The Chinese Rabbit Seller and Other (Extra)Ordinary Persons

Reflecting on Agency in Traditional Central Thai Mural Painting

  • Irving Chan Johnson National University of Singapore

Abstract

This article explores the often overlooked images of ordinariness one finds in Thai temple mural painting. Through redirecting the scholarly gaze away from more traditional concerns with narrative, style and function, I show how seemingly banal scenes of the everyday are sites through which to locate subjective understandings of cultural and political identities. I do this by critically reflecting on my own work as a Thai mural painter in Singapore and showing how my situation within a diasporic Thai ritual universe transforms visual representations of Buddhist texts into fascinating engagements with the extraordinary, thereby inserting agency into a genre where artistic presence and viewership is largely silent.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Baker, Chris and Pasuk Phongpaichit. 2019. From the Fifty Jataka: Selections from the Thai Pannasa Jataka. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Baker, Chris and Pasuk Phongpaichit. 2017. A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bhirasri, Silpa. 1959. The Origin and Evolution of Thai Murals. Bangkok: Fine Arts Department.
Boisselier, Jean, 1976. Thai Painting. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Brereton, Bonnie Pacala. 1986. “Images of Heaven and Hell in Thai Literature and Painting.” Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia, 25, pp. 41-57. University of Michigan.
____. 2010. “Towards a Definition of Isan Mural Painting: Voices from the Heartland”, Journal of the Siam Society, 98, pp. 185-204.
____.  2015. “Preserving Temple Murals in Isan: Wat Chaisi, Sawatthi Village, Khon Kaen, as a Sustainable Model”, Journal of the Siam Society, 103, pp. 1-15.
Brereton, Bonnie Pacala and Somroay Yencheuy. 2010. Buddhist Murals of Northeast Thailand: Reflections of the Isan Heartland. Chiang Mai: Mekong Press.
Camille, Michael. 1992. Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art. London: Reaktion Books.
Cate, Sandra. 2003. Making Merit, Making Art: A Thai Temple in Wimbledon. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Champion, Matthew. 2015. Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England’s Churches. London: Ebury Press.
De Bondy, Vincomte. “Kelantan Causerie”, The Straits Times, 4 July 1937, p. 14.
Ferguson, John, and Christina B. Johannsen. 1976. “Modern Buddhist Murals in Northern Thailand: A Study of Religious Symbols and Meaning”, American Ethnologist 3, pp. 645–669.
Golomb, Louis. 1978. Brokers of Morality: Thai Ethnic Adaptation in a Rural Malaysian Setting. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Green, Alexander. 2001. “Buddhist Narrative in Burmese Murals.” Unpublished PhD dissertation. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
____. 2013 “Creating Sacred Space: Thai and Burmese Wall Paintings of the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries.” In Rethinking Visual Narratives from Asia: Intercultural and Comparative Perspectives, Alexander Green (ed.). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
____. 2018. Buddhist Visual Cultures, Rhetoric, and Narrative in Late Burmese Wall Paintings, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Intralib Sothiwan. 1994. Thai Traditional Paintings. Bangkok: Amarin Press.
Jaiser, Gerhard. 2009. Thai Mural Painting Volume 1: Iconography, Analysis and Guide. Bangkok: White Lotus Press. 
____. 2010. Thai Mural Painting Volume 2: Society, Preservation and Subjects. Bangkok: White Lotus Press. 
Johnson, Irving Chan. 2008. “The Mobility of Stories and the Expansive Spaces of Kelantanese Thai Religiosity.” In Thai South and Malay North: Ethnic Interactions on a Plural Peninsula. Michael John Montesano, Patrick Jory (eds). Singapore: NUS Press.
____. 2010. “New Mosaics on Old Walls: Intimacy and Architecture along the Malaysian-Thai Frontier”, Anthropological Quarterly 83(2), pp. 239-277.
____. 2012. The Buddha on Mecca’s Verandah: Encounters, Mobilities, and Histories along the Malaysian-Thai Border. Washington: University of Washington Press.
Jory, Patrick. 2002. “The Vessantara Jataka, Barami, and the Bodhisatta-Kings: The Origins and Spread of a Premodern Thai Concept of Power”, Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 16 (1), pp. 152-194.
