Buddha Images of the Tai
Statues of the Buddha proliferate in Thailand. Every town and province honors its own special Buddha image. The Emerald Buddha, housed on the grounds of the royal Grand Palace, is the country’s palladium. Typically, Buddha images have been defined as devotional reminders or doctrinal symbols, but these explanations fail to account for the complex and deep relationships between Buddha images and their communities. In order to understand Buddha statues, we must consider them as the productions of living societies. The Buddha image is an object that represents not only the Buddha himself but also channels the sometimes divergent interests of the lay devotees and monks who build, consecrate and venerate it. This understanding of the Buddha image as a participant in the social world of its worshippers is strikingly depicted in monastic chronicles, tamnan, from the Lanna region centered in northern Thailand.
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