Iconometry of Lan Na Craftsmen Compared with that of their Sri Lankan Counterparts, as Found on the Bronze Buddha Images at the Doi Suthep Temple Gallery

Surasawasdi Sooksawasdi


The 14th – 15th centuries Sukhothai and Lan Na historical sources always said about returning of local monks with pure Theravada Buddhism from Sri Lanka. Some sources gave details about Sri Lankan craftsmen who came together with the high monk. Thai art historian used to believe that the Sukhothai style of art was influenced from Sri Lankan style. They also said that the style from Sukhothai came to Chiang Mai together with Sumana in 1371. He began his Suandok Sect at that time while his relics digging up from Si Satchanalai were enshrined in two newly built stupas. An importance one was on the Doi Suthep.

Since no historical documents on Doi Suthep have yet mentioned about the origin of the bronze Buddha images housed at the temple gallery, it is essential to investigate this along with classifying them and determining their age as well as to study and compare the proportion system of the Lan Na founders of the Buddha images and that of their Sri Lankan counterparts. This study will focus on the iconometry of the Lan Na system of proportion referred to as sīhalakkhaṇa, chaturmāṇa and nigrodhalakkhaṇa (characteristic of the lion, elephant and banyan tree respectively) as against that of the caturmāṇa of the Sri Lankan Buddha image founders.

The study revealed that excluding the number of the newly cast Buddha images and those being restored, some of the bronze Buddha images were from Bo Kaeo Village and may have been also from Yang Moen village of Samoeng District, Chiang Mai Province. In the past, around 16th - 17th centuries, these areas must have been of some significance and connected with Chiang Mai directly as a number of the Chiang Mai style Buddha images were found. It was also discovered that the proportion of the Buddha images cast in that time did not follow the Sri Lankan caturmāṇa proportion but that of the Lan Na proportion instead. The most popular proportion adopted was the gajalakkhaṇa proportion. Nevertheless, this argument should be more studied for the vast area in the future.

Keywords: Doi Suthep; Chiang Mai Province; Samoeng District;
Buddha image; iconometry; Lan Na; Sri Lanka

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