The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, Thailand

Today I’d like to take you on a photographic journey to the Sanctuary of Truth (ปราสาทสัจธรรม) which is a temple construction in Pattaya, Thailand. The Sanctuary is also known as Wang Boran and Prasat Mai.

The Sanctuary of Truth

Entrance to the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, Thailand

Entrance to the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, Thailand*

The special characterisitc of this temple is that it is completely constructed from wood. Thus, it is a great example of the art of Thai woodcarving. The sanctuary harbours numerous wooden scupltures from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.

The Sanctuary of Truth is an amazing example of Thai woodcarving

The Sanctuary of Truth is an amazing example of Thai woodcarving*

However, in the top of the building, which is 105 meters high, there are also pieces of modern visionary art exhibited. In 1981, the temple complex was initiated by Lek Viriyaphant who is also the founder of the Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan. Actually, the Sanctuary of Truth is not completed yet and the year for its completion is supposed to be in 2050.

Wang Boran, the Sanctuary of Truth, hall with royal images

Wang Boran, the Sanctuary of Truth, hall with royal images*

The temple construction is a unique and fine example of Thai architecture and it is also reminiscent of ancient Khmer buildings. There are four monumental towers representing images from the Buddhist and Hindu religions and mythologies of Asian countries like Cambodia, China, India and Thailand. Hence, the Sanctuary honours the ancient civilizations of Southeast Asia and their accomplishments.

The construction of Wang Boran is reminiscent of Khmer architecture

The construction of Wang Boran is reminiscent of Khmer architecture*

Therefore, the Sanctuary of Truth also gives credit to the seven creators which are of vital importance to man because without them, he cannot exist. These creators are Heaven, Earth, Father, Mother, Moon, Sun and the Stars. Thus, the purpose of this temple complex is to use art and culture in order to reflect Eastern philosophy and the ancient knowledge and vision of Southeast Asia. Visitors are invited to take a glimpse at and experience ancient knowledge, the connectedness of all beings and the cycle of life.

Prasert Mai, Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya

Prasart Mai, Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya*

The Sanctuary of Truth is divided into different halls. Hence, the 1st hall is about the origin and stands for the earth, the four elements and the universe. According to Hindu belief, Shiva is the God of Earth and Fire (beginning and end), Vishnu is the God of Water and thus the preserver of life, while Brahma is the God of the Wind and thus the creator. Trimurati is the God of the Universe and the universal aspect.

Wang Boran stands for stands for the earth, the four elements and the universe

Wang Boran stands for the earth, the four elements and the universe*

The 2dn hall represents the sun, moon and stars and thus symbolizes the created environment. The sun, moon and stars are also creators because without the sun there would neither be day nor night. The moon causes tideing and the stars are the reason for every cause. Hence, everything and even the creators are interconnected.

Sanctuary of Truth, everything is interconnected even the creators

Sanctuary of Truth, everything is interconnected even the creators*

The 3rd hall represents Parental Love which also stands for unconditional love, starting a family, tranquility and peace. In this way, the hall also represents father and mother who are givers. They do not ask anything in return for their love and the receivers, the children, are grateful and pay respect to their parents. The 4th hall stands for the world supporter and thus for the Bodhisattva who is the Buddha. His attributes are love, compassion, selflessness and service to others. What is more, this is also the basis for all religions.

Bodhisattva, his attributes are love, compassion, selflessness and service to others

Bodhisattva, his attributes are love, compassion, selflessness and service to others*

Finally, the Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men. It means that human beings can understand the wheel of life and overcome suffering in order to reach Nirvana.

Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men

The Centre Hall stands for the four noble truths that the Buddha has preached to all men*

Hence, the four spires on the top roof represent the four elements: there is a female celestial being holding a book representing the continuation of philosophy and morality. The other female celestial that holds a pidgeon in her hand stands for peace. The male celestial with a lotus flower represents the establishment and continuation of religion. Finally, the celestial holding the hand of a child and leading the elderly represents life.

The Sanctuary of Truth, the four spires on the top roof represent the four elements

The Sanctuary of Truth, the four spires on the top roof represent the four elements*

Summing up, we may say that the Sanctuary of Truth is an amazing temple construction and a stunning example of Thai woodcarving that captures the ancient vision of the earth. I really recommend a visit to this place 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*all photos in this post by Amporn Konglapumnuay




Thai Art & Illustrations by Yasaman Haghighat

The language of creativity has always been my strongest point and I want to be able to express my stories, my background, my fears and my happiness through the language of Art (Yasaman Haghighat)

Yasaman Haghighat is a 27 year-old Thai-Iranian artist born and raised in England. Since her childhood, she has been artistic and very much interested in mythical creatures and fantasy worlds. Hence, her art works are very much inspired by her interest in mythology.

