Mural paintings: the wisdom of art and faith that passed down from ancient times.


Translated the article by Miriam H.

When we go to temples in Thailand or enter a church or cathedral, things like Buddha images and crosses preside over the place. Another important element that we often see inside these places of worship are mural paintings.

Mural paintings are not only used to decorate the interior of a church or temple but to create a feeling of peace and faith for monks and buddhists. It also serves to represent the principles and teachings in Buddhism and the story in Tripitaka.

In ancient times very few people read because reading and writing were reserved for the upper class in society. So was learning about Buddhist teachings and listening to sermons directly from the monks. Common people watched and studied from wall paintings in the church and the temple itself.


Frescoes in Thai churches or temples are often done in the form of traditional Thai paintings. They are often painted with dust in a two-dimensional pattern, focusing on cutting lines drawn delicately with complex patterns and using bright colors. The composition of the image shows only width and length, no depth, and no shadows in the image. The frescoes in Thai temples are often featured in the narrative and episodic arrangement. Along the walls and window openings, front and back of the Buddha image and around the cathedral church. Traditionally, Thai (Siam) murals were painted in monochrome before they were imported from foreign trade. This made Thai paintings with a variety of colors more beautiful.

In the early Ayutthaya era, the frescoes in the temples often tell the story of the past of the Buddha who enlightened the world of the 27 human beings (Lord Buddha was 28) before turning to the popular story of the Tenet Jataka. (The past life of the Buddha who practiced his charisma before enlightenment as the Buddha in the last 10 races) and the history of the Buddha in various periods such as when the Buddha was born, entered monkhood (ordination), enlightenment, and nirvana in the late Ayutthaya and the early Rattanakosin era, Including the griffin picture (Or world and universe based on Hindu and Buddhist beliefs) and stories from literature. Like the Ramayana Various chronicles or a mural that interpolates various dharma and morality.

The mural work is a work done to offer a Buddha image or made to devote to Buddhism by faith. So we often don’t know who painted those murals. Especially ancient temples in the Ayutthaya period but in the Rattanakosin period there were many well-known artists such as teacher Kong Pae and teacher Thong are regarded as the master painters of the reign of King Rama III and Rama IV. The works that can be known as the main diamond of Thai painting in the early Rattanakosin period of the two painters are still quite complete in the temple of Wat Suwannaram, Bangkoknoi District.

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Or Khruo Ingkhong, the master painter of the reign of King Rama IV, an artist in the monkhood (monk), who was the first Thai painter to adopt  Western painting technique using light, shadow, volume and scenery. (perspective) showing near, far and depth used with Thai murals. The most famous works are the murals inside the church, Wat Bowon Niwet and Wat Borom Niwat.

As for the present day traditional Thai paintings, it combines contemporary stories and popular culture such as movies, cartoons or other news into a Thai painting fair that can communicate with new generations. Notable artists include Chalermchai Kositpipat, a pioneer in painting Thai murals in Buddhist temples, Wat Phutthaprathep, London, England and the creator of Wat Rong Khun In Chiang Rai.

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