|PRESS FOCUS 2013
|Salvaging a lost king
29 July 2013 - Udumbara had relinquished the throne of Ayutthaya, only to be captured by the Burmese. The resting-place in Myanmar of Siam's
King Udumbara is to be restored as a memorial ground and an "Ayutthaya cultural heritage centre" built nearby, at a cost of at least Bt39 million.
Myanmar's government had planned to raze the historic tomb in Mandalay to make way for urban development. Architect Vichit Chinalai led a Thai
team to the site at the edge of Taungthaman Lake last August, excavated a stupa and verified that this was indeed the tomb of the Siamese monarch.
Vichit and Myanmarese archaeologist Win Muang and Myint Hsan Heart sought authority to restore the site and set up the Udumbara Memorial
Foundation to look after it. It has endorsed the project and plans to raise the needed funds. Last month the team unearthed further evidence at the
site, including an alms bowl containing human remains, fragments of a monk's robe and a third artefact that remains unidentified but was once the
property of another royal personage. Vichit says the tomb resembles a small cetiya that's larger and older than any other grave marker in the
cemetery on Linzin Hill. "Based on chronical records and our new discoveries, we can now say the tomb belongs to Udumbara," Vichit tells The
Nation. "The alms bowl is made of terracotta and decorated with colourful glass mosaics, signifying it was used by a Mahatheara (high-ranking)
monk," Vichit says. "The glass mosaics are in the dok dua formation, just like the Yethaphan Pwint - the goolar flower in the king's crest." Win
Muang Kyi acknowledges that the bowl's design is not Burmese.
Myanmar history records Udumbara being among 100,000 Siamese captured by King Hsinbyushin (1736-76) of Burma's Konbaung Dynasty during
the invasion of Ayutthaya in 1767. They were taken to Hsinbyushin's capital, Ava. Udumbara was a monk when he was taken to Burma. He is often
referred to as King Dok Dua, referring to the flower of the madua tree. Udumbara is "madua flower" in Pali. He was the youngest son of King
Borommakot (1733-58) and a minor queen called Phiphit Montri, and yet came to be designated uparat (crown prince). Such was the insecurity of
his position upon assuming the throne when his father died, though, that Udumbara decided to abdicate in favour of his meddlesome elder brother
Suriyamarin (1758-67). He built a monastery called Wat Pradu Songtham and retired there, only to be seized by the Burmese when Ayutthaya fell in
1767 and led away to captivity, dying after 29 years in a foreign land in 1796.
The joint Myanmar and Thai working team has laid out plans for a 10-rai Mahathera King Udumbara Memorial Ground near the burial site and is
seeking the permission of local authorities to establish a cultural centre. Surrounded by 200-year-old trees, it would show how the Siamese captives
lived in and around Mandalay in the 18th century. The project includes restoration of the royal graveyard complex. The first phase would focus on
developing the grounds. Then the cultural centre would be erected utilising Ayutthaya-style architecture, while inside it would be decked with hi-tech
displays. "When we are granted permission and secure ownership of the site, the project will take at least two years," says Vichit, who's already
devoted nearly a decade to the possibilities. Only since Myanmar began opening up to the world last year has he been able to imagine possibility
becoming probability. Scholars in Mandalay and Thailand are now hoping this project will not only prevent a great loss in terms of our history but
also boost Thai-Myanmar people to people relationship and yet potentially huge tourism industry. [The Nation - article by Phatarawadee
On the walls in Mandalay - Evidence of Ayutthaya culture still exists in the temples of Myanmar
2 May 2013 - More than two centuries after Ayutthaya villagers were captured by the Burmese and taken to Mandalay, some artistic traits are still
evident in the township of Amarapura. But don't expect to find traditional Thai stilt houses from the period dotting Amarapura streets or Ayutthaya's
narrow chedi abounding in Myanmar temples. Instead, traces of Thai influence are more subtly displayed. They can be found in temple murals, where
signs of the captives known as Yodia can be found. "The Yodia were the captives so it wasn't possible to build a historical statue or religious venue
while they were residing in a foreign land," said expert archaeologist Patipat Pumpongpaet.