Thai Art by Yasaman Haghighat

Ramakien character Hanuman by Yasaman Haghighat

Ramakien character Hanuman by Yasaman Haghighat

Yas studied English and Theatre.  Thus, she spent most of her time with theatrical societies sewing costumes, painting set and designing marketing and publicity. However, Yas is also an English teacher. Hence, after working in an international school, she went back to her roots and moved to Thailand for three years, where she was a primary school teacher in her home town of Chanthaburi.

Fan with peacock illustration by Yasaman Haghighat

Fan with peacock illustration by Yasaman Haghighat

With her younger students, she did a lot of arts and crafts. For instance, she taught them how to sew, how to create shadow puppets, making art from recycling, drawing still life, fashion shows and much more. While she was in Thailand, she spent a lot of time around temples with her family, who are very traditional Thai. Her grandparents told her many mythological stories from Thailand, which were very inspiring to her.

Buddha illustration by Yasaman Haghighat

Buddha illustration by Yasaman Haghighat

What is more, when her mother bought her a set of Ramayana books, Yas was captivated by all the amazing characters in it. In addition, she saw some Thai dance and the marvellous costumes stuck with her.

Kinnari by Yasaman Haghighat

Kinnari, the half-bird half-human divine musician by Yasaman Haghighat

Yas’ heritage is a Thai mother and an Iranian father – both cultures are full of rich history and mythology. Hence, Yas loves mythology because of all the beautiful morals and ethics they imply. She likes how you can learn the values of a society from reading their ancient stories. That is to say, you can learn about their traditions and honours from a simple nursery rhyme, or a story!

Elephant by Yasaman Haghighat

Colourful elephant by Yasaman Haghighat

Naga, the mythical snake by Yasaman Haghighat naga

Naga, the mythical snake by Yasaman Haghighat

Thus, her main inspiration is story telling which is an important tradition in every culture; Yas has grown up with stories from England, Iran and Thailand. Thus, she likes to spread her mix of culture through her art which is her way of story telling.

Furniture Coffee Table by Yasaman Haghighat

Furniture coffee table by Yasaman Haghighat

Side table with elephant painting by Yasaman Haghighat

Side table with elephant painting by Yasaman Haghighat

Since returning to England this year, she has been slowly working on her art – She hand draws illustrations for greeting cards as well as hand painting fans, furniture and household items such as bowls or coffee coasters.

Coffee coasters by Yasaman Haghighat

Coffee coasters ‘Fruits’ by Yasaman Haghighat

Coasters with elephant painting by Yasaman Haghighat

Coasters with elephant painting by Yasaman Haghighat

Finally, Yasaman Haghighat will be exhibiting her art works in Bristol at the Totterdown Arts Trail. This will be from 20th -22nd November 2015. For more information, please check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/yas.haghighat/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/yas_haghighat

Yours, Sirinya




MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok

MOCA is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok. It is located in 499 Kamphaengphet 6 Rd., Ladyao, Chatuchak. This museum is a special, serene place and definitely worth a visit if you are in Bangkok. The MOCA is supposed to provide a solid platform in building “Art Society” in Thailand thus encouraging newcomer in various branches of arts. This is the museum’s vision.

MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art

MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok*

At the MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok*

This museum was established by Mr. Boonchai Bencharongkul in honour of Prof. Silpa Bhirasri (Corrado Feroci) who is considered the ‘Father of Thai Contemporary Arts’. What is more, the MOCA is also supposed to appreciate the great favour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

An artist at work - preserving the essence of Thainess at MOCA*

An artist at work – preserving the essence of Thainess at MOCA*

The Italian-born Prof. Silpa Bhirasri (1892-1963) worked mainly in Thailand and was ground-breaking in establishing modern art in Thailand. In addition, he was instrumental in founding Silpakorn University. In accordance with Prof. Bhirasri’s vision, the MOCA wants to protect and maintain Thai art and culture in order to preseve the esscence of Thainess for future generations. In this way, the art collections should reflect the basis of Thai culture.

An artful sculpture of Ganesha (Phra Pikanet) a Hindu God in Thai culture*

An artful sculpture of Ganesha (Phra Pikanet) a Hindu God in Thai culture*

Hence, the museum’s mission is to give Thai people and foreigners the opportunity to admire and appreciate Thai art and artists. In particular, Thai people of the younger generation should be strengthened in their love for the uniqueness of Thai culture. Thus, they can learn a lot about the artists’ inspirations and methods of creation in the museum.

