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HOME : Asian Art : Art of Thailand : Kamphaeng Phet Bronze Sculpture of the Walking Buddha
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Kamphaeng Phet Bronze Sculpture of the Walking Buddha - X.0247
Origin: Thailand
Circa: 16 th Century AD
Dimensions: 45.25" (114.9cm) high x 16" (40.6cm) wide
Collection: Asian
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: SOLD. Asia Art (Thailand) 2002

Location: United States
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Historically, the Sukhothai kingdom is regarded as the first Thai kingdom. According to legend, the city of Sukhothai was founded in 1238 A.D. by two Thai chieftains who rebelled against their Khmer overlords and established their own independent kingdom. One of these chieftains became the first king of Sukhothai, known from then on as Sri Indraditya. The kingdom quickly expanded its territory by force as well as through a network of marriage alliances with neighboring Thai states. By the reign of Ramkhamhaeng, the younger son of Sri Indraditya, the kingdom had become one of the most powerful states in Southeast Asia. Its borders now stretched from Burma in the west to Laos in the east and the Malay peninsula in the south. The era of Sukhothai, which literally means “dawn of happiness,” is generally considered to be the cradle of Thai culture, and Ramkhamhaeng is revered as the father of the Thai nation.

While the Sukhothai kingdom was initially indebted to Khmer art and architecture, as is evident in the earliest ruins of the city, over time the kingdom became increasingly influenced by the art and religion of Sri Lanka, all the while maintaining a uniquely Thai character. Under the Sukhothai Dynasty, the Ceylonese school of Theravada Buddhism flourished and the major cities of the kingdom became centers of Buddhist learning complete with magnificent monasteries. Sukhothai style Buddhist sculptures are famed for their stylized elegance. Sukhothai artists are also noted for introducing the form of the “walking Buddha” into the cannon of Buddhist sculpture. Although this era is considered to be a golden age of Thai culture, the kingdom began to decline after the death of Ramkhamhaeng, due in part to the rise of Lan Na as well as the breakdown of a number of principalities into independent states.

The region known as Kamphaeng Phet is of province in the lower Northern Region of the modern nation of Thailand. However, centuries ago, the ancient city which bestowed its name upon this province was an important center during the height of the Sukhothai Kingdom. According to legend, the city was established in 1347 during the reign of King Ler Thai (the fourth king of the Sukhothai Dynasty) along the banks of the Mae Nam Ping River. Alternately known both as “Cha Kang Rao” and “Nakhon Chum” throughout its history, the city was one of the most important fortified towns along the kingdoms northern frontier that grew to become recognized as a subsidiary capital. In fact, the name Kamphaeng Phet literally means, “as strong as walls made of diamonds,” reflecting the city’s status as a defensive fortress. Today, impressive ruins dotting the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park reveal the glorious past of this ancient city.

This type of standing Buddha is commonly referred to as the “walking Buddha.” Apparently, this posture appears to illustrate certain texts that were recorded during the Sukhothai period. Specifically, this form seems to relate to the Buddha as described in canons written during the reign of Ramkhamheng in the late 13th Century. In the city of Sukhothai, representations of the walking Buddha were found placed against the walls of temples. One hand is traditionally held in the Abhaya mudra, which symbolizes protection, benevolence, and peace, while the other arm hangs beside the body. Sometimes, one leg is portrayed advancing forwards of the other, contributing to the designation of these figures as walking. This magnificent bronze walking Buddha reveals that this type was as popular in the subsidiary capitals as it was in Sukhothai. The flame emerging from the Buddha's ushisa is directly related to earlier examples from Sri Lanka, revealing the influence this island has on the emerging Thai kingdom. - (X.0247)


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