Year published :2010

Pages :96 pp.

Size :25.5x25.5 cm.

Color illustrations :Through-out

ISBN: 9786169005315

Buddhist Murals of Northeast Thailand: Reflections of the Isan Heartland

by Mekong Press

Bonnie Pacala Brereton and Somroay Yencheuy


Books on mural painting in Thailand have tended to focus on works commissioned by royalty or other elites from the centers of power. This volume is the first to examine a vibrant sub-school of painting from the rural heartland of the Northeastern Region, also known as Isan. The murals are distinct in that they are painted on the exterior of ordination halls and their compositions give a sense of movement around the building. The book examines characters depicted in the murals and reveals that many are, in fact, the villagers themselves as they participate in the festivals and rituals that inform their understanding of Buddhism.

Written as an introduction to the topic, Buddhist Murals of Northeast Thailand is a multifaceted and empathetic study of these lovely and lively paintings, and will appeal to anyone interested in the Mekong Region, as well as to scholars of art history, Buddhism, and anthropology in Southeast Asia.

About the Authors

Bonnie Pacala Brereton is an American art historian and Buddhist studies scholar who specializes in vernacular forms of cultural expression in Thailand’s peripheral regions. Somroay Yencheuy grew up in a silk-weaving village in Khon Kaen and has written extensively in Thai on Isan art, literature, shadow play, and traditional material culture. Both are researchers at the Center for Research on Plurality in the Mekong Region, Khon Kaen University.


  • Uncovers a little-known group of pre-modern murals created by Lao villagers
  • Explores the relationship between murals and cloth banners
  • Summarizes the local stories depicted, including the Vessantara Jataka, Pha Lak Pha Lam, and Sin Sai
  • Examines the paintings in their regional context rather than as folk versions of so-called classic art
  • Analyzes the relationship between the murals’ content, local Buddhist practice, and teachings



    Buddhist murals | Thailand | Isan | Buddhist temples | Buddhist art

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