____. 2016. Thailand’s Theory of Monarchy: The Vessantara Jataka and the Idea of the Perfect Man, Albany: State University of New York.
Kershaw, Roger Gordon. 1969. The Thais of Kelantan: A Socio-political Study of an Ethnic Outpost. Unpublished PhD thesis. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Listopad, John Andrew. 1984. The Process of Change in Thai Mural Painting: Khrua In Khong and the Murals in the Ubosot of Wat Somanasa Vihāra, unpublished MA thesis. Department of Art, University of Utah.
Lyons, Elizabeth. 1990. The Tosachat in Thai Painting. Bangkok: Fine Arts Department. 
Matics, Kathleen. I. 1992. Introduction to the Thai Mural. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.
McDaniel, Justin. 2014. “The Bird in the Corner of the Painting: Some Problems with the Use of Buddhist Texts to Study Buddhist Ornamental Art in Thailand”, Moussons 23, pp. 21-53.
McGill, Forrest, (ed.), 2009. Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma, 1771-1950. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum.
Mohamed Yusoff Ismail. 1982. “Tradition and Change in Aril, A Siamese Village in Kelantan”, TAJA 13(3), pp. 252-263.
____. 1987. “Buddhism and Ethnicity: The Case of the Siamese of Kelantan”, Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia Vol. 2, No. 2 , pp. 231-254.
____. 1993. Buddhism and Ethnicity: Social Organization of a Buddhist Temple in Kelantan. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing. 
Napat Sirisambhand and Alec Gordon. 1994. “Gender in Illustrations to Thai Historical Literature”. In Gender and Culture in Literature and Film East and West: Literary Studies East and West Vol. 9. Nitaya Masavisut, G Simson and L Smith (eds). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
____. 1999. “Thai Women in Late Ayutthaya Style Paintings”, Journal of the Siam Society 87(1 and 2), pp. 1-16.
No Na Paknam. 1963 Jittakam Faphanang Sakul Chang Nonthaburi [Mural Paintings of the Nonthaburi School]. Bangkok: Silpakorn University.
____. 1981. Wiwatthanakan Lai Thai [Evolution of Thai Designs]. Bangkok: Muang Boran.
____. 1983. Khru Khongpae and Khru Thongyu: Two Great Masters of the Golden Era of Rattanakosin Mural Paintings. Bangkok: Muang Boran. 
____. 1986. Farang Nai Silapa Thai [Europeans in Thai Art], Bangkok: Muang Boran.
____. 1988. Phra Acharn Nak: The Foremost Muralist of the Reign of King Rama 1. Bangkok: Muang Boran.
Nue-On Khruathongkhieow. 2013. Khwam Khao Jai Nai Jittakam Thai Prapheni (Understanding Traditional Thai Painting). Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press.
Om Rachawej. 2002. Thep Manut Jak Ling [Angels, Humans, Demons, Monkeys]. Bangkok: Thanaban.
Pairote Samosorn. 1989. Jittakam Faphanang Isan [Isan Mural Painting]. Khon Khaen: E-sarn Cultural Center. 
Pattaraporn Chirapravati. 2009. “Buddhism and Thai Art”, Religion Compass 3(4), pp. 566-579.
Peleggi, Maurizio. 2012. “The Turbaned and the Hatted: Figures of Alterity in Early Modern Thai Visual Culture”. In Anja Eisenbeiss & Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch (eds). Images of Otherness in Medieval and Early Modern Times: Exclusion, Inclusion and Assimilation. Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag.
Pichai Thutongkinanon. 2011. “The Ancient Colors of Mural Painting in the Bhuddhaisawan Chapel: Re-Imaging of Faith”, Journal of Urban Culture Research 3, pp.122–129
Pichayada, Katemake and Razyan I. Preda. 2014. “Complete Study of Traditional Thai Colors Used in Mural Paintings: Traditional Thai Color Name Dictionary”, Color Research and Application 39 (6), pp. 616–629.
Preecha Kanchanakorn et.al. 1980. Jittakam Faphanang Thonburi [Thonburi Mural Paintings] Bangkok: Society for Conservation of National Art Treasures and Environment.
Ringis, Rita. 1990. Thai Temples and Thai Murals. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Santi Leksukhum, 2000. Temples of Gold: Seven Centuries of Thai Buddhist Paintings. Bangkok: River Books. 
