At the time of thinking in learning about Thai history, culture, arts, religious arts and religion it self, there is one quick response: Bangkok. And that is because there is not only an overwhelming number of temples, monuments, palaces which were, and still are, pivotal for the Thai social, political – religious history, but also an important number of museums with extraordinary exhibitions.
Also, we can find cultural groups, as The Siam Society and the National Museum Volunteers ( NMV) or The Thai Textile Society, per example, which organise fantastic activities as lectures, study trips or groups studies. Also, if interested, you could became a guide of the National Museum with only participating of the workshop organised to that end in the National Museum Volunteers organisation. Everybody is able to do it, with only becoming a member. Fantastic.
We only have to travel to Bangkok. Just an hour and half by car or two hours by bus. Opportunities that are very much worth trying, especially if you are really interested in Thai culture, history and religion.
Now, finding places in Pattaya where we could learn about Thai History, Art and culture, it is not such an easy task. A different thing is Bangkok , as we have seen, where there a plenty opportunities. Having said that, we also are very glad to note that, although not so many, we can count with a few of really interesting exceptions, as The Museum of Buddhist Art, the Anek Kusala Sala also known as the Chinese Museum, Khao Chi Chan, or the Buddha Mountain, and a group of temples. Not all is lost.
But before going to Bangkok, we would like to talk a little bit about the Museum of Buddhist Art, one of the most important and impressive private collection of Buddhist Art in Thailand. And it is located in Pattaya, for the joy of us, Pattaya’s residents.
Museum of Buddhist Art Nongprue
The Museum of Buddhist Art, Guan Yin Shrine and the Ganesha temple are projects of the Foundation for the Promotion and Preservation of Thai Arts. These institutions have been originally located at Soi 40 Pattanakara Road, Suanluang district, Bangkok since 2001. Just in case you had been there but wish to pay another visit, well, this extraordinary museum is here now, in our own city.
In 2012 the Foundation decided to move the three institutions and the artifacts, which were registered with the Fine Arts Department, to Nongprue Municipality, in Bang Lamung District, Chonburi province, or , as we call it, Pattaya’s ‘Dark Side’. Easier. These buildings were completed and opened to the public on the 2nd November, 2015. The museum was renamed as Museum of Buddhist Art Nongprue.
As its name says, the main theme of the museum is Buddhist art. Therefore, the various schools of Buddhist art of each historical era are blended with the previous one and added its distinct touch, showing in this way, the art during those transitional periods. Detailed explanations are provided for the Buddha statues, their characteristics, different postures and subtle variations in the fold, texture, ornaments and the way in which Buddha wore the robes.
Roaming the museum, you will find that there is a room reserved for each one of the different Thai and Southeast Asian historical eras: starting with the Ban Chiang art (here we are talking of artefacts from 3,500 to 5,000 years ago) and all through the Dvaravati, Srivijaya, Khemer, Lopburi, Burmese, Lan Na, Lan Xang, Sukhothai, Ayyuthaya, Thonburi eras ending in the Rattanakosin art. But there is more than Buddhist art. You will also find a room reserved for Christianism, a reflection of the religious tolerance in Thai Buddhist society. Just fantastic.
When standing in front of all those extraordinarily – well maintained artifacts, you will be tempted to think that this too much, for a simple – non scholar of Buddhist Art visitant, to grasp it all. Do not worry.
Although the museum is a useful source of knowledge for the scholar of Buddhist art, the casual visitor, as we are, seeking an overview of an important aspect of Thai culture, would find this museum more than interesting and instructive. You will be just glued trying to absorb any and all details of each one and all Buddhist images, figurines and statues that are in exhibition. And there more than 3,000. One visit it is not enough. Far from that.
It is a different way of learning about Thai culture, religion and arts, and what is more important, you don’t have to travel all the way to Bangkok. Is it not just fantastic to have this opportunity here, in our own city?. Yes, as we like to say, Pattaya has much more than bars and nightlife to offer. This is proof enough.
If Only I’d known…
- It is a great idea to call or send a note to the museum in advance so they will be waiting for you.
- In this way, you will enjoy the information given by a fantastic – enthusiastic – knowledgeable guide who will just thrill you with his hearty explanations.
