This gallery includes just 76 out of hundreds of photos we have taken of the murals at Wat Chaisi. We would love to get some (just a little…) conversation going about the meaning of the myriad mural details interwoven over the walls of Wat Chaisi. We realize there aren’t huge crowds of Sinxay fans, but one way to get people more interested is to show how artists used the blank walls of Buddhist temples in Isan as a canvas to showcase characters and scenes from the jataka story of Sinxay. As Sarah Shaw in The Jātakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta, underscores the importance of Jātaka imagery found at and on Buddhist temples like Wat Chaisi:
“The popular Buddhism that is embedded in Jātakas still lies at the heart of the living tradition. Countless people in Buddhistcountries have grown up with these tales as a main source of teaching, anecdote and imaginative background… The artistic creativity inspired by Jātakas in temple art is an impressive testament to the central place these stories held in often non-literate Buddhist settings.”
Initially we wanted to include descriptions with each photo, but the way this particular photo gallery works the description would cover up some of the image, and we decided viewing the image without the distraction of having the description overlaid is the best option. We’ll probably write some posts about an image or groups of images and provide links in this text to those posts for those who want to learn more. Even if someone doesn’t know anything about Sinxay the murals are really breathtaking folk art that fill almost every available space on the Wat Chaisi temple walls. It’s clear the painter (or painters?) was extremely motivated and passionate, a chance to express his/her feelings and visions about Sinxay, scenes and characters all intricately woven in a mysterious storytelling tableau. Some of the mural details are easy to figure out, some less so, and some we have no clue. Unfortunately no one has taken the time to catalog all the mural details and put together a catalog that provides insights into each mural detail, clues to better help us all understand the importance of Sinxay. We wonder if there are any community members still alive who really do remember Luang Po On Sa Thamvavichit, the abbot of Wat Chaisi, responsible for the building of the sim and having it painted with the Sinxay murals approximately 100 years ago? We do know that Mr. Suwannawong, the salawat who is over seventy years old vaguely remembers the monk.
Mr. Suwannawong was born in 1940 in a house across the road from the temple and still lives in the same house. Every morning he chants verses from the original Sang Sinxay, and helps organize the many Sinxay events that happen at the temple. We did spent a number of days with him while researching Sinxay in Isan, and he graciously helped us decipher some of the mural details that intrigued us the most, but there are so many more that need to be analyzed. We hope that our book may inspire some academic to take this project on. But until then enjoy looking at these mural details and if you have anything you want to add, please do.
Our titles for the images may seem enigmatic, but we were limited to using only the title to label and partially provide insights into each image. We did number them for anyone who wants to discuss a particular image. In all the work Bai and I have done, beginning with Laos Essential Artistry where we promoted and sold Lao textiles, our emphasis has always been on education. It’s fairly easy to put up a gallery of images, but much more time consuming to provide titles and descriptions, but we have repeatedly been frustrated when looking at other galleries of photos, unnamed, unlabeled, with no description. Unless the intent is artistic, why even do it? We are trying to walk the talk in the galleries here at Sinxay.com. We are going to do the best we can in promoting and educating everyone, who is even a little interested, in Sinxay!
All the images are at a medium resolution. If anyone wants to use a high res image for a good purpose, please contact us. There will be no charge if we agree with your intent to use the image.