New Studies in Buddhist Architecture: Stupas, Monasteries, and Gardens

Wed., Aug. 20th, 09:00-14:30

Reflections on the Chulamani Cetiya in Thai Art

Chirapravati, Pattaratorn (California State University, Sacramento, Davis, California, USA)

This paper examines the history of narratives and physical manifestations of the Chulamani Cetiya. According to Buddhist texts, the Buddha’s hair is said to be housed in the Chulamani Cetiya in Indra’s heaven, Tushita. In Thai art a distinctive type of redented bell-shaped body and superstructure (with square throne element, a spire made up of a tapering stack of lotuses, and a tall finial) became stereotypical of this particular type of stupa in Siam from around the 15th century. Many temples with the name Chulamani were built at important ancient cities such as Ayutthaya, Phitsanulok, Samut Songkhram, and Bangkok. The Chulamani stupa also became popularly depicted on mural paintings, illustrated manuscripts of Phra Malai, and sutra cabinets. In addition, a miniature Chulamani stupa is commonly used as a form of relic casket. From the period of King Borommatri Lokanat of Ayutthaya (1448-1488) to the early Bangkok period (1782-1851), the Chulamani Cetiya was popularly produced. Why was the Chulamani stupa very popular and did it have any special meaning to Siamese rulers and their kingdoms? This paper will investigate historical documents, structures, and religious purposes of the Chulamani Cetiya.


Chak Ma Chom Muang (“A City Sojourn on a Horse Back”): A Visit to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Chongstitvatana, Suchitra (Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, THA)

This paper is an attempt to explore the significance of the description of ‘temple’ in Thai literature focusing on a text of modern poetry by Naowarat Pongpaiboon, Chak Ma Chom Muang (“A city sojourn on a horse back”).

The temple described in the text is the temple of the Emerald Buddha, one of the most important royal temples in the country. It is found that the poet is harmonizing various conventions of Thai poetry in this text. The description of the temple and its garden is a well balanced mixture of modernity and convention. The text reflects an image of a great temple as well as Buddhist philosophy through the arts and architecture of this temple, which could be regarded both as a center of sacredness and the power of arts as a path to the spiritual perfection of wisdom.


The Four Tooth Relic Stupas in 13th Century Pagan, Myanmar

Handlin, Lilian (Independent Scholar, Cambridge, USA)

The Buddha Gotama’s post cremation career in Myanmar is linked to the story of the Tooth Stupas, enshrining four of the so-called perfect relics the Buddha was believed to have left unburned during his cremation. Their Pagan cult becomes evident by the end of the 12th century when the Four Tooth stupas are incorporated in endowments’ decors and contextualized within various structures’ broader narratives. Their images, always showing appropriate worshippers, illustrated each stupa’s location – whether in Tavatimsa, guarded by Sakka, down below, property of the Nagas, or in their two terrestrial locales – one in “China,” the other in “Sri Lanka.” Late 12th century contacts with Sri Lanka that in 1181 saw the return of four Pagan monks, reordained in Sri Lanka during their stay, intertwined with another periodic attempt to purify the Pagan sangha. The monks’ homecoming generated a new, though short lived, additional sangha lineage, encouraged the recovery and reintegration of hitherto neglected rituals and texts, and perhaps the introduction of new practices. The cult of the Buddha’s Tooth Relics is the most permanent result of these ideational and institutional upheavals, evident in the stupas’ 13th century popularity. Attention to their presence broadened the spacial scope of the Buddha's post parinirvana biography, was linked to Pagan’s complex cosmography and enabled 13th century monarchs to reinscribe their ceremonial center's geography in association with the Buddha’s remains.

The paper will show how the Tooth Stupas’ presence illuminates post 1200 changes in Pagan's conceptions of the sasana and its maintenance, and their architectonic embodiments. 


Persian Flowers and Chinese Fragments on a Thai Monastery: Material Culture of Wat Arun’s Architecture

Kerekes, Susanne (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA)

This paper presents a preliminary study of the architecture of Bangkok’s famous Wat Arun (The Temple of the Dawn). The exterior embellishment of the main chedi consists of fragments (and sometimes whole pieces) of multi-colored porcelain ceramics. This illustrates, as most scholars assert, an exclusively Sino-influenced design. The unique mosaic layout of these porcelain shards surrounding the central prang and sundry may, however, suggest a connection to Persia, in spite of its materially Chinese provenance. An exploration of such a nexus would look beyond the predominance of Chinese porcelain use, as well as King Rama III's supposed obsession with Chinese art and architecture and actually suggest an architectural pastiche and multivalency that might not be so easily defined architecturally.


Some Visual and Architectural Evidence on the Interrelation between stūpa, dharmakāya and Prajñāpāramitā

Kozicz, Gerald (Independent Researcher, Graz, AUT)

This paper seeks to shed light on the cult of the stūpa as dharmakāya and the importance of Prajñāpāramitā for the over-all understanding of the religious art, architecture and practice of Buddhism in the western Himalaya during the 11th-12th centuries. In his 1991 study of textual sources, Daniel Boucher (JIABS vol. 14, no. 1) addressed the interchangeability of texts and relics of the Buddha as representations of the dharma and how, through their subsequent enshrinement in stūpas, the stūpa may be understood as a dharmacaitya. Boucher particularly referred to the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā), personified by the goddess of the same name. Unlike in the cases of other goddesses such as Uṣṇīṣavijayā or Mārīcī, there appears to be no direct linkage in art and architecture between Prajñāpāramitā and the stūpa.