- A visit to this museum is especial for rainy days, or when you have visitors
Now, lets have a quick tour …
Before start our tour , we would like to mention that what you will see in this page is a short summary of each historical period, only for you to have the temporal context in which the Buddha’s statues or artifacts of each room were made. But if you wish to know more details, please, visit our pages:
Pre- Historic Art and Ban Chiang Art Room ( c.1500 BCE-c.200 CE)
According to the information given at the museum generally speaking, Ban Chiang is a representative name of the pre-historic arts found in Thailand and near-by territories. In addition to baked clay or terracotta potteries, weaponries, utensils and ornaments from Middle Ages were also found in Ban Chiang area.
The most famous artifacts found in Ban Chiang were baked clay pottery jars with red patterns resembling river streams flow. In 1966, the University of Pennsylvania dated Ban Chiang artifacts and concluded that Ban Chiang civilisation existed about 5000 years ago and could be classified as follow:
A – Early Period ( 3000 – 5000 years ago) There were 4 categories:
- A 1- Blacken earthenware vessels with rocker- stamping (4500-4600 years old): These clay vessels were black or dark grey in colour due to wind dryness system and were usually decorated with linear, curvilinear or dotted patterns by stamping or making light incisions on the surface.
- A 2- Earthenware baked in open pyre ( 4000-4500 years old): As a result of low technology in controlling fire, the clay was baked unevenly with uneven colour ( usually reddish and blackish colour). These vessels were usually large in size with minimal decorative pattern.
- A 3 – Cylindrical shape earthenware ( 3500 -4000 years old): Usually these vessels were tall with a low footed round base gently tapered sides and found along with sandstone holds for metal casting.
- A 4 – Round shaped earthenware vessels with round cord-marks ( 3000 – 3500 years old): Earthenware vessels in this period were baked more evenly than previous ones and were usually decorated with cord- marks and incised curvilinear patterns filled with red pigment around the neck of the vessels.
B – Middle Period ( 2500-3000 years old) :
Carinated or ellipsoid earthenware vessels with incised designs filled in with white and red pigments were found indicating the evolution of painting skills. The vessels’ shape were similar to those of amphorae ( an ancient Egyptian wine storage container).
The Middle Period Ban Chiang earthenware vessels were created with either spindle-like bottom,for hanging and containing light weight goods, or flat bottom for standing on the floor and containing heavy food stuffs. The Middle Period vessels were of fine and beautiful clay, white colour with red rims.
C – Late Period ( 1800- 2500 years old):
Earthenware vessels during this period evolved more toward free-hand painting with ‘red on bull’ or ‘red – on – orange’ designs with rounder shape than those in previous periods. People in this period knew how to grill and cook their food, as consequence, the vessels were evenly baked. This is the most famous period of Ban Chiang earthenware.
Dvaravati Art room (6th to 11th centuries CE)
Dvaravati art is base on the culture of the Mon people who populated central plain, what it is nowadays called Thailand. The Buddhist art work of this period is highly influenced by the Southern India and Sri Lanka models.
Buddha image ‘s features characteristic of this period:
Ushnisha ( protuberance on the top of Buddha’ head) usually rounded, tending towards a cone. Hair presented in large curls,large face,broad cheekbones. Curved eyebrows, sweeping in a continuous line above the eyes, bulging downcast eyes, broad nose and thick, full lips, gently curved and softly smiling.
Mandalay and Thai Lue Art room:
In this room we can see displayed artifacts of the pre-historical period or Pre- Pagan Period (from c.250 BCE to 1044 CE), Historical Pagan Period to Mandalay Period.
The Pre- Pagan Period, in turn, could be classified in three sub – categories: Ancient Mon art (1st to 12th c CE), Pyu Art( 3rd to 10th c CE) and Arakanese Art (3rd to 10th c CE).
For the Historical period, there were four schools of craftsmanthip: Myanmar, Mon, Arakanese and Thai Yai, or Shan. These schools of art exited between 1044 to 1885.
