Sunday, August 29, 2021

Phra Phuttha Sihing

Phra Phuttha Sihing
Phra Phuttha Sihing (also known as the Phra Sing, Sihinga Buddha, Singhalese Buddha, Sihalapatima) is an ancient image of the Gautama Buddha currently placed in Bangkok National Museum, Thailand. It is considered one of the most famous Buddha statues in Thailand (Chiu, 2017).

The story about Phra Phuttha Sihing is mainly found in two Thai chronicles, viz; Jinakalamali, and Phra Buddha Sihing Chronicle (Tambiah, 1982). The Jinakalamali chronicle is said to have been written in the second decade of the 16th century (1515-1516 A.D.) during the reign of King Tilakapanattu of Chiengmai [(1495-1525 A.D.) Tambiah, 1982]. The Phra Buddha Sihing Chronicle was written in the 15th century (ca. 1417 A.D.) by a Buddhist monk named Bodhiramsi from Chiang Mai or Lumphun (Stratton, 2004; Tambiah, 1982).
According to the Jinakalamali chronicle,  this bronze image was cast in Sri Lanka around 156 A.D. and later brought to Thailand (Stratton, 2004). After that, it was placed and revered in a number of locations in the country including Nakhon Si Thammarat, Jayanada, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng, Phet, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Saen (Stratton, 2004). 

Prince Damrong, an administrator and a writer of the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910 A.D.) mentions the first landing of Phra Phuttha Sihing on Thailand at Nakhon Si Thammarat and its subsequent removal to Sukhothai by King Ramkhamhaeng [(1279-1298 A.D.) Tambiah, 1982]. Then its removal to Ayutthaya in 1378, to Kamphaeng in 1382, to Chiang Rai in 1388, to Chiang Mai in 1407, and finally to Bangkok in 1795 (Tambiah, 1982).

Three Buddha images?
The old Phar Phuttha Sihing statue that is mentioned in chronicles is now unidentifiable (Stratton, 2004; Tambiah, 1982). However, three (or six) statues in Thailand today claim the title; one at Hor Phrabhut Sihing, Nakhon Si Thammarat, one at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, and the one now placed in the Bangkok National Museum (Chiu, 2017; Stratton, 2004; Tambiah, 1982). Of them, the last statue is popularly identified as the Phra Phuttha Sihing (Stratton, 2004; Tambiah, 1982). 

The statue at Bangkok National Museum
Phra Phuttha Sihing
This statue is considered one of the finest examples of the Lan Na statuary (Stratton, 2004). It has been sculpted in classic Lan Na and Sukhothai style but using Singhalese (Sri Lankan) iconography (Stratton, 2004). The long fingers on hands are the same length as found in many classic Lan Na and post-classic Sukhothai images from the mid-15th century (Stratton, 2004). The hooked nose and full cheeks are characteristics of the Sukhothai images (Stratton, 2004).
The seating position of most of the statues of Lan Na and Sukhothai are Virasana and Maravijaya (Stratton, 2004). However, the Phra Phuttha Sihing statue deviates from those. The hands of this statue are quietly folded in meditation, an attitude commonly associated with the seated Buddha statues of Sri Lanka (Stratton, 2004).

The original provenance of this statue is uncertain (Stratton, 2004). It is believed that this statue has its origin in the North of Thailand (Stratton, 2004). According to Stratton, the statue presently kept in the museum is probably the one that reappeared in Chiang Mai during the reign of King Tilokraj [(1441-1487 A.D.) Stratton, 2004]. The style of this statue is closely related to the Lan Na Thai Ping I type (Stratton, 2004).
1) Chiu, A.S., 2017. The Buddha in Lanna. University of Hawaii Press. p.20.
2) Stratton, C., 2004. Buddhist Sculpture of Northern Thailand. Serindia Publications, Inc. pp.89,91,274-275,279-280.
3) Tambiah, S.J., 1982. Famous Buddha Images and the Legitimation of Kings: The Case of the Sinhala Buddha (Phra Sihing) in Thailand. Res: Anthropology and aesthetics, 4(1), pp.5-19.
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This page was last updated on 29 August 2021


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