THE ART OF SINXAY
Various Sinxay Artwork
This page will feature various artwork having to do with Sinxay. Our book will have over 100 illustrations, both contemporary illustrations drawn specifically for this book, and photos of historic murals on Buddhist temple walls in Isan and reliefs and artwork found in Buddhist temples in Laos.
As we write in the preface of our book, “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 room on a wall for extensive depiction of a number of scenes from a 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 a manuscript.”
We believe the illustrations in our book will bring the same sense of the temple to our book and we hope the illustrations here do the same for our website. We hope you enjoy the artwork and find it as inspiring as we do!
Sinxay and Siho Fighting the Big Snake
This image is from a mural at Wat Sunan Wari, close to Khon Kaen in Isan. There are three main wats (temples) that feature murals showing scenes from Sinxay. The most famous is Wat Chaisi, closest to Khon Kaen. The second is Wat Sanuan Wari, and the third is Wat Photaram located in Maha Sarakham Province. The sim at Wat Sanuan Wari, located 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Khon Kaen, is covered with murals inside and outside like those at Wat Chaisi and Wat Photaram. While the exterior walls of Wat Sanuan Wari are covered primarily with scenes from Sinxay, the interior walls are devoted exclusively to the Vessantara Jataka.
This particular mural detail shows Sinxay and Siho fighting the Big Snake. Sinxay’s six brothers, cowards at heart, were just setting off with Sinxay, Siho and Sangthong to go on a quest to bring back Soumountha. Sinxay saw the appearance of the Big Snake as an excellent opportunity for all the brothers to show their fortitude and courage. It was here Sinxay first witnessed their cowardliness as they went and hid behind Siho. This illustration is not static and shows a continuation of the scene when Siho goes and fights beside Sinxay, using his tusks to cut up the snake. Sinxay eventually shoots an arrow that slices off the head of the snake, killing him. I know the snake looks like a naga since it has a naga head, but in Sang Sinxay it is referred to as a big snake. This image has been retouched in Photoshop. Unfortunately a hundred years or so without much protection from the elements, including bird droppings, along with the cracking and fading of the plaster wall has made the murals more of a challenge to enjoy. Our retouching is not meant to change the mural details, but provide a glimpse of what they might have looked like when they were fresh and new.
Wat Chaisi in Ban Sawatii
This photo shows a partial view of one wall at Wat Chaisi in Ban Sawatii near Khon Kaen. All four walls of the temple are similarly covered with murals. The galse/blind arched windows are an important design element in the walls of Wat Chaisi, showing how all available space was used by the muralist. Wat Chaisi is currently the locus for the majority of activities centered around Sinxay in Isan. The abbot, Phra Kou Yathanyakon, has been using the murals for many years to teach the story and the Buddhist dhamma embedded in the murals, including to young teens in the village of Ban Sawatii. In addition, through collaboration with professors at Khon Kaen University, there have been seminars on the murals, and both morlam and nang pramo thai performances. Many of these activities have been incorporated into the yearly festival of Bun Khao Chi, traditionally held in Isan and Laos on the full-moon night of the Lao lunar month, corresponding to early February.
One of the leading proponents of Sinxay in Southeast Asia is Songwit Pimpakun, Assistant Professor at Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts Khon Kaen University. It is clear that he not only looks at Sinxay from an keen academic perspective, but is passionate about...read more