____. 2005. Jittakamthai Samai Rachakan Thi Sam: Khwam Khid Plien Karn Sadaeng Ok Ko Plien Tam [Mural Paintings of the Third Reign: Changes in Form and Thought]. Bangkok: Wiriyakthurakit. 
Saran Thongchan. 1991. Chiwit Thang Sangkhom Khong Chang Nai Sangkhom Thai Phak Klang Samai Ratanakosin Kun Pho So. 2448 [The Social Life of Craftsmen in Central Thai Society of the Rattanakosin Era before 1905], unpublished MA Thesis (Social Science and Anthropology). Thammasat University, Bangkok.
Schmit, Luke. 2010 “Initial Findings on Wat Suthat: Presence, Power, and Merit‐Making in the Vihara Murals and Inscriptions”, Religion Compass 4(10), pp. 588-605.
Seah, Yeuh Chin. 2009. “Performativity, Embodied Practices and Religious Affects: Spaces of Thai Buddhism in Singapore.” Academic Exercise. National University of Singapore.
Skilling, Peter. 2007. “For Merit and Nirvana: The Production of Art in the Bangkok Period”, Arts Asiatiques, tome 62, pp. 76-94.
____. 2009. “Jataka and Pannasa-Jataka in Southeast Asia”. In Buddhism and Buddhist Literature in South-East Asia: Selected Papers, edited by Claudio Cicuzza. Bangkok: Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation.
Smith, Stefan Halikowski. 2011. Creolization and Diaspora in the Portuguese Indies: The Social World of Ayutthaya, 1640-1720. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
Somporn Turee. 2014. “Mural Painting of Southern Thailand: The Multi-cultural Integration for Contemporary Image”, Veridian E-Journal 7(4), pp. 221-240. https://www.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/Veridian-E-Journal/article/view/49819/41234 (accessed October 2019)
Sone Simatrang. 1983. The Structure of Lanna Mural Paintings. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.
____. 1985. “Erotic Art in Thai Mural Painting”, Thailand’s Profile. (Aug-Sept).
Sonthiwan Intralib. 1994. Thai Traditional Paintings. Bangkok: Amarin Press.
Suwat Saenkhiti. 2012. Kalawithi Phap Jittakam Thai [Thai Painting Manual]. Bangkok. Boss.
____. 2016. Lai Thai: Phap Thai. [Thai Design: Thai Image]. Bangkok. Bkkpro.
Uthong Prasatwinichai. 2003. Phap Phut: Pen Miti Mai Nai Karn Du Jittakam Faphanang [Talking Pictures: A New Dimension in Looking at Mural Paintings]. Bangkok: Doikhanabukhonnamrin.
Uthong Prasatwinitchai. 2002. Thong Thosachat Phan Jittakam. [Paintings of the Ten Lives of the Buddha]. Bangkok: Bukholnamrin.
Van Beek, Steve and Luca Ivernizzi Tettoni. 1999. The Arts of Thailand. Hongkong: Periplus Editions.
Walker-Meikle, Kathleen. 2019. Cats in Medieval Manuscripts. Hong Kong: British Library.
Walters, Jonathan. 2003. “Communal Karma and Karmic Community in Theravada Buddhist History”. In Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia, John Clifford Holt, Jacob N. Kinnard and Jonathan S. Walters (eds). Albany: State University of New York Press.
Wannipha Na Songkhla. 1992. Wat Chontarasinghe. Bangkok: Amarin Press.
Wenk, Klaus. 1976. Mural Paintings in Thailand. Zurich: Von Oppersdorff Verlag.
Winzeler, Robert L. 1986. Ethnic Relations in Kelantan: a study of the Chinese and Thai as Ethnic Minorities in a Malay State. Singapore, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Wiyada Thongmitr. 1979. Khrua In Khong’s Westernized School of Thai Painting (bilingual). Bangkok: Thai Cultural Data Centre.
Wray, Elizabeth, Clare Rosenfield, Dorothy Bailey, and Joe D. Wray. 1972. Ten Lives of the Buddha: Siamese Temple Painting and Jataka Tales. New York: Weatherhill.
Wyatt, David. 2004. Reading Thai Murals. Chiang Mai. Silkworm Books.
Published
2020-05-01
Section
Articles