Patipat was in Amarapura with a group of independent architects to verify royal relics of King Uthumporn in March. The project aims to publish
three books by the end of next year. The first will revise the history of King Uthumporn based on new discoveries, and oral and written Myanmar
history. The second will be about the places and temples where the king resided until he passed away in 1796. The last will feature artistic and
cultural heritage that has been influenced by Ayutthaya traditions. He explained the Yodia _ which is how the Burmese referred to Ayutthaya captives
back then _ had to give up their style of stilt houses, lifestyle and cuisine to adapt to the new country. "The Ayutthaya traits had to be subtly shown in
the mural paintings or architectural details in the religious places," said Patipat. All the temples and monasteries were built in Myanmar style.
According to the Myanmar chronicles Parabike, about 30,000 villagers were captured along with King Uthumporn when Ayutthaya fell to Myanmar
in 1767. They were taken to Innwa, about 20km outside Mandalay, where they were allowed to build their community. More captives were later
taken to reside near Yethaphan Kyaung temple. King Uthumporn, better known as Chao Fah Dok Maduea, was believed to have resided initially at
Maha Thein-dawgyi monastery and then at Yethaphan Kyaung temple, before being moved to Paung Le Taik temple where he remained a revered
monk until he passed away. The four temples are located within a 20km radius of each other.
Because of the large number of captives, many believe the temples and monasteries where King Uthumporn resided were influenced by Ayutthaya
art. These places are believed to have been built before the Yodia were captured, but some were later renovated, and traces of their existence
remain to this day. Among the religious sites is Kyauk Taw Kyi Temple, which despite its conventional Myanmar architectural style features
outstanding Ayutthaya-influenced mural paintings at its four gates. The paintings are believed to have been created by Yodia people who were taken
to Myanmar in 1767. The temple is located near the famous U-Bein wooden Bridge and Taungthaman Lake.
At the East Gate, a woman with an unusually short traditional skirt can be spotted among the females with long traditional skirts covering their ankles.
While Myanmar women were believed to wear long skirts covering their ankles, the length of Thai skirts was usually above the ankles. At the same
gate, a boy most likely of Thai descent is seen carrying baskets with a cradle over his shoulders, while the Burmese are carrying items on their heads.
A chedi is also believed to be painted in Ayutthaya style, the evidence for which is its unusually narrow width. The width and height of a Myanmar-
style chedi is usually equal. Entering the South Gate, there is an image of a group of boys, believed to be Yodia descendants because of their
hairstyle, playing on the grounds.
Located in Sagaing, across the Salween River from Amarapura, Maha Theindawgyi Monastery also features Ayutthaya artistic details on the mural
paintings inside the ubosot. Apart from the main image of Buddha on the wall, Patipat said the decorative elements including squirrels playing with
flowers were favourite patterns among Ayutthaya artists. "Thai artists had a sense of humour." He added that the bussabok, or Buddha's throne,
featured on the wall is similar to that in Wat Choeng Tha in Ayutthaya, while the pha-thip, a decorative fabric hanging from the throne, is similar to
that in Wat Chaiwattanaram and Wat Mongkol Bophit, both in Ayutthaya.
