The Buddha in LannaArt, Lineage, Power, and Place in Northern Thailand

The Buddha in LannaArt, Lineage, Power, and Place in Northern Thailand

Angela S. Chiu

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780824858742

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

This work is the first in-depth historical study of the Thai tradition of donation of that most iconic of Thai art objects, the Buddha image. The book introduces stories from tamnan(chronicles), monastic histories and legends from the Lanna region centered in today’s northern Thailand. Examination of themes, structures and motifs illuminates the conceptual and material aspects of Buddha images that influenced their functions in Lanna society. As agents and mediators of social agency, Buddha images were focal points of pan-regional political-religious lineages and rivalries, indeed, the very generators of history itself. Statues also unified the Buddha with the northern Thai landscape, integrating Buddhist and local significances of place. The book also compares Thai statues with Sri Lankan and Burmese-Mon Buddha relics and images, contributing to broader understanding of how materially different types of Buddhist representations mediated the Buddha’s ‘presence.’ Moreover, the book considers fundamental yet rarely critically deliberated questions such as how particular statues were selected as models to be copied. This involves the image’s aspect as an exchange of financial outlay for merit, ‘commoditized’ even as it is ‘singularized’ through enshrinement. Throughout its ‘life,’ the Thai Buddha image is always a part of wider society beyond monastery walls.