History

Khmer Artifacts in the Sawanvoranayok National Museum

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12 antefix tiles in a glass display case

The small Sawanvoranayok National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ สวรรควรนายก) began as the private collection of the local monk, Phra Sawanvoranayok, abbot of Wat Sawankharam, the temple in front of the museum. Besides a small collection of Thai Buddhas of various artistic styles, the majority of the museum’s items are Sangkhalok pottery and stucco from Si Satchanalai. Very little is from the Khmer era. As of February 2019, the only Khmer artifacts from… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum

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headless and limbless deity stone carved statue

The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ รามคำแหง) is in Sukhothai, and naturally its principal focus in the ancient Sukhothai kingdom. Khmer items make up a very small part of the collection, but three of the ruins in the ancient city were originally built by the Khmer and later adopted and modified by Sukhothai kings, so there are some Khmer items. As of February 2019, these are all the Khmer artifacts from… Read More

Culture

Boon Khun Lan Photo Essay

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man in white tying white threads to a bai sii on top of a rice pile

I was unable to join a Boon Khun Lan celebration in 2019. So, until next year, here’s a link to my photo essay about Boon Berk Bahn a closely related rice harvest festival that includes many of the same aspects. For more information, see the overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions.     Boon Khao Kam (Month 1) About Boon Khun Lan (Month 2) About     … Read More

Culture

Boon Berk Bahn Photo Essay

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clay figurines for Boon Berk Bahn

These photos are from the Boon Berk Bahn (บุญเบิกบ้าน) ceremony in Ban Kham Aw village, Udon Thani province on February 7, 2019. Thanks to Mae Wong and her family for being great hosts. This village doesn’t celebrate either Boon Khun Lan or Boon Khao Jee, but this event (aka Boon Duean Sahm, the “Third Month Merit-Making Tradition”) includes features from both. For more information, see the overview of heet sip-song,… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Muang Boran Dong Lakhon

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urn under stupa at Muang Boran Dong Lakhon

Muang Boran Dong Lakhon (เมืองโบราณดงละคร) was an important Dvaravati town dating back to 6th or 7th century. Pottery and other artefacts (including bronze bells, Baphuon- to Bayon-style Buddha images, and gold leaf, which the Khmer used during ceremonies) uncovered during excavations show that around the middle of the 10th century the Khmer came. There are no remains of temples, kilns, or anything else they built, though the town probably remained… Read More

Nature

How to Identify Thailand’s Egrets

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little egret

Because of their all-white color, there’s never any doubt that a bird is an egret. But Thailand’s five egret species are all quite similar in appearance so you have to remember certain distinctive features to tell them apart. Luckily, if you have a clear view it’s usually quite easy to do so. Remembering is the hard part, which is why I made these notes. Little, Intermediate, Great, and Cattle egrets… Read More

Buddhism

The Kacchapa Jataka (#273)

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scene from the Kacchapa Jataka, a turtle biting a monkey's penis as the Bodhisatta watches

In the late 19th century, the first team to translate the entire collection of Jataka tales into English felt this story was so indecent that they published it only in Latin so that only scholars could read it. After the Buddha ended a bitter feud between two of the king’s military officers by preaching about loving-kindness, he told some of his disciples about a past life that he had once… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Maha Viravong National Museum

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hand from statue from Phanom Wan Khmer ruin at Maha Viravong National Museum

Probably the smallest national museum in Thailand, the Maha Viravong National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติมหาวีรวงศ์) occupies one little room on the grounds of Wat Suttha Chinda in central Khorat city, 350 meters south of the Thao Suranari Monument. Most of the artifacts come from the private collection of Somdej Phra Maha Viravong (Oun Tisso), the temple’s former abbot. And since they were generally just given to him by locals, most of the… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prang Phakho Khmer Ruin

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front view of library at Prang Phakho Khmer ruin

Casual travelers probably won’t be too impressed by the modest remains of Prang Phakho (ปรางศ์พะโค), but it has some unusual features that Khmer enthusiasts will definitely want to see. Built in the 11th century, it presently consists of just two buildings: an east-facing central prang and one “library” in front. However, the ruins showed there was a second library across from the surviving one, and since three lotus-bud tops were… Read More

Culture

Boon Kathin Photo Essay

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front of procession going to temple for Kathin celebration

These photos are from the Boon Kathin (บุญกฐิน) festival for Wat Pa Ming Muang on the south side of Khon Kaen city on November 26-28, 2018. (Note that, despite the name, this is a regular maha-nigay temple, not a thammayut forest temple.) Thanks to Paw Sawai and Mae Nuwiang, who organized this event, Luang Ta Tawee Rattanabunyo for answering my many Kathin questions, and everyone else for being so welcoming.… Read More

Culture

Boon Ok Phansa Photo Essay

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candles lit around the temple during Ok Phansa

These photos are from the Boon Ok Phansa (บุญออกพรรษา) celebrations at Wat Pho Sri, Ban Sila village, Amphoe Mueang, Khon Kaen on October 23 to 25, 2018. Thanks to Phra Maha Rueangrit Patara Muni and many other people at the temple for helping me out. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Ok Phansa and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions.   The Day Before… Read More

Buddhism

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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Vessantara Jataka mural of gods caring for Prince Vessantara's children while Jujaka sleeps in a tree

The third-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city tell the story of Prince Vessantara (Phra Wetsandon in Thai). It’s the last of the 547 Jataka tales, a collection of birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting some of the Buddha-to-be’s pre-enlightenment lives. The Jataka tales are, for the most part, morality stories in which… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prang Sra Pleng Khmer Ruin

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Prang Sra Pleng Khmer ruin

Not much of Prang Sra Pleng (ปรางค์สระเพลง), now sitting in a small grove of trees surrounded by rice paddies, remains standing, though there is just enough to give visitors an impression of how this Khmer ruin used to be. Based mostly on the style of the sandstone doorframe, Prang Sra Pleng appears to have been a Hindu shrine for an arogayasala (hospital) built by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1181-1219). And… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prang Ban Prang Khmer Ruin

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piece of pediment at Prang Ban Prang Khmer ruin

The ruins of Prang Ban Prang (ปรางค์บ้านปรางค์) are in an inconspicuous grove of trees in the middle of a little village. Driving past you’d pay it no mind if it weren’t for the two large signs marking it as a historic site. The temple had a single prang built of sandstone and brick on a laterite base. While most of it lies buried in dirt, many pieces (mostly sandstone, but… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prasat Nong Phak Rai Khmer Ruin

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sandstone statue base at Prasat Nong Phak Rai Khmer ruin

Almost nothing is known about Prasat Nong Phak Rai (ปราสาทหนองผักไร). There’s nothing visible that reveals the history (Perhaps an excavation would shed some light – but not necessarily because holes dug by looters have been reported.) and it isn’t even registered by the Fine Arts Department. Prasat Nong Phak Rai is in a small grove of trees on a low mound amidst rice paddies. It isn’t truly remote, but it… Read More

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