Myanmar art also can be classified according to major historical styles, which (coincide with each of the last capitals of the kingdom) : Pagan art ( 11th to 14 th c CE); Taungoo art ( 14th to 16th c CE); Ava art (15th to 18th c CE); Amanapura art (18th to 19th c CE) and Mandalay art ( 19th century). Buddha images that were created after 1885 were usually called post – Mandalay art by art historians.
Lan Na Art room
The Lan Na kingdom was established by king Mengrai in Northern Thailand in 1296. Lan Na art is form by the many artistic schools that appeared along its history:
- Pre – Lan Na Kingdom or Chiang Saen art ( 11th to 13th c);
- Pure Lan Na art (13th to 20th c). Now, in turn, Lan Na art can be classified in seven sub categories:
- Nakhon Luang or Chiang Mai School of Craftmaship (13th to 20th c);
- Lan Na – Harinpuchai School of Craftsmanship (14th to 19th c);
- Fang School of Craftsmanship (13th to 18th c);
- Chaiprakan School of Craftsmanship (13th to 18th c);
- Nan School of Craftsmanship (14th to 9th c);
- Kelangnakom School of Craftsmanship (15th to 19th c);
- Payao School of Praftsmanship (14th to 18th c);
- Tai Lu art ( 15th to 20th c), found in the northern region of present – day Thailand. These schools coincide with cities which had played an important role in different historical stages of Lan Na kingdom.
Characteristic features of Buddha’s image of this period:
Conical Ushnisha topped by knob like ‘gem’ or ‘lotus’ finial. Thick, fat curls of hair, hairline dips slightly in the centre of the forehead. Eyebrows arched but usually separated over a straight nose. Some of the images have downcast eyes but some are staring straight ahead. Rounded face with full cheeks, fleshy, but small lips, often pursed, prominent chin.
Lopburi Art (6th to 13th c CE) and Kampuchean Art (6th to 15th; 15th to 20th c CE) room
Lopburi was an important principality on central present days – Thailand during the Khmer empire. At times it experienced periods of independence, but its art form and Buddha images display strong Khmer influence.
Regardless of the heavy influence of Khmer art, there are subtle features that mark a difference between Lopburi and Kamuchean or Khmer arts. In Lopburi art, the Buddha has a tiered Ushnisha, prominent earlobes, and is usually displayed on a lotus petal base. This is only the beginning, listening to the guide al the museum, and you will learn much more.
Characteristic features of Buddha’s image of this period:
Buddha images often display a cranial protuberance in the form of three tiered lotus petals. A hair band is featured, and the hair of the Buddha can be straight like human hair. The head is often decorated with a diadem of face frame. A square face divided into horizontal planes. Almost straight eyebrows, not quite meeting above bridge of nose. Open eyes,rather narrow, but sometimes, are downcast. Thick, straight lips outlined by thin line, prominent earlobes are featured.
A robe is draped diagonally with a straight edged mantle over the left shoulder, extending to the navel. Often the Buddha image is displayed on a lotus petal base. Seated Naga protected Buddha images in the meditation posture are common. Sometimes the Naga protected Buddha appears with Royal ornaments, and has a more stern facial expression.
Regardless of the heavy influence of Khmer art, there are subtle features that mark a difference between Lopburi and Kamuchean or Khmer arts. In Lopburi art, the Buddha has a tiered Ushnisha, not a cone shaped one as in the Khemer art, prominent earlobes, and is usually displayed on a lotus petal base. These are only a few details. listening to the guide at the museum, and you will learn much more.
Sukhothai Art Room ( 12th to 16th c CE)
As happens in Thai chronicles, there are transitional periods between different historical eras but also within the same age.Arts is the best way through which we can see this phenomenon. Sukhothai is a clear example. A short but rich period in Thai history which left extraordinary examples of its sublime art.
So, we can see artifacts from:
- Early Sukhothai Period (12th to 13th c) ;
- the Wat Ta Kaan or Transitional Period (13th to 14th c);
- Pure Sukhothai period (14th to 15th c) to reach the
- Post – Sukhothai Period (15th to 16th c).
But also, besides these four major periods, Sukhothai Art could be classified into three Schools of Craftsmanship :
- The Major or the Nakhon Luang or Capital Style;
- the Kampaengpetch Style and finally,
- the Pitsanulok Style. All these periods and styles with their own characteristics. All just beautiful.