These sculptures remind me of Thai court dolls, preserving Thai culture*

These sculptures remind me of Thai court dolls, strengthening Thai people’s love for  Thai culture at the MOCA*

The MOCA has five sections displayed on five different floors. Hence, the 1st floor has two halls in which the works of Prof. Chalood Nimsamer and Paitun Muangsomboon are displayed respectively. Both are National Artists of Sculpture.

Unusual sculptures and works of art*

Unusual sculptures and works of art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok*

On the 2nd floor you find contemporary art of different themes and concepts such as social knowledge and Buddhism while on the 3rd floor there are creations displaying imagination in Thai contemporay art. For instance, there are works of the famous Thai National Artist Chakrabhand Posayakrit.

Displaying social knowledge and Buddhism in art, exhibition at MOCA*

Displaying social knowledge and Buddhism in art, exhibition at MOCA*

The 4th floor harbours works of one of my favourite Thai artists – Thawan Duchanee. He is also a famous and remarkable National Artist in Thailand and is considered a modern Buddhist artist. What is more, the highlights on this floor are three gigantic contemporary paintings called “The Three Kingdoms-Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell” created by the artists Sompop Budtarad, Panya Wijinthanasan and Prateep Kochbua.

The works of Thawan Duchanee. modern Buddhist artist*

The works of Thawan Duchanee. modern Buddhist artist*

The Three Kingdoms-Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell”*

The Three Kingdoms-Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell at the MOCA*

Last but not least, the 5th floor is about international contemporary art and there are also paintings from the 19th century Romantic period of Queen Victoria.

International art at the MOCA*

International and Thai art at the MOCA attracts many foreign visitors*

Finally, we may say that the MOCA – Museum of Contemporay Art in Bangkok is a remarkable place created to preserve the display the essence of Thainess, Thai culture and art. Fore more information, I recommend you check out the museum’s website.

Yours, Sirinya

*all photos in this post, credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66




Phuang Malai: Thai Floral Garlands

One of the most beautiful and artful things in Thailand is the Phuang Malai (พวงมาลัย). This is the Thai traditional garland which is the most common of all the country’s floral creations. These traditional garlands range from simple to highly complex arrangements and are placed as offerings on shrines, temples or are given to special guests as a sign of respect. What is more, the Malai is also frequently used on auspicious occasions.

Phuang Malai

Phuang malai garlands being constructed in Pak Khlong Talat flower market, Bangkok (photo: Irene2005, wikimedia.org)

Phuang Malai garlands being constructed in Pak Khlong Talat flower market, Bangkok (photo: Irene2005, wikimedia.org)

The Thai garlands are created by stringing various flower combinations together that depends on seasonal blooms and on the artist’s imagination. The mixture usually includes one or more fragrant flowers like jasmine and rose buds.

Thai garlands at Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

Thai garlands at Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

It is said that the first recordings of this kind of Thai floral art dates back to the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). He mentioned fresh flower garlands in his work about the “Royal ceremony in 12 months”. Later in the Rattanakosin Era, the Thai flower garland became an important ornamental ceremonial object on special occasions.

Worshipped elephant at Wat Kham Chanot near Ban Dung, Thailand (photo: Mattes, wikimedia.org)

Worshipped elephant at Wat Kham Chanot near Ban Dung, Thailand (photo: Mattes, wikimedia.org)

There are different kinds of Malai pattern. For example, there is ‘Creature Malai’ which means that the floral arrangement has the shape of an animal. Then there is the ‘Chained Malai’ which is made from rounded Malais connected to form a chain and similarly, there is the ‘Braided Malai’ which means that two rounded garlands are connected and decorated with a pine-shaped malai on each end.

A Malai (photo: Garland in Thai culture, FB page

An artful Malai (photo: Garland in Thai culture, FB page)

In the ‘Vine Malai’ the garlands are arranged in a vine shape. A garland is a ‘Laced Malai’ when silver and golden threaths are inserted inside and outside the wreath. A special Malai is the orchid one which means that only orchids are used to create the garland.

Thailand Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat flower market (photo: ovedc, wikimedia.org)

Floral arrangements at Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat flower market (photo: ovedc, wikimedia.org)

In Thai culture, the Malai is commonly used as an offering, a gift or souvernir. Thus, we can generally distinguish between three main uses of these garlands which are Malai chai deaw (มาลัยชายเดียว), an offering to show respect at a shrine or temple, for instance. Then there is Malai song chai (มาลัยสองชาย), this is when a traditional Thai garland is given to and draped around the neck of a person to emphasize the importance of that person.