Yethaphan Kyaung Temple, located near Innwa, was the first temple where the king resided. Only a wooden frame around a wooden Buddha image
kept in the temple grounds now reveals any link with Ayutthaya. The frame features a kanok pattern, one of the most famous Thai decorative
elements. Paung Le Taik temple is the last place the king resided. However, its location in Mandalay has made it difficult for historical Thai traits to
survive. A village nearby is believed to be where the Yodia captives were placed, and there is evidence for this in the form of sand pagodas, or
Thepone Ceti, located near the irrigation canal that was once the waterway for the Yodia people in Mandalay. Patipat said the sand pagodas are
among the few historical sites left that demonstrate that Buddhists would carry sand back to the temple grounds, a custom based on worshippers
replacing what was taken away by their feet when they left. However, Patipat was aware that the sands of time had eroded much of the evidence of
the Yodia's influence, and he was circumspect about what could be found in modern-day Myanmar. "You can't expect things to remain. What could
be moved would have been gone." [Source: Bangkok Post - Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai]
Ayutthaya temples in for augmented reality, courtesy AIT student
14 April 2013 - Ever been irrigated by the use of headphones provided by tour guides at historic sites? Have you complained that the audio
experience at tourist places dampens your overall tour experience? Well, a student at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) may have the answer
for you. “Headphones at tourist sites impede the visual experience. On the other hand, not using them means that a tourist misses out on relevant
information,” is how Ms. Jittin Chaitamart describes it. At scores of tourist places, the visitor wishes to enhance his or her experience, but fails to do
so. So what could be a solution? “Augmented reality” is the answer according to Ms. Jittin, a Master’s student of Remote Sensing and Geographical
Information Systems at AIT. Armed with a tablet and an application that she created, visitors at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya can
now benefit from the benefits of augment reality. Scan the tablet or your phone towards the monument or temple, and a three-dimensional
visualization will appear on your screen. A menu chart lists images, documents, video, website, audio, a 3D model and the route map. Click on the
image to view the monument from different angles. Read about the temples of Ayutthaya, and watch its video while standing right in front of the
monument. “It is not just reality, but augmented reality,” Ms. Jittin explains. Augmented reality provides an immersive experience that enhances the
pleasure of the visit, making tourism a more enjoyable proposition. That is not all. “The same technology can be used in museums,” she adds. Scan
an artifact, and full details of the artifact flash on your device. The same technology comes into play even for exhibits that are no longer on display,
either due to maintenance or space constraint. Scan a QR code of the exhibit, and a 3D model will emerge. Since the information is served from the
Internet and is not stored on the device, the information is always fresh and up-to-date, she says. Her work “Development of Location Based
Service Application using Augmented Reality technology for historical tourism on iOS platform” uses an array of technologies. Location Based
Service (LBS), Augmented Reality (AR), Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are integrated in the
project. “More than the combined use of these technologies, it is the 3D modeling which is more challenging,” says Dr. Sarawut Ninsawat, who is
supervising the work. 3D models require huge spatial databases since they store enormous information. The challenge is to develop a spatial
database that stores only the relevant information, while maintaining the immersive experience, he says. So far, the use of augmented reality has been
restricted to business and commercial areas, and there are no known cases of its use in historical sites, Dr. Sarawut adds. Using data from the
Ayutthaya Digital Archive Project (ADAP) from Dr.Surat Lertlum, adjunct faculty at Remote Sensing and GIS, AIT’s School of Engineering and
Technology (AIT), nearly 100 sites have been included under this initiative. Future development could include multilingual support and maybe a new
app in the iStore, adds Dr. Nitin Kumar Tripathi, Coordinator, RS and GIS, and theme leader of the Information and Communication Technology
(ICT), SET. [Source: AIT - Asian Institute of Technology]
Doubts remain after tomb hunt
