Category Archives: Thailand

By Kaewta Ketbungkan, Staff Reporter – July 7, 2016 3:59 pm

BANGKOK — Having captured the everyday lives of Thais through his three previous films, director Boonsong Nakphoo is releasing his latest effort “The Wandering” Thursday to explore the real essence of Buddhism, reflecting the tranquil journey of a man who decided later in life to become a monk, something rarely seen in films nowadays.

With six new films coming to theatres this week, “The Wandering” is the only Thai film that dares to open against Spielberg’s “The BFG” and Blake Lively struggling to survive a shark attack in “The Shallows.”

“As I had ordained for ten years, I’ve been wanting to make a movie about Buddhism,” said Boonsong. “I waited for the right time to become more mature and proficient in filmmaking. This is the right time to tell the story as society decays morally and most monk movies are slapstick comedies, dark, or presented in a styleless manner.”

After graduating with a degree in Dramatic Arts from Chulalongkorn University, Boonsong began his film career in 1996 by establishing Plapen Wai Thuan Nam film studio. In 2003, the director started making films with big studios before returning to become an independent filmmaker in 2010. Continue reading

Somtow’s chariot halfway to Heaven

A scene from Somtow Sucharitkul's 10-part opera epic 'DasJati'. Photo/Siam Opera

A scene from Somtow Sucharitkul’s 10-part opera epic ‘DasJati’. Photo/Siam Opera

The Nation
Janice Koo
July 18, 2016 1:00 am

Work proceeds on history’s most ambitious opera cycle, and there’s every indication of glorious success

Ii seems to have happened overnight, but Somtow Sucharitkul is at the halfway point in composing his 10-opera epic “DasJati” (“Tossachat – Ten Lives of the Buddha”), collectively touted by trade publications as the “biggest opera of all time”. It will be, too – provided that the composer survives to realise his extraordinary ambition.

Opera Siam’s compilation of scenes from the first five installations in the cycle – staged at the Thailand Cultural Centre on June 25 and 26 in honour of His Majesty the King’s 70th year on the throne – afforded a wonderful opportunity to revisit some of the more unusual highlights from Somtow’s fevered imagination.

Presented once again in wondrous fashion were the shipwreck and angelic rescue scene from “Mahajanaka”, the animals in the forest mourning the death of “Sama: The Faithful Son”, and the temptation of the Death-God from “The Silent Prince”, as well as the wittily electrifying Baby Dragon Dance from “Bhuridat”.

These musical dramas were performed in Bangkok over the past four years, but most interesting of all was the “sneak preview” of the next entry, “Chariot of Heaven”, from which the audiences at the Cultural Centre were treated to the scene “Tavatimsa Heaven”.

One of the problems in setting these 10 beloved Jataka tales of the Buddha’s incarnations to music is the sheer variety of storytelling techniques involved. Some of the stories are intimate and simple. Others have complicated, generation-spanning plots, and “Chariot of Heaven” derives from one of the latter. It’s based on Nimi Jataka, the story of King Nemiraj, who was so noble that the gods invited him to preach to them in Heaven. Continue reading

Ban lifted after film re-edited

30271083-02_bigThe Nation October 17, 2015 1:00 am

THE FILM Board has approved the screening of the controversial horror movie “Arbat” after its name was changed to “Apatti” and some of its controversial scenes cut. The movie started screening last night with an 18+ rating.

After the Film Board banned the movie on Monday, its producer, Prachya Pinkaew, and its director, Kanittha Kwunyoo, re-edited the movie to remove the controversial scenes – taking about three minutes off its length.

Prachya and Kanittha said the re-editing did not affect the movie’s structure and the points it wanted to present to the public.

Prachya said the movie was a little bit toned down.

The removed scenes included a novice monk kissing a woman and novices lifting a Buddha image at the head. “I felt relieved that I could save the main theme of the movie,” said the rookie director.

Kanittha said she always knew the movie was likely to cause controversy.

Arbat, or apatti, is the word used when a monk breaks Buddhist precepts or rules. Such offences are committed by actions or words, although the intent is almost always the decisive factor.

For this film, the title refers to monks who have broken rules and try to sweep their offences under the carpet, only to have karma catch up with them. Continue reading

Buddhist monks horror film banned in Thailand

OCT 14, 2015 06:30AM

BANGKOK: A Thai horror film about Buddhist monks has been banned over fears it could “destroy” the kingdom’s majority faith, authorities said on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Culture has objected to certain parts of the film “Arbat” including a kissing scene and one where a monk is shown taking drugs.

The clergy have long been revered in overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand but in recent years have been rocked by scandals including gambling and prostitution, as well as corruption at the increasingly wealthy temples propped by donations from the faithful. “The movie has some scenes that will destroy Buddhism. If it is shown, people’s faith in Buddhism will deteriorate,” Somchai Surachatri, spokesman for Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism, said.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2015


Some Newly Discovered Tablets from Peninsular Thailand

Nicolas Revire
Thammasat University, Liberal Arts, Faculty Member

“Some Newly Discovered Tablets from Peninsular Thailand”

This paper presents a short study of some recenty discovered moulded tablets found in peninsular Thailand. They depict a particular type of Buddha image seated in bhadrāsana, that is the posture with both legs extended and the feet firmly planted on the ground or on a lotus pedestal. This iconography is often found – albeit not only – in central Thailand during the commonly labelled “art or period of Dvāravatī” (ca 7th-8th c.), one of Thailand’s oldest religious and artistic cultures.