Characteristic features of Buddha’s image of this period:
As you can imagine, we are giving the general characteristic, which in turn, have a differences according to which period or style we are talking about.
We will see that the Ushnisha is rounded topped by a tall flame filial, medium size hair curls, the hairline dips in the centre of the forehead. Oval or egg-shaped head with a oval face, highly arched eyebrows meeting at the bridge of a hooked nose, slightly bulging, downcast eyes, curving up at corners. Lips fairly thin, curving and thinly outlined and a round chin, delineated by a thin line.
Ayutthaya Art Room ( 14th – 18th C)
The art of this epoch has received and absorbed influences of different art as a consequence of the kingdoms that Ayutthaya was conquering, absorbing or just considering them as vassal States all throughout its history. So, its art came along and so, absorbing different influences, enriching its own. As a consequence, Ayutthaya Art could be usually classified as belonging to one of these four periods:
1- U – Thong Style , ( 12th – 15th century CE)
Since U – Thong art inherited and modified Dvaravati, Khmer and Sukhothai traditions, it is generally divided, in turn, into three subgroups: U- Thong I (12th to 13th c): takes from Mon art the Buddha large face, thick lips, and from Khmer, straight eyebrows with natural facial features, hair in tight curls with a band separating hairline from forehead.
U- Thong II or Early Ayutthaya ( 13th to 14th c.): Khmer features , austere square faces, hair in tight curls with a band separating hairline from forehead.
And the third, U-Thong III or also called Early Ayutthaya( 14th to 15th c.): Sukhothai features, dedicated oval face, slim, elegant, supple body; very tiny tight hair curls with band separating hairline from forehead.
2- Ayutthaya Style ( 15th to 18th c.):
Images in this period show a strong Sukhothai influence. These images are distinguished by a lifeless facial expression and more elaborate pedestals.
3- Ayutthaya – Khmer influence ( 14th to 15th c and again in 17th c.) :
The Khmer influence in the early centuries of this period might have come from Lopburi. Later on, when Cambodia became a vassal state of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, the Khmer style was favoured again and sandstone Buddha images became popular. These images are characterised by double lips and a moustache. While some images were decorated with crowns, earrings, necklaces and armlets, worm over simple robes, were also found.
4- Ayutthaya style – late period ( 17th to 18th c.):
During the 17th and 18th centuries as the splendour and wealth of the Ayutthaya court increased, much emphasis was placed on elaborate decoration. Crowned Buddhas were depicted wearing elaborate royal court attire accentuated by fashionable jewels, intricately patterned robes and tall “Thai Style” crowns. The side flanges ( lateral protrusions) on crowns were an Ayutthaya innovation. Many images are seated on high and many – tiered, sumptuously decorated thrones. Characteristic of this period is the Prasat Thong style.
According to the Museum’s guide, a visitor is able to see artifacts from different epochs and places of the vast Ayutthaya kingdom classified according artistic style and the reigning dynasties. So, there are 6 periods: Ayutthaya – U-Thong I (1350 – 1448); Ayutthaya – U- Thong II or transitional Ayutthaya ( 1448 – 1491); Ayutthaya – Suwannaphum ( 1491 – 1569) ; Ayutthaya – Sukhothai (1569 – 1629); Ayutthaya – Prasat Thong (1629 – 1668); Ayutthaya- Ban Phlu Luang ( 1668 – 1767).
After the downfall of Ayutthaya Kingdom, Ayutthaya art kept influencing many artistic styles in Thai states during the Thonburi and Rattanakosin periods.
Thonburi Art (1767 – 1782 ) and Rattanakosin Art (1782 – present) Room
Thonburi Art ( 1767 – 1782 )
The length of Thonburi Kingdom was brief, so was its art, lasting only 15 years. The pedestals of Buddha images from this period had much shorter than those of Ayutthaya period. Another unique attribute created during Thonburi period was Buddha images on royal attire with epaulets on the shoulders ( similar to King Taksin the Great’s wardrobe) and many Buddha images in this style were discovered in Southern Thailand.
