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Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho

Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho

Thailand - Wat Pho


To preserve traditional learning and practice for the public, King Rama III (1824–1851) ordered 50 scholars to prepare a set of writings giving an overview of Thai culture. Between 1831 and 1841 these writings were inscribed onto 1,431 stone slabs from 32 x 14 centimetres to 200 x 110 centimetres in size, which were fixed to the walls of 25 buildings of the Wat Pho Monastery in the centre of Bangkok. There are 12 plates of inscription which give the history of Wat Pho; 310 plates on the essential texts of Buddhism with many including engravings of figures of Buddhist Arahats and Disciples; 276 plates on the text of many of the major literary works in Thai, both in prose and verse; 124 plates detail the ordering of the Thai Kingdom at that date, listing provinces, cities, ethnic groups, governors and the major Buddhist religious houses; and 65 plates are of moral and ethical teachings, some in verse. The largest group, 608 inscriptions, gives the texts of a substantial number of medical texts. Finally 36 inscriptions provide an illustrated account of the Royal Kathin Robe Procession. The King's aim was to ensure that these texts of useful knowledge were available for the ordinary people to read.

The medical inscriptions form the most comprehensive collection of texts of Thai Traditional Medicine. In particular they give details about the medical benefits and practices of the Thai Yoga Massage and there are many practitioners of Thai Yoga Massage of the Wat Pho School around the world today. Of the literary texts the most interesting are 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 has to 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.




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