Horror Film May ‘Destroy’ Buddhism, Activists Warn

A scene from the forthcoming horror film 'Arbat,' which has incensed Buddhist hardliners for depicting a novice monk engaging in forbidden behavior.

A scene from the forthcoming horror film ‘Arbat,’ which has incensed Buddhist hardliners for depicting a novice monk engaging in forbidden behavior.

Khaosod English
23 September 2015

BANGKOK — Buddhist hardliners urged the Ministry of Culture today to censor an upcoming horror film that shows a Buddhist novice behaving in ways they find offensive.

The film, “Arbat,” comes from media giant Sahamongkol Film International and is scheduled to open 15 Oct. According to the film’s promotional materials, its plot revolves around a 19-year-old boy forced by his parents to enter the monkhood in rural Thailand, where he develops a romantic relationship with a local teen girl.

Satien Vipromha, leader of a group called Academics for Buddhism, said the film’s plot is blasphemous because monks and novices are not supposed to have romantic interests. Continue reading

Buddhist Art Exhibition at Chiang Mai University Art Center

O1Buddhist Art Exhibition
Presented by Eakkathamsilp
On view from 9 – 31 July 2015
Opening Ceremony will be on 9 July 2015
Chiang Mai University Art Center


Book Review: Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-century Siam (2013)

Review by Jeffrey Martin

illumbuddhaAppleton, Naomi, Sarah Shaw, and Toshiya Unebe. Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-century Siam. Oxford, England: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2013. Print. 142 pp.

This brief book describes and illustrates (in 86 photographs) an 18-century samut khoi, an illuminated Thai manuscript now in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University.

The manuscript’s format is traditional to Buddhist texts in many countries: a stack of long sheets of paper bound between planks of leather, wood, lacquer, or other hard material as covers.  This particular manuscript was made of several sheets of paper joined into one long piece, folded fan-like, into a stack 660mm long by 95mm wide. Each fold in the fan contains two flanking illustrations, with text in the center, but the content of the paintings and the text are only loosely related.   The text is an assortment of canonical material, from Vinaya to Abhidhamma to Qualities of the Buddha.  The illustrations depict the last 10 Jātaka stories, the early life of the Bodhisatta, and the Life of the Buddha.  It is possible this text was created in Thailand specifically for Sri Lankan monks and thus contains what were considered essential texts to help restore what was then a lapsed monastic tradition.


A visual map of the manuscript

A textual map of the manuscript

A textual map of the manuscript

Continue reading

“Buddhist Art Exhibition” Art thesis exhibition Presented by EKA DHARMA SILPA

Art thesis exhibition
5 – 28 April 2015

Opening Ceremony will be on 5 April 2015 at 1 pm.
Chiang Mai University Art Center
venue :The 1st floor Back Gallery

CMU ART CENTER opens on Tuesday to Sunday from 09.00 am. To 5.00 pm.
Close on Monday and National’s holidays

239 Nimmanhemin Rd. T. Suthep, A Muang Chiangmai 50200
053-218280, 053 – 944833 Fax 053-218280
facebook: CMUartcenter

Book: The Fate of Rural Hell

Layout 1The Fate of Rural Hell
Distributed for Seagull Books

99 pages | 24 color plates | 5 1/2 x 7 3/4 | © 2012

In 1975, when political scientist Benedict Anderson reached Wat Phai Rong Wua, a massive temple complex in rural Thailand conceived by Buddhist monk Luang Phor Khom, he felt he had wandered into a demented Disneyland. One of the world’s most bizarre tourist attractions, Wat Phai Rong Wua was designed as a cautionary museum of sorts; its gruesome statues depict violent and torturous scenes that showcase what hell may be like. Over the next few decades, Anderson, who is best known for his work, Imagined Communities, found himself transfixed by this unusual amalgamation of objects, returning several times to see attractions like the largest metal-cast Buddha figure in the world and the Palace of a Hundred Spires. The concrete statuaries and perverse art in Luang Phor’s personal museum of hell included, “side by side, an upright human skeleton in a glass cabinet and a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s gigantic nude David, wearing fashionable red underpants from the top of which poked part of a swollen, un-Florentine penis,” alongside dozens of statues of evildoers being ferociously punished in their afterlife.

In The Fate of Rural Hell, Anderson unravels the intrigue of this strange setting, endeavoring to discover what compels so many Thai visitors to travel to this popular spectacle and what order, if any, inspired its creation. At the same time, he notes in Wat Phai Rong Wua the unexpected effects of the gradual advance of capitalism into the far reaches of rural Asia.

Both a one-of-a-kind travelogue and a penetrating look at the community that sustains it, The Fate of Rural Hell is sure to intrigue and inspire conversation as much as Wat Phai Rong Wua itself.