Date of Shooting: September, 2001
Film Type: Fuji Color 200ASA
Camera: Olympus OM 10 quartz - 35mm single lens reflex
Lens: 30-70 mm Makinon
This particular door is a national treasure of Thailand, and is
the only door of its kind in all of Thailand from the high culture of
the Ayutthaya period. The arts of Thailand is undisputed in
international circles, and the history of carving is among the richest
in Thailand's history.
My documentation of the door at Wat Yai Suwannaram took place on September 11th 2001. A controversial restoration effort was going on in Thailand at this period. A law was passed by the Fine Art Department of Thailand to restore ancient artifacts for the heritage of Thailand. Curators of antiquity were concerned that the original carvings would loose their original effect with new applications of wood preservatives and laquers that would be applied to the surfaces thus ruining forever the autheticity of the carvings.
Wat Suwrannaram is in Petchaburi province just South of Bangkok, and these close up photographs are probably the last look at the original carving before restoration preservatives were applied.
The door was constructed by King Som Dej Phra Chao Sua, the 29th King in a line of Kings, in the year 2251 making the door 293 years old as of 2001.
Below are close up photographs of the wood after preservatives have been applied. Note how the wood turns black and becomes very hard once the preservative has hardened. Also note the new inset mirror tiles. On the door you can still see the original glass tiles. Even though new techniques are being employed the original flavor of the ancient temple has been lost and in its place is a very modern and fake appearance of the original temple art work.
Restorative techniques ushered in by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand needs to be reviewed. In my opinion an international body of people should be consulted to determined the best method of preserving ancient antiquities in Thailand. This issue is now under scrutiny with the proposed joint collaboration of Thailand and Cambodia on the Preah Vihear ancient Khmer Temple located in Cambodia. This was brought to the attention of the world with the feature article titled: "Heritage on a Mountaintop" written by Tunya Sukpanich appearing in the Bangkok Post newspaper Sunday April 25, 2004 in the Perspective section pg.1
Photos by Willard Van De Bogart
Related site for restoravtive techniques.
Other Thailand Short Stories
Willard Van De Bogart