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The Rise of Rattanakosin Era: A Study of Magnificent Architecture of Royal Temples

Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkhalaram or Wat Pho. This temple was first called “Wat Photharam” when it was built in the Ayutthaya period, sometime between the end of the 17th Century and early 18th Century during the reign of King Phetracha. At the beginning of the Rattanakosin period, this temple was probably semi-ruined. King Rama I, ordered it to be repaired. The entire process took 12 years and was finished in 1801. The temple was given a new name “Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkhalavas”. During the reign of King Rama IV, the name was changed to “Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkhalaram” but it is commonly known as Wat Pho up to the present time. This temple is large with a total area of about 20 acres.

In 1832, during the reign of King Rama III, the temple underwent a big restoration once again which took 16 years to finish. King Rama III wished to make Wat Pho a university for the public. He started by collecting ancient and contemporary references and had them inscribed on stones. These were inlaid in walls and pillars. Some branches of study are illustrated by paintings and sculptures.

The stone inscriptions of Wat Pho can be divided into eight branches of knowledge, namely, history, medicine, health, custom, literature, proverbs, lexicography, and Buddhism. There are drawings of constellations based on astrological texts on the wall inside the library. There are also inscriptions on the stones of the treaties on local administration. There are paintings of folk tales as well as texts on how to examine elephants, horses, cats, and cattle. There are also stone engravings by Chinese artists showing the means of communication in ancient times, both by land and sea.

“The role of Wat Pho with its many religious and sociological ramifications is apparent when one considers the great impact it has made upon Thai people, not only within the capital city but also in the provinces. This monastery is so famous that those who have never seen it know of its existence and its treasured works of art. What is particularly interesting is how these representations of various artistic styles differ from each other and to what extent Rattanakosin artisans restored them.

The medical inscriptions form the most comprehensive collection of texts on Thai Traditional Medicine. In particular, they give details about the benefits and practices of the Thai Yoga Massage and there are many practitioners of Thai Yoga Massage in Wat Pho School around the world today. Among the most interesting literary texts are the translations of the great Indian and Persian epics, the ‘Ramayana’ and the ‘Shahnameh’.  This attempt to place the entire culture of the nation before the common people is unique and of great interest in what it must tell us about Thailand at the date of the inscriptions. This documentary heritage was inscribed on the Asia-Pacific Memory of World Register in 2008 and on the Memory of the World Register in 2011.”

Wat Arun Ratchawararam or Wat Arun is a royal temple of the first rank. It is on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. For countless generations, this river has played an essential role in the livelihood of the Thai people and lies to the north of the old Royal Palace of Thonburi. It was first built during the Ayutthaya period and was then called Wat Makok and later changed to Wat Chaeng. King Taksin of Thonburi repaired these old buildings and made them his Royal Temple.

During the reign of King Rama I, the prince who later became King Rama II built the new assembly hall which was finished in 1820. When he ascended to the throne, he gave the temple the name Wat Arun which is commonly known as the Temple of the Dawn.

King Rama III built a Prang with a height of 78 metres there and renovated the entire temple but he passed away before he could celebrate its inauguration. King Rama IV carried out the celebration ceremoniously and added the Mondop to the compound. King Rama IV also transferred King Rama II’s ashes to the Than Chukachi (plinth) which now lies beneath the principal Buddha Image in the complex’s ordination hall. As a consequence of this act, Wat Arun was officially designated as a Royal Temple associated with King Rama II.

Wat Arun Buddhist Architecture, which is one of the most well-known landmarks in the city of Bangkok for two centuries, has been widely praised for its technological and decorative excellence. It represents an impressive and superb architectural design and execution, from its ground plan and contours to its myriad elements, all of which reflect the prevailing cosmological beliefs of the early Rattanakosin Era. It is also a testament to the superiority of Thai craftsmanship, as evidenced by the aesthetic adornment of its myriad components. It is also highly esteemed for its comprehensive melding of several art forms woodwork, plasterwork, ceramic work, and stonework.  As such, Wat Arun is a masterful architectural amalgam whose excellence has led to its being recognised as an invaluable artifact of Thailand’s cultural heritage.”

Under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Dr Momrajavongse Suriyavudh Sukhsvasti, The Siam Society will arrange a one-day study trip to study the magnificent architecture of these two historic Royal Temples which were rebuilt or renovated in the early Rattanakosin period. Both have a repository of religious and secular fine arts of the late Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods and their continued maintenance is to be praised.


Saturday, 5 August 2023


Professor Emeritus Dr Momrajawongse Suriyavudh Sukhasvasti


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Saturday, 5 August: Wat Pho – Wat Arun
Meet at The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Road, Sukhumvit 21, Bangkok.
08:00 Depart The Siam Society for Wat Pho by bus.
Morning: Visit Wat Pho
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit Wat Arun
17:00 Return to The Siam Society
18:00 Arrive at The Siam Society

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary.

Important notes:

– The Siam Society may utilise photos taken from study trips, lectures, performances, and other activities as part of its public relations and marketing campaign. These photos, which may sometimes contain image(s) of activity participants, can also be featured on the Society’s website and other online social media channels.


Contribution of THB 3,800 (THB 4,300 for non-members) will cover transportation, lunch, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. In addition, basic accident insurance is included. There is a 3% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. Transfer can also be made to The Siam Society travel account at TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), saving account no. 053-2-18000-7 or by scanning the QR code on your right. Once payment has been made, please e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us.

We kindly ask that you confirm your reservation by Tuesday, 25 July 2023

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