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Ayutthaya was a kingdom in what is now Thailand. It was ruled by thirty-six kings between 1350 and 1767. The art of Ayutthaya is typically divided into four phases associated with its major political eras: 1350 to 1488, 1488 to 1628, 1629 to 1733, and 1733 to 1767. The city was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.

The two most important monasteries of the early periods were Mahathat (erected in 1384 by King Boromaraja I) and Ratchaburana (erected in 1424 by Boromaraja II). Like monasteries in the earlier kingdom of Sukhothai, the alignment of the wihan (assembly hall), prang (tower shaped in Khmer fashion), and ubosot or bot (congregation and ordination hall) followed a single east-west axis. Smaller prangs and wihans were enclosed around the central tower within a rectangular gallery, where a row of buddha images was placed. The main prangs were generally marked halfway up by niches facing each cardinal direction, in each of which was placed a buddha image; each prang was crowned by a metal finial in the shape of a vajra (pronged ritual instrument). Relics, buddha images, and votive tablets were deposited in the prangs' relic chambers. For instance, exquisite gold royal regalia and vessels were found in the deposit of Wat Ratchaburana. Wat Chai Wattabaram, built by King Prasat Thong in 1630, is an example of the later phase of prang structure.

The Sri Lankan bell-shaped chedi popular in Sukhothai was used extensively in Ayutthaya. Notable Ayutthayan features are a higher base, rows of small columns around the railing on the top, and an elongated finial. A good example of this type is Wat Phra Sisanphet, erected in 1491 by King Ramathibodi II.

The only surviving complete late Ayutthayan monastery is Wat Naphramen, built in the middle of the sixteenth century. Its ubosot is rectangular, with thick walls, slit windows, and tall octagonal pillars crowned by lotus capitals. The ceiling is decorated with gold star clusters. The main image placed at the end of the hall is the only remaining large-scale seated and bejeweled bronze Buddha. The base of the ubosot, curved into a boat shape in early Ayutthaya, became straighter in the later phases.

See also:Monastic Architecture; Southeast Asia, Buddhist Art in; Thailand


Boisselier, Jean, and Beurdeley, Jean-Michel. The Heritage of Thai Sculpture. Bangkok, Thailand: Asia Books, 1987.

Woodward, Hiram W., Jr. The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand: The Alexander B. Griswold Collection, The Walters Art Gallery. Bangkok, Thailand: River Books, 1997.

Pattaratorn Chirapravati

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