Thai Buddha

Thai Buddha Images
Somkiart Lopetcharat
Art & Antique Centre
River City Shopping Complex
Bangkok, Thailand 2001

+ Dvaravati
+ Srivijaya
+ Khmer influence - Lopburi
+ Sukhothai - Kampaeng Phet
+ Lanna - Chiang Saen
+ Ayutthaya - U Thong
+ Rattanakosin
+ Lan Chang - Laos


Dvaravati Art of Buddha Images

(Circa 6th-11th centuries AD)

The term "Dvaravati" does not only infer to the kingdom, but the culture of living together in the middle of the United Kingdom of the Suwan Bhumi. This culture involves the art of making Buddha images as well.

The United Kingdom of Dvaravati was established due to the fall of the Old Mon, who lived in the south of Burma and the western central region of Thailand. Chinese called this kingdom, "Jin Lin Kingdom". But around the 3rd century AD, this kingdom was under the control of Funan Kingdom ruled by King Funan the Great, the leaders of "Kampuch" or Old Khmer. After the fall of Funan Kingdom, Jin Lin Kingdom became independent and was divided into 2 major groups:

1- The Mon who lives in Burma and

2- The Mon who were the descendants of the Khmer and migrated to the central region of Thailand. They are known as the Mon of "the United Kingdom of Dvaravati".

The Dvaravati art inherited the art of making Buddha images from Kupta and Lung Kupta Arts, Pala Art and the southern arts from India. During the mid period it was influenced by the Anurag Purama Art from Sri Lunka. The Dvaravati Art can be divided into 4 periods:

- Early Dvaravati Art (6th-7th centuries AD)

- Mid Dvaravati Art (7th-9th centuries AD)

- Late Dvaravati Art (10th-11th centuries AD)

- Past Dvaravati Art (11th-12th centuries AD)

The period that is of interest and a factor towards the birth of the Thai Buddha images is the Past Dvaravati. The Bayon Art, a by-product of the political means, had influenced the art in this period. It had an effect on the establishment of U thong Art (the art before the establishment of Ayutthaya Kingdom). Later on the Ayutthaya-U Thong Art had mixed with the Sukhothai Art, giving rise to the Ayutthaya Art and the present day's art-
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Srivijaya Art of Buddha Images

(Circa 7th-14th centuries AD)

Srivijaya is the name for the kindom and art in southern Thailand. In fact around the 7th-14th centuries AD the Srivijaya kingdom had her territory stretching from the central-south of Thailand to the malaya Peninsula, including Sumatra and Java Islands. Howere, after the fall of the Sai Raintara Dynasty, the center of government was shifted to the City of Tam Pornli8nk (Nakhon Si Thammarat). In the 13th-14th centuries AD that the Khmer and Sukhothai Kingdoms governed the Srivijaya Kingdom, it became weakened so that the two island kingdoms as well as the southern part of the Malaya Peninsula had declared their independence. Their Buddhist and Brahman culture had transformed to Islamic culture. Thereafter, these two islands became Indonesia and Malaysia. The reason was that after the 20th century AD several historians and archaeologists including Indonesian archaeologists themselves have admitted that the stone scripture and evidence subsequently found, demonstrating that the Srivijaya Kingdom had her capital at Chaiya District, Surat Thani. These people were the one who invaded the tow island kingdoms. That was the time of prosperity, the Srivijaya Kingdom had expanded her territory as well as the relocation of the principality to Sumatra Island, especially as an instrument state to collect levy for ships passing through the Straits of Malacca. The material growth and development had been transferred to Sumatra Island more than the capital. The capital is like Washington D.C. while Sumatra Island the port city of New York. Thus, the Srivijaya Art also includes the arts demonstrated in southern Thailand and those found in different areas of Sumatra and Java Islands. The Srivijaya Art can be divided into 2 major periods as follows:

The Srivijaya Art before the establishment of the kingdom:

- Srivijaya Art of Indian Civilization (3rd-5th centuries AD)

- Srivijaya Art of Khmer Form I (3rd-7th centuries AD)

The Srivijaya Art after the establishment of the kingdom:

- Srivijaya Art Dvaravati Form (7th-9th centuries AD)

- Srivijaya Art of Indian,Java and Sumatra Forms (8th-13th centuries AD)

- Srivijaya Art of Khmer Form II (12th - 14th centuries AD)

From these factors it can be concluded that the Srivijaya Art after the establishment of the kingdom was like any other arts, i.e. it will turn with the historical wheel. And the art forms are mentioned above. Nevertheless, the most striking art form is the Srivijaya Art of Indian, Java and Sumatra Forms during the 8th-13th centuries AD. Especially in the 10th century AD when the Great King Raja governed the Jola Kingdom, he was in control of all the territories in southern India. He also ruled Sri Lanka and sent the armada to attack the Srivijaya Kingdom and other kingdoms along the shores of the Suwan Bhumi. The Jola Art of southern India had rapidly spread into the Srivijaya Kingdom. The strength of this art form is evident in the sculpture of famous Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in the kingdom. Not too long, however, the Srivijaya Art of Indian, Java and Sumatra Forms had subsided and lost its complexity. The Khmer and Sukhothai people, who were Hinayana Buddhist, later governed the Srivijaya Kingdom and in the 14th century AD the kingdom was annexed as part of Krung Sri Ayutthaya.

