The three major Buddhist temples in Isan that have murals showing scenes from Sinxay

Wat Chaisi

The sim at Wat Chaisi is a small structure designed to hold 21 monks. There is one entrance, and the front of the temple faces east. Murals are painted on both the inside and the outside of the sim, and most of the murals depict scenes from Sinxay. There used to be a wooden roof, but this was replaced with a more modern tile roof. The walls were designed to be thick, because they didn’t use rebar. The sandstone for the temple came from a small quarry about 30 kilometers (19 miles) away.

Wat Sanuan Wari

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. The murals at Wat Sanuan Wari, while relatively few in number, excel in their stylistic portrayal of scenes and characters from Sinxay, and they are often the ones chosen to accompany articles or writings about Sinxay

Wat Photaram

Wat Photaram is located in the village of Ban Dong Ban, in the Na Dun District, in the south of Maha Sarakham Province. This wat is much farther away from Khon Kaen than Wat Chaisi and Wat Sanuan Wari. The murals at the temple were quite impressive. Like Wat Chaisi and Wat Sanuan Wari, this wat is covered with murals on all four outer walls. Unlike the other two wats, though, murals depicting scenes from Sinxay cover just one wall. The highlight of the Sinxay murals at Wat Photaram is the portrayal of Sinxay in the kingdom of the naga. The game of chess between the hero and the naga king, Nak Valoonarat, is prominently featured; this scene is not present at any other wat.

The sim rests on an approximate three-foot base of cement, and the bottom half of the wall has stylized molding painted in white. (Photo 3-15) [8 inches wide] In Architecture of Thailand[1] Nithi Sthapitanonda and Brian Mertens write that, “Important buildings such as ordination halls . . . are exalted by bases that raise them off the ground, usually in multiple layers that add height, structural complexity and decoration.”


[1] Sthapitanonda, Nithi and Brian Mertens. 2006. Architecture of Thailand: A Guide to Tradition and Contemporary Forms. Thames & Hudson.