Fanciful temple murals: Folk Art in northern Thailand

Whenever I’m in northern Thailand, I always drop everything I was planning to do when my dear friend, Vithi, rings up and asks me to join him on an excursion because it’s usually an interesting adventure, lots of fun (in Thai – sanuk) and I learn something new about northern Thai culture each time. I’ve been joining him on such adventures for over thirty years now!

On a recent visit to Thailand last July, I joined Vithi, along with his sister and niece, on a fieldtrip to Phayao via northern Lampang Province.

Map of Northern Thailand

The highway heading westward out of Chiang Mai city winds through scenic hills and valleys which in the month of July are green and lush from fresh monsoon rains. With little traffic, we drove through Chiang Rai province until we reached our first destination – Wat Baan Koh – a Buddhist temple located in a small village in the northern tip of Lampang Province called Baan Koh in Wang Neua district.  This is one of the many temples that Vithi and his students have restored over the years.

Dr Vithi Phanichphant

The structural repair and mural preservation of the Wat Baan Koh project was carried out by the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, and the Institute of Research and Study of Lanna Tai, Naresuan University, Phayao Campus, under the coordination of Dr Vithi Phanichphant. The project was funded by the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation to help preserve Thailand’s cultural heritage. The temple was built in 1934 and was in a bad state of deterioration as a result of time and weather. The extensive interior murals, all painted by the same monk in 1935, were peeling, cracked and badly damaged. The restoration work was carried out between 2005 and 2007. Below are photos of the restored temple and its whimsical mural paintings (click on any photo to enlarge it).

Wat Baan Koh sign

Celebrations at Wat Baan Temple with American Embassy staff June 2007

Wat Baan Koh facade

Wat Baan Koh side view

Wat Baan Koh - Guardian Lion

Mural behind Buddha depicting his life

Scenes depicting royal life

Roof support beam - Looking up towards the roof

After visiting Wat Baan Koh, our excursion continued to Phayao, the province of beautiful lakes and waterfalls. Photos follow on next posting.

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