Thailand Arts and Architecture

By | December 17, 2021

The artistic production of ancient Thailand, closely linked to Buddhism, dates back to the traditions of Indian culture. Siamese artists imitated Indian models, which were inevitably changing and altering. The oldest Siamese school of art was that of the kingdom of Dvaravati (6th-13th century) of whose architecture almost nothing remains. The sculpture of this school is represented by statues of Buddha, well finished, of stone, bronze or terracotta, which have a certain affinity with the Indian Gupta style. Around 1000 AD, after the conquest of Dvaravati by the Khmer followers of Hinduism, in Siamese art the traditions of the previous culture mix with those of the conquerors.

Towards the 13th century, when the territory of Thailand was invaded by Thai immigrants from China, an artistic culture was formed based on the purest Buddhist doctrine and on the reworking of ancient forms. Centers of this culture were first Chiang Mai and Chiang Sen and then Sukhothai. The main monuments of architecture of this era are the prangs and stupas, brick shrine towers with stucco decorations. 13th-14th century. We also have the remains of the grandiose monastery of the Great Relic in Sukhothai. Sukhothai’s sculpture includes thousands of bronze images including a famous statue of Buddha in the act of walking, probably from the 14th century, preserved in a monastery in Bangkok and modeled with extreme skill. Images of seated Buddha (Buddha of the Fifth King monastery in Bangkok) and statues of reclining Buddha (Buddha of the Excellent Abode monastery in Bangkok) were also common. Sukhothai sculptors were also very skilled in stucco, polychrome and partially gilded decoration (depictions of episodes from the life of Buddha). From the 13th to the 16th century also the northern Thailand, where the kingdom of Lan Na arose, was an important artistic center. From the 15th century. it is the monastery of the Seven Pinnacles, whose temple was decorated with very refined stucco reliefs. In the sculpture of Lan Na there are bronze effigies of Buddha, represented in the type of ‘simha’ (lion) and in the ‘mixed’ type which is maintained until the 20th century. The kingdom of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, it was another center of artistic flourishing where the traditions of Thai and Khmer art were merged. Among the monuments of Ayutthaya architecture the prang Vat Rajapurana is the most impressive example. Of the sculpture of the Ayutthaya school there are many bronzes of the Buddha in different positions: some of the best depict him in royal ornaments.¬†For Thailand 2003, please check

The Bangkok school, built in the new capital at the end of the 18th century, was the most important in the country until the modern age. It has been greatly influenced by Chinese art and Western art, but at the same time it has tried to preserve and develop national traditions. The grandest monument is the tiled Brah Pathama temple (19th century). The contacts with Western civilization have given rise to many architectural constructions of the European type. Alongside the enduring tradition of wooden architecture, the first concrete structures were built in Bangkok in the 1930s (Democracy Monument, post office, stadium, hospital); the city, along with other provincial centers, expanded considerably in the second half of the 20th century.

In the field of monumental sculpture, the equestrian monument of King Chulalongkorn in Bangkok is influenced, among others, by Western models. Important for the development of art in the 20th century. is Silpa Bhirasri (Corrado Feroci, Italian sculptor who lived in Thailand), founder of the School of Fine Arts (later university). Moreover, the sculpture declines into a series production that replicates the old patterns: in particular miniature figures and reliefs made with a very skilled technique. Painting is also influenced by Western painting, although many artists continue to represent images of old legends and to repeat ancient forms with new techniques. Among the notable personalities: Pichai Nirand, Sawasdi Tantisukit, Damrong Wong-Upparaj, Thawan Duchance, Preecha Thaothong etc.

GULF OF Thailand Vast gulf of the South China Sea, between the Thailand to the North, Cambodia and southern Vietnam to the East, the Malacca Peninsula to the West. Its maximum width is about 450 km; the depth does not exceed 100 m; the coast is quite complex. The gulf receives the waters of the Chao Phraya, the largest Thai river (1000-1200 m3 / s) on whose delta (200 km), thickly channeled, Bangkok rises.

Thailand Arts and Architecture