Pak Khlong Talat - flowers and vegetables market, nightime, Bangkok (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

Pak Khlong Talat – flowers and vegetables market, nightime, Bangkok (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

Finally, there is also the Malai chum rui (มาลัยชำร่วย) which is a souvenir malai. This is a small garland given to people as a souvenir. Thus, Malai chum rui may be compared to the lei in Hawaiian culture. Today, the Malai may also be a fashionable accessory (though many Thai people dissapprove of it). For instance, Thai fashion designer Rotsaniyom use small floral garlands for shoe decoration.

The Rotsaniyom Malai collection uses traditional Thai flower garlands as shoe decoration

The Rotsaniyom Malai collection uses traditional Thai flower garlands as shoe decoration (photo: Rotsaniyom, FB page)

At the Bangkok International Fashion Week 2015, I also spotted some interesting and edgy interpreations of the Thai floral garland. Caption this.

Edgy incoporation of the phuang malai at the BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Edgy incoporation of the phuang malai at the BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

A hairstyle and face decoration inspired by Thai floral garlands, BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

A hairstyle and face decoration inspired by Thai floral garlands, BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Phuang Malai as an edgy fashion accessory BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Phuang Malai as an edgy fashion accessory BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Summing up, we may say that Phuang Malai has various forms and functions in Thai culture. In my opinion, it is the most versatile, elaborate and amazing Thai art form. Hence, next time you’re in Thailand, get yourself some nice flower wreaths 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

You may certainly have noticed that Hindu gods are very prominent in Thai culture. Thus, there are often images of these gods in Thai temples and shrines. In fact, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three most important Hindu gods representing the recurring and continual cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

This trinity, along with the god Indra, Ganesha and some enlightened divinities and demons, have been converted to the Buddhist doctrine according to Buddhist belief. Hence, these gods often occur as guardians of temples and monasteries. In addition, they may also be seen attending the Buddha on important events in his life.

Brahma, Hindu gods (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Brahma, Hindu gods at the Ancient City, Samut Prakan (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

First there is Brahma (in Thai: Phra Phrom) who is the creator in the Hindu trinity. He is commonly depicted having four heads and the book of Vedas in his hand. His female aspect is the goddess of learning, Sarasvadi and his mount is the mythical celestial swan called Hong or Hamsa. Brahma is considered a guard of doors and pediments in temples. Furthermore, he is also popular as a protector of Thai hotels. Thus, in Thai culture, he is a deity of good fortune and protection.

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

In Thai art, Brahma is depicted in attendance to Buddhism along with Indra, at the crucial events in Buddha’s life. Hence, he is also considered to be converted to Buddhism. By the way, Hindu gods might also be the subject of one or the other Thai song. For instance, Noi (Krissada Sukosol), singer of the band Pru, featured a song called ‘Brahma Brahma’. I think this song is from the horror movie ‘Pawn Shop’ (Long Jamnam, 2013).

Another important god is Vishnu who is the preserver deity of the Hindu triad. In his hand, he often holds a disk and a conch shell. His mount is Garuda, the mythical bird that is half-human and half-eagle and the natural enemy of the Nagas. In other words, Garuda can be seen as the vehicle of Vishnu. What is more, Vishnu’s avatar is Rama, the hero of the Ramakien tale. In addition, this god is also associated with Thai royalty since the kings of the Chakkri dynasty have ‘Rama’ as part of their names. Similar to Brahma, Vishnu often functions as a (door) Wat guardian.

หน้าบันรูปพระนารายณ์ Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: กสิณธร ราชโอรส, wikimedia.org)

Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

Shiva is the destroyer and regenerator aspect of the Hindu trinity. He usually has a third eye that is centred vertically on his forehead. Further characteristics are a brahmanical cord across his torso and sometimes a crescent moon which is caught in his tangled hair. Parvati is his consort and his mount is the bull Nandi.

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

The image of Ganesha (in Thai: Phra Pikanet) is also very prominent in Thai culture. For example, there is the Ganesha park in Nakhon Nayok which is considered a tribute to this elephant-headed god who is Shiva’s son. In Thailand, he is commonly seated at temple portals. What is more, he is also the patron of the arts and a protector of business.

