Pre Thailand History

Haripoonchaya Style


Haripoonchaya Style


Prior to the emergence of the Thai culture in its historically identifiable from during the 13rd century, other cultures flourished in Thailand. Despite the lack of historical evidence, archaeological finds indicate that the first civilizations were a number of townships founded in central Thailand. During the 6th to 11th centuries, these towns formed alliances through cultural ties, trade and the common belief in Buddhism. A strong cultural identity became recognized by neighboring groups. The name 'To-lo-po-ti' referring to a large empire in central Thailand, was recorded in Chinese chronicles. Now this empire is being called 'Dvaravati'.

It may be that Dvaravati culture developed from prehistoric culture which had existed in the alluvial plains of central Thailand. Certainly the spread of Buddhism into the area during the 4th century was a unifying force. Dvaravati art indicates that Hinayana Buddhism was first introduced. A number of Buddha statues showing marked Indian influence from the Amaravati-Gupta-post Gupta styles have been found. These statues from the 6th to 8th centuries period are made of stone, bronze, stucco, and terra cotta. Later, influences from Srivijaya art spread from the south through the central region into the northeast and Mahayana Buddhism took strength. Many statues of the Bhodhisatavas dated 8th to 11th centuries were found. Finally the popular belief reverted to Hinayana Buddhism once more.
Archaeological field projects are bringing to light knowledge of the Dvaravati lifestyle. Dvaravati pottery displays distinct incised and applies decorations. Personal effects such as ear-rings, beads, bangles, rings, bells, etc., have been found, again showing influences from India. Coins and medallions have also been unearthed, indicating advanced civilization. Depicted on these are animal figures and symbols representing fertility, the life elements and the Buddhist belief.

The decline of the Dvaravati culture is subject to further study. The popular theory is that it disintegrated under the invasion of foreign armies. More acceptable is the theory that external cultural influences took precedence and absorbed Dvaravati into oblivion. During the 12th century, some towns were abandoned due to changing water courses. Others continued to flourish into the Ayudhaya period, being built upon until little of the original Dvaravati remained.

During the 8th to 9th centuries, Srivijaya art was at its height in the South. Scholars differ in Their theories about the seat of the great Srivijaya empire. Whenever that may be, it become the vast trading centre in Southeast Asia. It also created a cultural system in the southern part of present day Thailand during the 3rd to 14th centuries. Archaeological evidence of this period may be seen in the remains of a well organized irrigation system is Songkhla. Artifacts found in the Thailand and dating back to this trading period range from Phoenician coins to Roman beads.

Dhavaravati Style


Most important is the fact that Srivijaya was an important centre for Mahayana Buddhism. A number of statuary of the Bhodhisatavas and Sakdis have been found. Also present are statues representing deities of the Visnuite sect of Brahminism.

Ancient monuments which bear close resemblances to Khmer temples still stand in the Northeastern and Eastern regions of Thailand. These temples, objects and artifacts of the period are collectively known as Lopburi Art After the fact that Lopburi was the regional seat of the Western Khmer empire. Scholars date the majority to the 11th to 12th centuries, surmising from stylistic resemblances to the Angkor Wat and Bayon Khmer periods. However, some may be dated as far back as the 7th century indicating long Khmer influence or suzerainty in the region. This art style was fostered by the local builders and craftsman, and derivatives appeared throughout the subsequent periods.

In the North, a number of independent, Buddhist, city states were established over a thousand years ago Familiar names are Chiangsaen, Payao, Phrae, Nan. They were linked through kinship and special cultural characteristics. In 1296, the King of Chiangsaen succeeded in forming an alliance of the all the independent states. This created the Lanna Kingdom with Chiangmai as capital. The Lanna Thais enjoyed a period of prosperity together with highly significant cultural achievements during the 15th to 16th century. Much later in the 19th century was it revived under a new alliance with the Thais of the Bangkok period.
Lanna culture was firmly based on Buddhism. Ancient monuments dating to the 13th century may still be seen in Chiangrai, Chiangmai and Lampoon. Subsequent cross cultural influences from Myanmar and Sukhothai had some effect on Lanna art and architecture, but a distinctive cultural identity existed up to the present. Most notable and the Buddha statues known collectively as the Chiangsaen style. At the height of Lanna culture, these Chiangsaen statues were distinctive in appearance. They are also unusual in the many are made of crystalline materials and semi-precious stones.

Ref: Thailand Cultural Centre