The Importance of Illustrations in Sinxay

The Importance of Illustrations in Sinxay

In Appleton, Shaw, and Unebe’s book, Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-Century Siam, the authors write:

“In temple art Jātaka depictions can be far more varied and full of incident than those in manuscripts.There is simply more roomon awall for extensive depiction of a number of scenes froma single, often intricate story, sometimes arranged chronologically, but often in a non-linear succession . . . Their presence (in a manuscript), however, is like bringing a sense of the temple to the space of manuscript.”1

1 Appleton, Naomi, Shaw, Sarah, and Unebe, Toshiya. 2013. Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-Century Siam. The Bodleian Library.

We have tried to convey this same sensibility of “bringing a sense of the temple” into Sinxay with the illustrations and photos we have chosen to use. One example is the featured image above, a painting by Nick Bowen showing Sinxay facing Nyak Koumphan before their epic battle.

Many of the outstanding academic reviews we’ve receive comment on our illustrations.

Words are only part of the story. There are pictures too, lots of them. A prominent Vientiane artist, Khamla Phanyasith, has contributed a series of paintings on the tale. An American illustrator, Nick Bowen, has imagined some of the key scenes in a graphic modern style, and also carefully redrawn scenes from temple murals in order to eliminate the deterioration of age. In addition there is Peter Whittlesey’s very fine photography of temples, murals, door panels, statuary, textiles, landscape, and public art from all over Laos and Isan. It’s a very graphic and beautiful book. – Chris Baker, author of A History of Thailand


The photos by the authors and the paintings by several artists are outstanding, and they enhance the graceful and animated story that the authors have carefully crafted. – Ellison Findly, Religious Studies Professor, Trinity College, Hartford, CT

In Laos and Isan, Sinxay has been learned through reading the story, hearing it chanted or retold, and viewing murals and artwork at local Buddhist temples. Seen in person, the temple artwork of Sinxay in Laos and Isan evokes a powerful response. We have tried to recreate that experience within the illustrated pages of this book. The reader not only can become immersed in the world of Sinxay through the retelling, but additional insights can be gained through contemplation of the many illustrations and photos that illuminate a rarely seen world infused with Hindu cosmology, Buddhist philosophy, and  and legend, as seen and experienced by Lao and Isan artists past and present.

Below are some of our favorite illustrations, redrawn mural details from temples in Isan, carved wooden doors of temples in Laos, and commissioned paintings by Nick Bowen.

Two of our favorite redrawn images are below:

The next two images show carved doors of Sinxay related scenes in Laos:

Two of our favorite paintings drawn by Nick Bowen are below:

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