Ganesha (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Ganesha at the same-named park in Nakhon Nayok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Finally, we have the god Indra who is the god of Tavatimsa heaven. Hence, he is also the god of weather and war wielding a lightening bolt and riding Erawan, the multi-headed elephant. Indra is a temple guardian of portals and pediments. He is also prominent in the Vessantara story which is the last life of the Buddha-to-be. In addition, Indra occurs on mural paintings where he can be identified by his green colour. Along with Brahma, he is kneeling when attending Buddha during particular life events. Thus, it is indicated that the Hindu gods are subservient to Buddhism.

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we may claim that Hindu gods play a significant role in Thai culture. As a matter of fact, they not only show that Buddhism and Hinduism are intertwined but also represent a subservience of Hinduism to Buddhism. In this context, you might also want to check out my Thai Art Motifs Glossary for more general information 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Carol Stratton, What’s What In A Wat, Silkworm Books, 2010)




The Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan

The Erawan Museum is located on Sukhumvit Road in Samut Prakan province, south of Klong Samrong, Thailand. In fact, it is a museum and a temple combined created by Khun Lek Viriyapant (1914-2000) who is also the architect of the Ancient City (Mueang Boran). Thus, it can be considered a place preserving Thai heritage through visual arts and religion. In addition, the museum is surrounded by an amazing tropical garden including some unique Thai sculptures.

The Erawan Museum

The Erawan Museum*

The Erawan Museum*

Even though this place is outside Bangkok, it is merely a few kilometres away from Bang Na BTS station. This museum is famous for its gigantic three-headed elephant which is 43,6 metres high and weights around 250 tons. There are Hindu gods in Thai culture and Erawan is the vehicle of Indra, the god of Tavatimsa heaven which is located on top of Mount Meru in Buddhist cosmology.

Upstairs to heaven*

Upstairs to heaven*

In fact, the inside of the museum is constructed to represent the Hindu image of the universe. Hence, there is the underworld (1st floor), earth or human world (2nd floor), and heaven (top floor). The latter is located in the elephant’s belly whereas the other two are inside the pedestal.

The pedestal, caption the beautiful colours*

The pedestal, caption the beautiful colours*

The first floor or the basement section, which is supposed to stand for the underworld, contains a private collection of ceramics and art belonging to the museum owner Lek Viriyapant. Hence, there is a great collection of Chinese vases from the Ming and Qinq dynasties and a history and overview of the museum’s construction in the form of photographs and wall placards.

Statue and Chinese vases*

Statue and Chinese vases*

In the second floor that represents the earth, there are precious arts and antiques stored. Among the collector pieces there are also European ceramics. What is more, there is Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess with a thousand arms, who is the female representation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion. This floor includes also the area around the rounded staircase and the stuccowork.

The intricate staircase*

The intricate staircase*

Indeed, the cream and blue colours are reminiscent of an Italian or more specifically, a Venetian design 🙂 This impression is reinforced by the stunning rounded stained glass window which was created by the German artist and glass painter Jakob Schwarzkopf (1926-2001).

The glass window reminscent of an Italian design*

The glass window is reminiscent of an Italian design*

The top floor representing the Tavatimsa heaven is rather cool, dark and cave-like. There is a Buddhist shrine which reaches towards heaven, some Buddha relics and old Buddha images from different eras like Ayutthaya, Lanna, Lopburi and Rattanakosin. There are paintings on the wall depicting the cosmos which were also designed by the German artist Schwarzkopf.

The Buddha shrine on the top floor*

The Buddha shrine on the top floor*

I think this is an amazing but also versatile place. Hence, apart from the museum, you can also enjoy a stroll around the marvellous tropical garden.

The tropical garden at the museum*

The tropical garden at the museum*

Summing up, we can say that the Erawan Museum with its three-headed elephant is one of the most unique and awesome places to visit near Bangkok.

Yours, Sirinya

(*photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)




Baan Bat – Bangkok’s Monk Bowl Village

Baan Bat (‘Home of the Bat’) is a temple supply neighbourhood loacted near Wat Saket on Soi Baan Bat alley in Bangkok. In this community, craftsmen have created alms bowls for monks, which are called ‘bat’ (บาตร) in Thai, since the 1700s. Baan Bat is probably the last village established in the 18th century by King Rama I to create these kinds of bowls. It is said that the community originally fled from war in Ayutthaya to find harbour in Bangkok.

Baan Bat

Monk's bowl village in Bangkok*

Monk’s bowl village in Bangkok*

In a daily rituals, Buddhist monks walk along the Sois to collect donations of food (alms). Hence, they carry large bowls, the ‘bat’, with them so that the faithful can give them food and other items sustaining their life in the monasteries. The monk’s bowl village is considered to be the last community of this kind in Thailand. Today, the bowls are almost solely produced in factories. Hence, the majority of communities producing these alms bowls are already extinct.