Khmer Art: The Lopburi Artisan of Buddha Images

(Circa 6th -14th centuries AD)

Lopburi was formally proclaimed the city status during the reign of King Narai the Great of Krung Sri Ayutthaya round the 17th century "Lavapura". Which was part of the United Kingdom of Dvaravati. The change of the city structure had resulted in that Lopburi was the center of trading for several groups of people. Subsequently the city was taken by the Khmer and the name was changed to "Lava" during the 10th century AD. Thus, the relationship of the art history in this period is as follows:

Early Period: Lavapura of Dvaravati Lpburi (6th -11th centuries AD). Buddha images during this period mainly adhered to the form of Dvaravati Art in combination with indigenous art. The Buddha art in this period is called Buddha images of the Dvaravati Period: Lopburi Artisans.

Late Period: Lavo or Khmer Lopburi (10th-13th centuries AD). This was after Lavapura was under the khmer control during the reign of in this period was a mixture between Khmer and indigenous arts, starting from Krang, Papuan, Nakhon Wat, Bayon and Past Bayon, respectively. This art form received a direct influence from the Khmer but still maintained its local identity. The Khmer Art of the Bayon Period: Lopburi Artisans is a good example. This art is prevalent and can be seen it the north-central region of Thailand.

Transitional Period: This was the time when Lopburi had her independence from the Khmer after the death of King Chaiworaman VII the Great. Lopburi later became the important principality of Ayutthaya Kingdom. This was before the official declaration of Krung Sri Ayutthaya as the Thai Kingdom. The art during this time of political change should be called the Khmer Art of the Past Bayon Period: Lopburi Artisans. This art was subsequently blended with the Past Dvaravati Art of the Supan Bhumi Period or generally known as U Thong Art: Supan Bhumi Artisans. The final result is the "Pure" U Thong Art. This art then transferred to the art of the early Ayutthaya Kingdom. It was circa 13th - 14th centuries AD, and is believed to be the most important period of the evolution of Thai Buddha images.

In summary, the Lopburi Art is only the collective term, which was used for different groups of Khmer Arts, found in the north central of history and art history must be pursued. Only then it can shed light on the true understanding of this art form.

Note: The term "khom" is the collective term for the group of the Aei Lao people, who migrated from China. They were known as "Kampuch or Old Khmer" setting in the upper north region along both sides of the knom Waterway. This waterway had developed into Khon and Khong Rivers, respectively. But the term "Khom" has not appeared or Khmer people "khom" were probably the linguistic inclination that the central Thai people had adopted from the Aei Lao people.

Sukhothai Art of Buddha Images

(Circa 13th-15th centuries AD)

The Sukhothai Art started from the reign of Poh Khun Si Inthrathit, the first king of the Ruang Dynasty. He was instrumental in establishing the Sukhothai Kingdom. The Early Sukhothai Art had received the influence from the Chiang Saen Art, especially the Khmer Art from 1010-1220 AD. Nonetheless, not long after the death of King Chaiworaman VII the Great, the Sukhothai Kingdom declared her independence. The kingdom had adopted the Sri Lanka Art as her contemporary. This was witnessed by the harmony of the Sukhothai Art, the blending among the major mixed Khmer Art of the Bayon Period and the Sri Lanka Art and the indigenous art. The Sukhothai Art can be divided into 3 periods and 3 artisan families. The three periods are the Primary Period (1238-1279 AD), the Transitional Period (1279-1348 AD) and the Pure Period (1348-1439 AD). And the tree artisan families, including the group from Takuan Temple (the Primary and the Transitional Periods in the 13th-14th centuries AD), are:

1- The artisan family from the capital of the major family (14th-15th centuries AD),

2- The artisan family from Kamphaeng Phet (14th-15th centuries AD) and

3- The artisan family from Phitsanulok (14th-15th centuries AD).

The aforementioned three artisan families all have their own uniqueness and character conforming to the archetype of the Sukhothai Art, of which the elegance is second to none. This was before the Sukhothai Kingdom to become part of Krung Sri Ayutthaya in 1439 AD.

Lanna Art

(Circa 13th-20th centuries AD)

The Lanna Art demonstrates the continuation with the art before the Lanna Period or "Chiang Saen". The art in this period started its formation since the time of King Meng Rai the Great, who was the 25th king of the Lao Dynasty in 1261 AD. The city of Nopburi Sri Nakhon Ping Chiang Mai was the capital in 1296 AD. The study in the field of art history reveals that the Lanna Art can be divided into 4 periods. They are 1st Period-the Establishment of the Kingdom (1261-1355 AD), 2nd Period-the Prosperity of the Kingdom (1355-1547 AD), 3rd Period-the Burmese Colonial State (1558-1774 AD) and 4th Period-the Thai Colonial State (1774-1939 AD).

