130 statues unearthed on display at Emerald Buddha temple
While digging to build a water drainage system just outside the Emerald Buddha temple in Bangkok, workers uncovered about 130 statues made out of stone that are over 100 years old. The sculptures were stumbled upon and the area was excavated by the Fine Arts Department with the treasure trove of lost art recovered and put on display nearby the temple.
Many repairs around the perimeter of the temple compound have taken place, with walls being refortified and grounds being dug up for water drainage when a team of workers discovered the statues that are much newer than the temple itself. It is unknown how they ended up buried there, but being underground and not exposed to the elements has left them much more smooth and undamaged than weathered statues outside the temple.
A professor at the National Institute of Development Administration explained that the statues were likely brought to Bangkok from China on merchant ships long ago when Thailand was still known as Siam and was actively trading with the Chinese by sea. Stone sculptures like these that the Thais call upchao were often bought in large quantities by Siamese merchants that would fill up their boats with new merchandise and used the heaviness of these Chinese statues to balance the boat’s weight for even sailing as they return from their shopping trips back to Thailand.
While there’s no exact record of when statues were first imported to the country or when they were moved, there are some historians that think the statues may have been originally displayed in the Emerald Buddha temple in 1882. The artwork exhibition may have been part of the 100th-anniversary celebration of the founding of Bangkok, as part of the festivities during the reign of King Rama V.
The statues were an interesting mix of styles that showed both Asian and Western influence at the time, with some statues displaying figures dressed in traditional Thai clothing while others were adorned in the clothing typical for westerners during that period.
The recently unearthed statues now sit on the grounds of the Emerald Buddha temple where people can admire them. On Thursday, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn changed the seasonal attire of the Emerald Buddha for the rainy season as part of a ceremony that takes place three times a year.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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