Materials used for producing alms bowls*

Materials used for producing alms bowls*

The handcrafted bowls are amazing and it takes fine skills and craftsmanship to produce them. Hence, using traditional methods, it takes approximately two days to create a bat. Each bowl is assembled from eight strips of metal which are supposed to represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path which should lead to cessation of suffering and eventually to self-awakening.

Craftsman at work in Baan Bat*

Craftsman at work in Baan Bat*

In a first step to produce a bowl, the eight metal strips are fired for six hours and then hammered into a curve. They are then overlaid like spokes and soldered together.

A craftsman hammering a metal stripe into a curve*

A craftsman hammering a metal stripe into a curve*

In the final step, the surface of the bowl is polished and lacquered until it shines. Each step takes place at a different house along the small alleyway where the few remaining families live. Making an alms bowl requires muscular strength and it is a hard job. A new bowl may weight up to two kilos.

Creating a bowl by hand*

Creating a bowl by hand*

The Baan Bat community creates around 50 bowls per month and they also produce small souvenir bowls for tourists. Hence, their offer ranges from three-inch souvenir sizes to nine-inch stainless steel bowls. There are three common shapes which are called ‘look jaan’ (a Thai fruit), manao (lime), and hua sara (Tiger’s Head).

Different shapes of bowls*

Different shapes of handmade bowls*

It seems that the Tiger’s Head bowl is the most popular style and the most expensive. Hence, a stainless steel one sells for about 3,000 Baht. This kind of bowl is also the most robust since its inside is protected with clear gloss varnish. In comparison, the ‘look jaan’ bowl is made of a thinner white metal. Hence, it is more lightweight and the form seems to be more squat than tall. What is more, it does not have the thick protective top rim. For this reason, a bowl of this style is cheaper than the Tiger’s Head. The price for a ‘look jaan’ is about 1,400 Baht.

The finished products, fine handcrafted bowls*

The finished products, fine handcrafted bowls*

The standard monk’s bowl is eight-and-a-half inches across the top. It is made of white metal and the seams are joined with copper. The bowl may be blackened to protect it from rusting. Hence, the bowl can be put in fire for several hours. Usually, the monks take an unfinished bowl and blacken it in the temple’s fire.

Blackening the bowls*

Lacquering  the bowls*

The place is open from Monday to Friday (10.00-20.00) daily and the admission is free. For all those interested in the production process and for more detailed information, it is possible to arrange a viewing in advance.

The working process*

The working process*

Summing up, we may claim that Baan Bat offers an important insight into Thailand’s history and cultural tradition. Nonethelss, the village is probably the last of its kind in Thailand. However, the bowls they produce there are very durable and supply all Thai monks. Hence, for all those interested in traditional Thai craftsmanship, this is the place for you 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66




Woodcarving – A Famous Thai Art Form

Woodcarving can be regarded as a characteristic decorative Thai art form. It reflects the fertility and vitality of nature in technique and subject matter. Wood has been primarily used for furniture and religious objects, and thus not so much for creating Buddha statues. Hence, woodcarvers have sought their inspiration primarily in nature and mythology since they have been free of restrictive iconography.

Thai Woodcarving

Carved facade at Thawan Duchanee's Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

Carved wooden facade at Thawan Duchanee’s Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

Woodcarvers have employed a composite technique that allowed them to carve single parts of a work separately and later assemble them. Thus, the art work appears spontaneous and effortless, hence paralleling the creativity of nature.

In tropical countries like Thailand, wood is an abundant material that is also considered to have a kind of spiritual quality. Therefore, trees are considered to house spirits. Among these spirits, the most well-known to Thai people are Phra Sai (the spirit of the banyan tree) and Phrase Pho (the spirit of the pipal tree). These are frequently mentioned in Thai literature and are included in the group of heavenly spirits. The other two famous spirits are Nang Tani (the woman spirit of the banana tree) and Nan Takian who is the female spirit of the hopea tree. Nevertheless, teak wood is preferred to other wooden material because it is easy to carve and relatively resistant to the elements and insects.

Large Carving on Wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bikkhu)

Thai woodcarving from the most recent past: large carving on wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

The earliest Thai woodcarving pieces date from the 16th century. The high-point of this Thai art form is found in images of lesser religious figures which date from the late Ayutthaya period, i.e. the 17th to early 18th century. For instance, the collection of the National Museum in Bangkok includes such fine pieces like the mythical dancer and celestial swan Kinnari (in Thai: กินรี).