The upper northern area of Thailand is the center of different families of artisans, which has been affected by the political and environmental realms. Thus, the Lanna Art can be divided into the following artisan families:

1- The artisan family from the capital of Chiang Mai (13th-20th centuries AD),

2- The Chiang Saen artisan family of Lanna period(14th-18th centuries AD),

3- The Chai Prakarn and Fang artisan families (15th-18th centuries AD),

4- The Nan artisan family (14th-19th centuries AD),

5- The Haripunchai Artisan family of Lanna period (14th-18th centuries AD),

6- The Phrae and Lampang artisan families (15th -18th centuries AD) and

7- The Phayao artisan family (15th-18th centuries AD),

Therefore, the Lanna Art, the northern art of Thailand, is relatively difficult to classify in comparison with the arts from different smaller kingdoms within the Thai Kingdom.
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Before Ayutthaya And Ayutthaya Arts

(Circa 13th-14th centuries and 14th-18th centuries AD)

The inclusion of U Thong Art of the art before the establishment of Krung Sri Ayutthaya (the mid 13th-14th centuries AD) is of importance to the understanding of the Ayutthaya Art. The U Thong Art is the mixture of the arts from the Past Dvaravati of the Suwan Bhumi artisan family, the Khmer Art of the Past Bayon Period: the Lopburi artisan family and the Ayothaya Art prevalent around Krung Sri Ayutthaya. These three local art forms had been influenced by the Khmer Art of the Bayon Period during the reign of King Chaiworaman VII the Great. And the arts of the tree artisan families emerged during the void of the political power in the area. There was the development and the interchange of the art forms, giving rise to "the Pure U Thong Art". This art form was later passed on to the Early Ayutthaya Art. At first the Ayutthaya Art was developed from the U thong Art. It was then the product of mainly Sukhothai Art as well as subsequently of the Lanna Art. The identity of the Ayutthaya Art was evident in the 16th century AD. The Ayutthaya Art can be divided into 6 categories as follows:

1- Ayutthaya-U Thong I (1350-1448 AD).

2- Ayutthaya-U Thong II (1448-1491 AD).

3- Ayutthaya-Suwna Bhumi (1491-1569 AD).

4- Ayutthaya-Sukhothai (1569-1629 AD).

5- Ayutthaya-Prasat Thong (1629-1688 AD) and

6- Ayutthaya-Baan Plu Luang (1688-1767 AD).

Note: In the beginning the 2nd and 3rd groups above are distinctly separated in to 2 artisan families: the Ayutthaya and Sukhothai artisan families.

Thonburi and Rattanakosin Arts

(1767-1782 AD and 1782 AD-the Present)

The Thonburi Art is the transitional form derived from the Late Ayutthaya Art. This period was short-lived; it lasted for only 15 years. Krung Sri Ayutthaya. After the fall of Krung Sri Ayutthaya, the scarcity of the necessities of life was inevitable. It also had a considerable impact on arts and religion. But the artisans, who followed King Taksin the Great from the old capital, resettled themselves at Baan Chang Loh (the Village of Castors). Presently the making of Buddha images is, to a certain degree, a way of life there. At first the artisans were not meticulous in their works due to fighting that was still going on. However, the meticulousness and elaboration of the art of making Buddha images were resumed when peace had returned to the kingdom nonce more. The skills of the Ayutthaya artisans reemerged but they were also blended with the skills of the new breed of artisans, creating the artistic identity of Thonburi in its own right.

As for the Rattanakosin Art, it has been continuity from the Thonburi period. However, the art of making Buddha images has been developing its identity by concentrating at the base of the Buddha images. This was more prominent in the reign of King Rama III, when there was the creation of the Buddha image wrapped with the robe in specific designs. The art in this era can be divided into 5 periods, reflecting the situation at the time. According to the study of art history, these 5 periods are 1st Period (1782-1824 AD, King Rama I & II), 2nd Period (1824-1851 AD, King Rama III), 3rd Period (1851-1868 AD, King Rama IV), 4th Period (1868-1946 AD, King Rama V-VIII) and 5th Period (1946 AD-the Present).

Lan Chang (Laos) Art

(1358-1893 AD)

The art of making the Lan Chang Buddha images started in mid 14th century AD during the reign of King Fah Ngum the Great. Pra Bang is the prototype of the Buddha form of the Khmer Art after the Bayon Period. But the Buddha image in sitting (meditation) posture is influenced mainly by the Sukhothai, Lanna, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin Arts. The Lan Chang Art is divided into 2 major periods and 65 minor periods as follows:

Early Lan Chang Buddha Art can be divided into 3 periods:

1- Initial period (1358-1456 AD),

2- Mid period (1456-1520 AD) and

3- Final period (1520-1777 AD).

Late Lan Chang Buddha Art can be divided into 2 periods:

4- Initial period (1778-1827 AD) and

5- Final period (1828-1893 AD).

Lan Chang Buddha images were the sculpture of human figure created for Hinayana Buddhism, Lanka branch. This craftsmanship is considered the prominent feature of Lan Chang Kingdom's arts. It emphatically reflects the ideology of the people's freedom.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia 2000

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