03/14/2017, 14.22
THAILAND
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More than 500 statues of animals and gods to honour the late King Bhumibol

The sculptures to be made are categorised into 16 groups. Traditional craftsmen will make them half of them, about 26 major characters, which will represent divinities and past monarchs. The remaining 11 characters – mostly animals and mythological creatures – will be made in Ayutthaya by Bangkok’s Ang Thong and Pohchang Academy of Arts.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The Fine Arts Department’s Traditional Arts Office in Nakhon Pathom commissioned more than 500 statues to decorate the Phra Merumat, the imposing structure that will house the royal urn of King Bhumibol Adulyadej after he is cremated. The Thai king died on 13 October 2016.

The 500 sculptures are categorised into 16 groups and half of them, about 26 major characters, will be created by the artisans of the Traditional Arts Office, whilst the remaining 11 characters, mostly animals and some mythical creatures, will be created in Ayutthaya by craftsmen with Bangkok’s Ang Thong and Pohchang Academy of Arts.

So far about half of the sculptures have been done with the rest expected for the end of April.

Korkiat Thongphud of the Fine Arts Department designed the Phra Merumat. The idea of the royal funeral pyre is to signify Mount Sumeru, which is where King Bhumibol’s divine spirit will return, according to traditional beliefs influenced by both Brahmanism and Buddhism.

When completed, Phra Merumat will be 50.49m high with an elaborate seven-tier roof. The structure will have four levels and will be adorned by hundreds of sculptures and four ponds at four corners of the base of the structure.

The north pond will be decorated with elephant herds and the south with sacred oxen. The west pond is for horses and the east pond is for singh (lions).

According to one craftsman, Charoen Hancharoen, each sculpture has a metal framework as the core. The sculptor attaches hundreds of fillers, which are wooden crosses, to the armature before moulding it with clay.

The clay must be refined, said Prasopsuk Ratmai, head of the Sculpture Division of the Fine Arts Department’s Traditional Arts Office.

They use aged clay from Pathum Thani because it doesn’t have the usual dark grey colour, but yellowish brown like the colour of café au lait.

The colour can reflect light and help artisans see the right dimension whilst sculpturing each statue, he said.

When finished, each clay sculpture is taken to another working space at Sanam Luang where another artisan team will create moulds of the clay sculptures.

The sculptures will be made of fibreglass and be coloured before being placed at Phra Merumat.

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