6 April 2013 - A team of volunteer archaeologists who set out to verify if a tomb in Myanmar belonged to an Ayutthaya king found some relics and
artefacts at the site but cannot reach a conclusion. The group, supported by the Association of Siamese Architects, carried out the excavation work
at Linzingong cemetery, in Amarapura township in Mandalay, from Feb 20 to March 14. The project was supported by both the Thai and Myanmar
governments. Vichit Chinalai, the project director and a veteran architect, told a seminar on the issue on Thursday that more work needs to be done
to prove if the stupa, one of the three at the cemetery, holds relics of King Uthumporn (1730-1796). The monarch reigned briefly before leaving the
throne to his brother King Ekathat, the last king of the Ayutthaya period. King Uthumporn, then ordained, was among the Thais who were taken
from Ayutthaya to Burma. The king died in 1796 while still in the monkhood. The abandoned cemetery where the stupa stands has been a destination
for Thai travellers to Mandalay who believe it is the king's tomb. According to Mr Vichit, the team found about a dozen artefacts including a bowl-
shaped container in which a few pieces of burned relics and a tooth were found. The findings will be sent to the Thai and Myanmar governments for
endorsement. The team of archaeologists believed the artefacts could be linked to either a senior monk or a king but found no inscription during the
excavation. Since the number and size of the artefacts found at the stupa is small, carbon-14 testing is not possible to verify their precise age. A DNA
test was also ruled out as the amount of burned relics and ashes is too small. The only option to verify the age of the findings is a thermoluminescence
test. The test, however, can only be conducted after reports and findings from the first phase have been approved by both governments, Mr Vichit
said. He added it is likely the verification project will go into a second phase. The excavation project has saved the Linzingong cemetery from being
bulldozed by local authorities in Myanmar. The site had earlier been earmarked for a land development project by a former Mandalay government.
The current administration withdrew the project, allowing the excavation to proceed. The latest decision was made after the artefacts had been
found. The team, led by Mr Vichit, was also asked to submit a second-phase plan to improve the cemetery and develop the area into a promenade
and "yodia", or Ayutthaya village. [Source: Bangkok Post - Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai]
In search of a king - A team of archaeologists and architects believe the remains of a former ruler of Ayutthaya may lie in a Myanmar
stupa. But will the truth remain a mystery?
25 March 2013 - It was late afternoon on a hot day in Myanmar. A group of Thai archaeologist at an excavation site in Linzingong cemetery in
Mandalay were about to wrap up their work when one of them emerged with a lotus-shaped artefact. Every day, some 30 people would be seen
working at the site. Some were seen digging into the ground, while others were digging into the centre of the stupas. Myanmar historian Mickey
Heart was there to help with historical details. Retired architect Chantharid Virochsiri analysed the stupas, while two engineers ensured safety on the
site. These veterans were supported by young professionals.
The small discovery brought joy to the group - a band of independent archaeologists who volunteered for a project supported by Association of
Siamese Architects (ASA). Their mission was to verify royal relics of an Ayutthaya king on Myanmar soil. "We are taking another step closer to
achieving the mission," said Patipat Pumpongpaet, a retired archaeologist, as he carefully examined the piece.
The site they worked on is an abandoned cemetery where three ancient stupas are located. Some believe that one of the stupas holds relics of King
Uthumporn (1730-1796) who reigned the kingdom shortly before leaving the throne to his brother King Ekathat, the last king of the Ayutthaya
period. King Uthumporn, then ordained, was among Thais who were abducted from Ayutthaya and settled in the area that is now Myanmar. The
king died in 1796 while still in the monkhood. According to the Myanmar chronicles Parabike, King Uthumporn was captured along with some
30,000 villagers when Ayutthaya fell to Myanmar in 1767. They were taken to Innwa, about 20km outside Mandalay, where the Yodia captives _
that is how Ayutthaya was known in Myanmar _ were allowed to build homes. King Uthumporn, better known as Chao Fah Dok Maduea, was
believed to reside initially at Maha Theindawgyi Monastery and later moved to Yethaphan Kyaung Temple, before Paung Le Taik Temple where he
remained a revered monk until he passed away.