Rattanakosin Art (1782 – present):
Buddha images of the Bangkok period varied in presentation according to the reigns of different kings of the Chakri Dynasty. Most of the main Buddha images found in important wats in Bangkok are old ones transferred from other sites. They are largely of Sukhothai Style, but some U-Thong and Ayutthaya influence can be seen.
There were many changes in Rattanakosin Buddha images comparing with the previous artistic styles, especially on the top of Buddha head and the pedestal which were uniquely created in this period.
During the reign of Rama III, per example, fully adorned Buddha images and Buddha wearing floral – design robes appeared for first time. Floral – design robes was an epitome of artistic creation and it was truly unique to Rattanakosin art.
Now, Rattanakosin art can be classified into 5 periods according to the changes due to social norms in practicing Buddhism:
- King Rama I and Rama II ( 1728 – 1824): plain robe and partially adorned Buddha images.
- King Rama III ( 1824-1851): fully adorned Buddha images and floral- design robe. King Rama IV (1851 – 1868): lacking of the Usnishna (protuberance on the top of Buddha’s head ).This correspond to royal school only.
- King Rama V – King Rama VII (1868 – 1946): very low pedestal and pattern ornate robe by stamping technology.
- King Rama IX ( 1946- 2016): adaptation of old styles to create new contemporary styles.
The images that you have seen are only a small, micro part of all you can see and enjoy visiting the Museum of Buddhist Art Nongprue. Incredible. And it is in our city. It is in Pattaya.
For more information, please, visit the museum’ website:
National Museum Volunteers ( NMV)
For all of you who would be interested in this kind of activities, the National Museum Volunteers (NMV) is a non-profit organization, which has served the National Museum Bangkok since 1969. Under the auspices of The Fine Arts Department,the NMV supports the National Museum Bangkok through a variety of educational and cultural activities as excursions and study trips around Bangkok and throughout Thailand. Also, Study Groups, Guiding Workshops, monthly lectures open to the public, giving an excellent opportunity to learn more about Thai history, religion or culture.
So, becoming a member of the NMV, you will get the chance to know first hand when and which activity are being organised, therefore, it is only matter of confirm your attendance and go to Bangkok.
You could find more information visiting the National Museum Volunteers’ website: www.mynmv.com
The Siam Society
The Siam Society under Royal Patronage was founded in 1904 in cooperation with Thai and foreign scholars to promote knowledge of Thailand and its surrounding region.
The Society premises on Asoke Montri Road in Bangkok houses a library that has a unique collection including manuscripts and rare books. Also houses The Kamthieng House, a precious example of northern Thai architecture, a folk museum.
The Siam Society organizes Study trips made to historical sites, cultural events, and nature sites in all corners of Thailand and overseas. Lectures are organized several times a month on a wide range of topics.
The Journal of the Siam Society and the Natural History Bulletin are published annually and distributed free to members. The Society also publishes scholarly books; stages performances of music, dance, and drama; hosts exhibitions and conferences; and is involved in projects of cultural preservation.
An excellent opportunitty to learn more about Thailand’s culture and history. Think about it, Bangkok is just an hour and half driving or two hours by bus, and the advantages of being a member are just worthless.
For more information, please, visit: www.siam-society.org/
The Thai Textile Society
The Thai Textile Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of textiles, with particular emphasis on the textiles of Thailand and Southeast Asia which enjoys and appreciates support from the James H.W. Thompson Foundation.
Based in Bangkok, the Thai Textile Society was founded in 2004 when Kathleen Forance Johnson, wife of former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Darryl Johnson, invited scholars, collectors, and other textile enthusiasts to establish a society dedicated to the study, appreciation, and preservation of the textile arts in the kingdom and the region. An avid weaver and textile collector, Mrs. Johnson envisioned the Society as a forum for textile lovers to exchange ideas and share information and resources.
Since its inaugural meeting in February 2004, the Society has organized regular lectures, trips, and other programs such as its popular Collector’s Corner series.
For more information, please, visit: www.thaitextilesociety.org
Now, with all this information and interest, you could start learning more about Thai history, culture and arts…
We really hope that we have been of some help, and we invite you to share with us any comments or thoughts. Lets keep Linking Pattaya together.