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Precious mural at Nong Bua Temple, Nan

Precious mural at Nong Bua Temple, Nan

Nopniwat Krailerg

Admiring old Thai paintings carries the viewer back in time to experience ancient lifestyles and stories of the past, and the murals at Nong Bua Temple, Tambon Pakha in Thawangpha, Nan province, is one of Thailandís most important art heritage.

The Lanna style church of the Nong Bua Temple, perfectly constructed by a Nan expert.

Nong Bua Temple is located at Tambon Pakha, about 45 kilometers from the city of Nan, on highway 1080 Nan-Pua Road.

Take a left turn at kilometer 40, and follow the road for another three kilometers, where you will see the busy Tai Leu tribe village, with most of them weaving Tai Leu style textiles. These textiles, together with the ancient culture of Tai Lue, which emigrated from Xishuangbanna, is worth visiting and an interesting experience.

A picture of western armies holding rifles, and Thai armies wearing uniforms with European soldier hats.

It is said that the Nong Bua Temple was originally located near the Nong Bua swamp, about 500 meters away from its present location; however, there are no structural remains. It was later moved to the present area and registered by the Religion Department, established in 1772 by Monk Sunanta and the villagers. This temple is a perfect example of Thai Lanna style architecture, hardly to be seen anywhere else these days. There are also beautiful murals on the walls, but regrettably, no further written history of the temple can be found, and one has to rely on the information and traditional stories told by the village elders.

Nan ladies wearing Pha Zin Lai Nam ankle-length skirts getting ready for a bath.

Phra Khroo Manith Boon Karn or Khroo Ba Panya, a monk who knows the history of the temple well, told us that Thep, his father, who was a soldier for Chao A-nanthayod, Nanís king (governed in 1852-1891), went to war in Puan City, Luang Phra Bang, Laos, and after the war, he asked an artist from Laos named Thid Bua Phan to create the murals at the temple, assisted by San Pijit (a monk) and the soldier. The murals are believed to be 103-142 years old.

A box keeping dried palm leaf scripture, 167 years old, can be found in the church.

Some details of the paintings depict the history of the time and assist in calculating the age of the temple, such as a picture of a steam boat and western soldiers. The steam boat must have arrived from Europe or America, and Thailandís historical documents tells that a steam boat first arrived in Thailand during the period of King Rama IV. A picture of a rifle with bayonet fixed that Thailand used during the period of King Rama IV or Rama V, can be found, suggesting that the murals were created during this period.

A Buddhist story appears in the painting, telling about Chanthakad Chadok, a story of Buddhaís teaching that the village calls Khao Tham Chantha Chadok, which is a story used for admonishing children to live morally and be honest, kind and faithful.

Every mural reflects stories of the ancient lifestyle, and especially the ones at Nong Bua Temple depicts the villagersí past lifestyle. It offers a valuable chance for new generations to experience interesting history, even the fashions, showing an ankle-length skirt worn by the ladies of the village, called Pha Zin Lai Nam, which is very beautiful and well know even nowadays.

King of Nagas (serpent) mixing with lion statue decorating a roof of the church, Nong Bua Temple.

Earthen pot containing water for visitors.

A shelter beside the church has a beautiful decoration.

A giant mural painting at the east side.

Thai and western soldiers holding rifles with bayonets on top.

A steam boat that apparently came from Europe is depicted on this mural.