The search for the king's relics began last year when the area, which is close to the famous U Bein wooden bridge, was designated for a development
project. Under an initial plan, the three stupas were to be torn down and their artefacts would be relocated to a new site at a temple about 300m
from the cemetery. But the project was eventually suspended as the Myanmar government wants to preserve the historical site. Architect Vichit
Chinalai, who led the excavation project, discovered the stupa about 20 years ago when he visited the site as a tour leader for the ASA and has
always wanted to solve the historical mystery. Initially, his team was instructed to remove all the finds to the new site and decided to use the
anastylosis technique to verify the tomb, which means every piece of brick would be removed for the team to dig inside each stupa. But the team
embraced the decision of the Myanmar government to preserve the stupas. "Whether the stupa could be verified or not doesn't matter anymore," said
Vichit. Vichit is not the first person to look for King Uthumporn's relics.
Prince Damrong, one of Siam's most famous and knowledgeable historians, visited Myanmar in 1936, and tried to locate the stupas which "had been
mentioned by King Rama V". The issue re-emerged in 1995 when Dr Tin Maung Kyi, an amateur historian and Yodia descendant, tried to convince
readers in Today magazine that one of the stupas belonged to King Uthumporn. However, the stupas have since attracted debate. Some modern-day
historians refuse to believe they have any connection with the Ayutthaya king in the absence of inscriptions or other historical evidence. But the
chronicles indicate the area was the cremation site for the king and a stupa was built there right after the royal cremation. The site was part of a
cemetery for foreigners, including Westerners and Yodia, in Myanmar at the time. It was found that the two of the three stupas were built in the same
period, said Vichit, judging from the size, form and texture of the bricks. The shape of the small stupa also resembled an urn, which is usually used
only in a royal cremation ceremony. "There's no other stupa more majestic than this one in the area," he said. More than two centuries later, Yodia
traits can be found in the surrounding temples.
Apart from the visible architectural traits, the team discovered the three stupas in the cemetery were surrounded by smaller tombstones from a
different era located inside an enclosed four-sided wall hidden underground. The layout suggested that the cemetery belonged to a very important
family, said Vichit.
The volunteers also found the lotus-shape lid handle in the small stupa to the northeast of the main one. Two days later, a container was found deep
inside the same stupa. Like the handle, the exterior clay bowl resembling a monk's bowl was decorated with drop-shaped glass mosaics, encircled
with gold lacquer. Inside the bowl were a few pieces of burned ashes and a piece of tooth.
''No commoners would have such a container in the old times, no matter how rich you were,'' said Patipat, sweating under his dusty sombrero. He
admitted the discoveries without any inscriptions couldn't verify that the tomb belonged to King Uthumporn.
The container could only be linked to a revered monk. Patipat also tried to link the container to the Yodia-style mural painting at Kyauk Taw Kyi
temple, which features a deva holding a bowl on a tray. The team has wrapped up the project and is to present its findings to Mandalay later. Vichit
hopes to start the second phase of the project soon.
The new phase is to renovate the site for Thai descendants visiting Myanmar to pay homage to their Ayutthaya king, and to build a replica Yodia
village, linking the cemetery with the famous U Bein Bridge with a lakeside promenade.
Retired architect Chantharid Virochsiri, also a volunteer, hoped the area could be turned into a promenade featuring a small car-free lane for the
locals to continue with their conventional transportation with horse or cow pushcarts, and for tourists to use. Commercial buildings or hotels of an
appropriate size could also be established if the state wished to earn an income from the area. Waste management should be improved _ the villagers
shouldn't be dumping dye waste directly into the lake. ''The site could become a role model for other communities in Myanmar and even Thailand to
follow,'' he said. The historic tomb, meanwhile, will remain a mystery. ''Although the tomb couldn't be verified, we will bring back the missing parts of
King Uthumporn's life that have never been recorded in Thai history,'' said Patipat. [Source: bangkok Post - Writer: Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai]
US State Department Funds Thai Monument Restoration
16 February 2013 - The United States State Department's Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation recently bestowed a $131,800 grant to
the Thai government for restoration work at Wat Chai Watthanaram, a historic Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand. According to World
Monuments Fund President Bonnie Burnham, "Support from the State Department's Ambassadors Fund will assist the Thai Department of Fine Arts
with continuing efforts to protect the site in light of increasingly severe flooding in the region and will advance conservation activities at the temple."
Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was once the capital of the Thai Kingdom of Ayutthaya, better known as Siam. For several hundred years, Ayutthaya
flourished as one of the world's largest cities, until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. Today, the remnants of the city are classified as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, the elements have taken its toll on Ayutthaya's ancient Buddhist temples and monuments, particularly the
widespread flooding that devastated much of the country in 2011. Restoration on the monuments began in 2012, and the project is ongoing. [Source:
http://www.gadling.com - by Jessica Marati]
Hunt on for lost Ayutthaya king
14 February 2013 - An ancient stupa in Myanmar will be excavated later this month to verify if it contains the relics of an Ayutthaya king. Led by the
Association of Siamese Architects, eight experts, including architects and archaeologists, will excavate the stupa in search of ashes, relics and other
artefacts that could verify if the stupa is the burial site of King Uthumporn. The site, in Amanapura township, about 20km from Mandalay, is likely to
be demolished as part of an urban development project, the research team said. Scholars have long debated whether the location is the burial site of
King Uthumporn, who reigned briefly during the Ayutthaya period. He abdicated and was believed to have been taken to Myanmar after a war with
Siam in 1767, and later died in captivity in 1796. The excavation will be carried out from later this month until March 16. [Source: Bangkok Post]
World Monuments Fund announces major grant from the U.S. Department of State for work in Ayutthaya, Thailand
6 February 2013 - NEW YORK, NY.- World Monuments Fund President Bonnie Burnham announced today receipt of a grant of $131,800 from
the United States State Department’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok for work at Wat Chai
Watthanaram, a Buddhist temple in the historic city of Ayutthaya, Thailand. Ms. Burnham stated: “Support from the State Department’s
Ambassadors Fund will assist the Thai Department of Fine Arts with continuing efforts to protect the site in light of increasingly severe flooding in the
region and will advance conservation activities at the temple. In addition to the funds received from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation,
WMF has secured support from the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage toward this project that will provide approximately
$330,000 for on-site conservation activities, matching significant commitments from the Thai Government. WMF anticipates that the investment in
conservation will have a catalytic effect for generating greater attention to the needs of Ayutthaya’s for the benefit of the community and visitors that
value and treasure it.”
Ayutthaya, Thailand - The historic city of Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and flourished as a major political, cultural, and
economic center between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. The city was abandoned following destruction by a Burmese army in 1767.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1991, in recent decades the archaeological park has faced periodic flooding, including a major inundation in
2011, which has put many of the iconic structures at risk. The Ambassadors Fund and WMF awards support testing, documentation, and conditions
surveys at the flood-damaged Wat Chaiwatthanaram - one of the most important monuments of Ayutthaya - and the design of conservation and
stabilization plans as well as implementation of priority conservation tasks at the temple. Fieldwork began in December 2012 and is ongoing.
B70m to repair history sites
29 January 2013 - The cabinet has approved a 70 million baht budget for urgent repair to 11 historical sites damaged by the great flood of 2011.
The budget was proposed by Culture Ministry at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Fine Arts Department director-general Sahawat Naenna said 313
Buddhist temples and historic sites were damaged by the 2011 floods, and 191 of them were completely repaired, thanks to 1.1 billion baht in
government funding for restoration. However, a recent survey has found more 11 flood-hit religious and government premises in Bangkok and
other provinces in need of urgent repairs, prompting the department to request additional funding, Mr Sahawat said. The sites include Wat Pa Moke
Voraviharn in Ang Thong province, an archaeological site at Wat Koh Phraya Jeng in Nonthaburi, a National Museum building in Roi Et, and Wat
Nai Rong in Bangkok. Restoration work on the 11 sites is expected to take about a year. [Source: Bangkok Post]