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

The Kinnari is a mythological figure, an inhabitant of the Himaphan (Himalaya) forest, that is half-human and half-swan. It is a symbol of feminine beauty, grace and cultural accomplishment. The Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok is 110cm high and dates from the 17th to early 18th century. Its tail is in a stylized design which is called ‘kranok’. It is often found in Thai art.

Peaceful head wood carving by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

‘Peaceful head’ by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

In fact, there had been a rich developing tradition of woodcarving in Thailand over prior centuries. However, earlier works, before the 17th century, did not survive. Nonetheless, this amazing workmanship continued into the early Bangkok period. Nevertheless, in the most recent past, Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee also created stunning wall and façade carvings at Baan Dam, the Black House Museum in Chiang Rai.

Even today, woodcarving is a prominent art in Thailand. Thus, the finest wood sculptures have been closely associated with architecture, animals being a favourite subject. You can buy objects carved from wood at special markets like the cultural and craftsman’s market in Chiang Mai. The following video shows you which kind of objects are created and available at these markets. In addition, it also relates something about the history of this art form (in Thai).

By the way, there is also a new privately-owned museum named Woodland in Nakhom Pathom Province. The presentation is about a fantasy land and Grandfather Teak who relates the story of the woodmen in thousands of elaborate woodcarvings. These sculptures are from a collection owned by Narong Thewphaingarm and his father. There are three areas in the exhibition: firstly, the Story of Woodland, with over 5,000 wooden objects, secondly, Woodland Village where you find restaurants and souvenir shops, and thirdly, the Resort, which is the former residence of the owner’s family.

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Finally, we may say that Thai woodcarving has a great tradition in Thailand. It is a very elaborate, amazing and stunning craft that requires a lot of skill by the craftsman.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Treasures from The National Museum Bangkok, Selected by The National Museum Volunteers Group, 4th reprint 2006)




Media Review: Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist

Today’s media review is about Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist by Russell Marcus (ISBN: 9786162150562). This book was published in 2013 by Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The book is in English language, comprises 168 pages and is available as print version and e-formats (iBooks, Kindle, Google Books and Kobo). It costs 595 Bath; on Amazon the print version is about 18 EUR. You may take a look inside the book here.

Thawan Duchanee: Modern Buddhist Artist

This book is a comprehensive work about Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee. It is structured in five main sections, namely ‘Paintings’, ‘Buildings’, ‘Artistry’, ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Life’. Hence, the author focusses on different aspects of Thawan’s art reflecting Buddhist philosophy and portraying Buddhism in a subtle manner.

The first section about ‘Paintings’ is subdivided into four chapters which deal with the dangers of doubt, lust, fear, and lack of concentration. What is more, Marcus points out that man’s pursuit of pleasure and escape from and avoidance of pain is primary subject of Thawan’s paintings. In addition, the work argues that virtues are exemplified in the previous lives of the Buddha. Thus, the first chapter is about the Dhammapada showing us how Buddhist teachings are reflected in the artist’s works. The next chapter, the Battle of Mara, deals with Buddha’s fight to reach enlightenment. The third part is thus concerned with the Last Ten Lives of the Buddha. These are moral tales illustrating the Buddha’s ten characteristic virtues. The fourth chapter of this section is about Seeing What Is Visible meaning to look beyond literal interpretations of Thawan’s work.

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit: chiangraitimes.com)

Thawan Duchanee (photo credit: chiangraitimes.com)

The second section of the book is concerned with ‘Buildings’ created by the artist. This is mainly about Thawan’s outstanding architectural and decorative achievements in Chiang Rai and Germany. Hence, the fifth chapter of this work deals with the Buddhist Meditation Room and the artist’s paintings from the Buddhist meditation centre of a German castle. Finally, the following chapter is about Thawan’s greatest achievement, namely the Black House Museum village in Chiang Rai (The Biggest Work of the Painter Is Not a Painting).

The next section ‘Artistry’ is about Thawan’s mastery of a wide range of styles, techniques and media. Thus, the fourth section ‘Philosophy’ lists what the artist said about his own work, including his concerns and passions regarding art, artworks and his own unique way and style. The final section ‘Life’ is Thawan’s biography.

In my view, this book is a very comprehensive and detailed work about Thawan’s different art forms. In particular, I welcome that there are more than 100 colour and black-and-white images that serve to illustrate the diversity and versatility of the artist’s work. In addition, I very much appreciate that the book offers deep insights into Thawan’s creative genius and also explores his philosophical backdrop.

