
Thailand is a prospering country with very high economical growth in the last five years. We have become a newly industrialized country (NIC). We have also entered into the computer age as well as the age of pollution. There is a price to be paid for development and modernization. Nothing comes free-of-charge. I have created 50 or so companies and factories. In doing so, I have made many baskets that are independent and viable on their own. Do not consolidate them. Have many nests, not just one, so that if something happens to one, the others are still all-right and unaffected. In other words, do not put all your eggs in one basket.
I pass on to you a vast business empire. Take good care of this great inheritance and maintain these companies on a steady, stable, and non-risk balanced growth policy. Operate the business not on credit, but on cash according to the resources it has on hand. If you want to take risks, do it on your own money; do not take from the “Gongsie” (holding company) to do so.
The fortunes of life are uncertain. If you have extra money and your good friend is in need, lend him the money, but do not make "guarantees" for him. Along this same line, teach your children the value of money. Allow them to learn to help themselves to earn their own keep. Do not provide more than what is necessary for them. Instill in them the values of diligence, sincerity and perserverance...
...Above all be grateful to your parents and ancestors for all that you have. I would not want you to be complaining about what you do not have, like a weak person looking for excuses to continue to loaf. Work with what you have and when you have made enough, work to give it back to the society and country that gave it to you.
Good luck and have fun,
May 1991, Bangkok