The proposed paper provides art historical and, to some extent, architectural evidence in support of the conclusions drawn by Boucher. The presentation will be based on the documentation of one Prajñāpāramitāmaṇḍala mural inside a stūpa and several wooden doorframes bearing central depictions of the Perfection of Wisdom, all of which were documented at the Alchi Compound and related monuments in today’s Ladakh. Two of the carved figures have a stūpa as an additional attribute in one of their left hands. In addition, a depiction of the dharmacakra is part of the iconographic program of the most important door under discussion, namely that of the Alchi ’Du khang (also named Vairocana Temple). Interestingly, the central figure of the Prajñāpāramitāmaṇḍala does not display the book as her main attribute. However, the book and the dharmacakra were incorporated into the maṇḍala in a surprising and hitherto unknown way as a structural component, through which the book was visually superimposed upon the dharmacakra. The significant position of this maṇḍala within the iconographic program of the stūpa once again unites these three aspects.


A Journey into Suvaṇṇabhūmi with Special Reference to Phra Pathom Chedi, Nakhon Pathom

Revire, Nicolas (Thammasat University/Paris 3-Sorbonne nouvelle, Bangkok, THA)

Over the centuries, different parts of mainland Southeast Asia have claimed Suvaṇṇabhūmi or the “Golden Land” as their own. Suvaṇṇabhūmi is a fanciful term found in early Pāli literature linked with the introduction of Buddhism to the region. The term’s locus classicus is the Sri Lankan Mahāvaṃsa chronicle (5th or 6th century CE) which states that two monks, Soṇa and Uttara, were sent to Suvaṇṇabhūmi for missionary activities in the time of King Asoka (3rd century BCE). Although no one today knows for sure where the fabled Golden Land really was, or whether it even existed, provocative issues remain regarding why the “name” and the “concept” needs to be appropriated in modern times. This paper examines the case of Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom (Central Thailand), presumably an ancient stūpa of the first-millennium CE. This site has been identified since the mid-late 19th century by Thai royal and religious figures as the centre of Suvaṇṇabhūmi and Theravāda Buddhism in Thailand. To examine this appropriation, the paper focuses on the modern mural paintings at the site which powerfully capture the legend of the introduction of Buddhism to Nakhon Pathom.


Early Pāla Architecture in Bihār and its Connection to Dvāravatī Stūpas in Central Thailand

Tingsanchali, Chedha (Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, THA)

This article is a part of the research on “Pāla and its influences to Thai Art” which was funded by the National Research of Thailand Council (NRTC) in 2011.

Early Pāla architecture in Bihār, especially the Temple no. 3 and no. 12 at Nālandā, for instance, is marked by its complicated plans and moldings. Temple no. 12, for example, is of the rectangular plan with bold projections at the corners and sub-projections on each side. The moldings of this temple were noticeably conceived as a Prāsāda, or multi-tiered building, comprising a Vedībandha base supporting the body (Jaṅghā) which is decorated with a Mañcī (the lower molding of the body) and series of niches and pilasters. This Jaṅghā is topped by a series of Kapota (sloping eaves) decorated with Chandraśālās (or Kuḍus) to complete the topmost member of the Prāsāda architecture. Despite of being composed of niches and pilasters as that of the enterable Prāsāda, this massive base is extraordinarily conceived to be a solid non-enterable structure.

Some of Dvāravatī Stūpa massive bases, such as Wat Klong at Khu Bua, are also conceived as Prāsāda, or multi-tiered buildings, yet solid and non-enterable. These characters are reminiscent of those at Nālandā. In the case of moldings, Wat Klong consists of a Vedībandha base and Jaṅghā, with another molding in between, which presumably coincides with the Mañcī. The Jaṅghā is ornamented with series of pilasters and niches which are very similar to those at Temple no. 12 at Nālandā. Moreover, this Jaṅghā is solid and non-enterable. The plan of Wat Klong is rectangular, with the only staircase at the front leading to the top of the platform. The plan and the moldings of Wat Klong are very similar to those of Temple no. 12 at Nālandā, which allows me to assume that the structure at Wat Klong is possibly a copy of that at Nālandā.

Stūpa no. 1 Kubua and Stūpa at Cha-Am, are of a square plan with bold projections at the corners. At the central portion, there is a central multi-sub-cornered projection (or Bhadra offset). This kind of plan reminds me of the small brick base decorated with a floral motif at Sārnāth, which is decorated with a bold projection at the corner and a sub-projection at the center of the base.

The cruciform temple of Wat Pra Men, with four enterable doors, at Nokorn Pathom is of special interest. Despite of having been assigned by scholars to resemble to Somapurī Vihāra at Pahārpur, recent research shows that this temple is also close to the main temple at Sārnāth, or so-called Mūlagandhakuti, which has a cruciform plan with four enterable doors. The Buddha images discovered inside Wat Pra Men sit in Bhadrāsana posture and show the Vitarka gesture, which, in Dvāravatī iconography, is equivalent to the gesture of turning the wheel of the law (Dharmacakrapravartanamudrā), referring directly to the first sermon.

Conclusively, these coincidences between Dvāravatī and Early Pāla stūpas and temples in Bihār testify the relation between these two regions between the 6th-10th centuries A.D. This also allows us to speculate about the relation of the people of the two regions. Possibly, there were Dvāravatī monks who travelled to Bihār for studying Buddhism at Nālandā and also went on pilgrimage to Sārnāth and other places. Because of this, the style of Early Pāla architecture came to be introduced in central Thailand.


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