Finally, I can highly recommend Thawan Duchanee, Modern Buddhist Artist. Particularly to everyone who is interested in the versatility of Thai and Buddhist art.

Yours, Sirinya




Mythical Creatures in Thai Culture

If you’ve been to Thailand, you’ve probably come across some representations of mythical creatures in Thai temples. These beings are said to be living in the Himaphan Forest on the mythical Mount Meru which is considered the centre of the Buddhist and Hindu cosmos. For instance, there is the mythical snake, the lion, crocodile and swan.

Thai Mythical Creatues

Naga, the Mythical Snake

Naga the semi-divine snake (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan)

Naga the semi-divine snake (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan)

The Naga is a semi-divine serpent who is a Wat guardian. As a being of the waters and the underworld, the snake is used as a decoration on barge boards, eave brackets, windows, doors, gates and arches. The legends say that Naga can also transform into a human being. In addition, the Naga can control the rain and thus affects the prosperity of a region. Therefore, it also guards the hidden wealth of the earth and protects Buddhism.

Naga-Makara, the Mythical Snake & Crocodile Composite

Naga emerging from mouth of Makara (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan)

Naga emerging from mouth of Makara (photo: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan)

On balustrades, the Naga is often combined with the Makara which is a crocodile-like being. It is interesting to note that the open mouth of the Makara often disgorges the angry Naga. The head of the Makara frequently resembles an elephant trunk while the neck is encircled by three ruffs.

The Mythical Mom, an aquatic being

Mythical creatures, the Mom, an aquatic four legged guardian (photo credit: unseenthailand.org)

Thai mythical creatures, the Mom, an aquatic four legged guardian (photo credit: unseenthailand.org)

Apart from the Naga and Makara there is another similar creature called the Mythical Mom which is a mighty aquatic creature with scales and four legs. This representation can be occasionally spotted at the entrance of temples in Northern Thailand.

Singh, the Mythical Lion

Singh, the mythical lion (photo taken by myself)

Singh, the mythical lion (photo: Sirinya’s Thailand Blog)

Another common guardian is the mythical lion that is referred to as Singh or Singha. This figure usually comes in pairs at the entrance to a temple or another sacred structure. In the Chinese-Thai version, the female lion is on the left side with her cub while the male lion is on the right side having a ball under his paw.

Khochasi, the Mythical Lion & Elephant Composite

Khochasi next to Buddha statue (photo credit: jeffenjane.com)

Khochasi next to a Buddha statue (photo credit: jeffenjane.com)

This creature, the Khochasi, is a composite of a lion with an elephant’s trunk, ears and tusks. It guards sacred places and in particular portals in the North of Thailand.

Hong, the Celestial Swan

Sao Hong, the mythical swan (photo credit: Saad Akhtar, Flickr)

Sao Hong, the mythical swan (photo credit: Saad Akhtar, Flickr)

The Hong (or Hamsa) is a celestial swan with a long and graceful neck, an extended beak, wings, and a gorgeous flowing tail. Many Thais believe that when the lotus-leaf clapper of the bell (that is held on a long string from his beak) is moved by the breeze, prayers are lifted to heaven. The Celestial Swan often occurs on the roof ridges in northern temples.

Kinnara & Kinnari, the Mythical Swan & Divinity Composite

Kinnara at Wat Phra Kaew (photo credit: Michael Janich, wikimedia.org)

Kinnara at Wat Phra Kaew (photo credit: Michael Janich, wikimedia.org)

In the female (Kinnari) and the male (Kinnara) form, this creature is a half celestial dancer and a half celestial swan (hong). They occur in architectural decoration and mural paintings. The female Kinnari symbolizes feminine beauty, grace and cultural accomplishment in singing and dancing. There is also the Shan dance of the Kinnari and Kinnara which is the Thai Yai (Shan) bird dance. The following clip shows you an example of the Kinnari & Kinnara dance.

Garuda, the Mythical Bird

Garuda detail at the Grand Palace in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

Garuda detail at the Grand Palace in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

Garuda is a mythical bird. It is the king of the birds and natural enemy of the Nagas. It has a human body but the wings, legs and beak of a bird. It is the vehicle of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Finally, we can say that Thai mythical creatures show how intricately the strands of Buddhism, Hinduism and animism are intertwined in Thai culture and tradition. What is more, mythical beings are also a popular subject in classical Thai art and painting. For instance, Thai National Artist Chakrabhand Posayakrit created amazing pictures of the Kinnari. In this context, I also suggest you check out my Thai Art Motifs Glossary for more general information, if you like 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Carol Stratton, What’s What In A Wat, Silkworm Books, 2010)