(Henry Alabaster)
Henry Alabaster was born on 22 May 1836 in Hastings East Sussex, England. Aged 21
Alabaster arrived in Bangkok as a deputy Consul, being one of the first British diplomats to
Siam in 1857. In 1871 he got his widely known book published "The Wheel of the Law".

Two years later in 1873, he became personal adviser to King Chulalongkorn.  David
Garnier sums up a number of Alabaster's achievements: he designed and constructed the
Gardens at Saranarom Palace as a place for the public to relax and study plants and
animals; he helped to start the Survey Office in 1875, trained the first Thai surveyors and
plotted together the route for a land telegraph cable from Bangkok to Battambang; He
mapped the Gulf of Thailand and administered the first Thai lighthouse. Alabaster started the
first museum in Siam, inside the  Grand Palace. He catalogued the royal library and
instructed the Siamese how to classify books; he started the Post and Telegraph Office,
trained the staff and arranged the first postal deliveries.  

Alabaster was given the rank of Phraya. He died on 9 August 1884 at the early age of 48.
The King of Siam erected him a funeral memorial at the Protestant Cemetery in Bangkok,
which still can be visited today. [1]


[1]  http://www.anglicanthai.org/alabaster.htm - data retrieved 3 February 2012.  Henry
Alabaster by David Garnier. [1]
Extract out of Alabaster's book 'The Wheel of the Law" describing his visit to Wat Phanan Choeng in 1868 on the way to the Phra Phuttha
Bat (Footprint of the Buddha) in Sara Buri.

The second great sight is Wat Cheuen, built, I am told, by a Princess Cheuen. We land at a small Chinese josshouse, with fantastic
flaring tapers, sickly-smelling pastilles, and an old gray-bearded, long-nailed, filthy Chinaman in charge of it ; everything, in fact, as
flaring tapers, sickly-smelling pastilles, and an old gray-bearded, long-nailed, filthy Chinaman in charge of it ; everything, in fact, as
I have seen it in Hong-Kong. Behind it is a well-kept Buddhist monastery, with a large "wihan," or idol-house, and "bort," or most
holy building, i.e., the building where take place the assemblies of the monks, consecrations, &c. The "bort," according to invariable
custom, has not far from its walls eight "sema," or boundary stones, cut in a shape somewhat like the leaf of the ficus religiosa, or
Po-tree, which mark it out as the most sacred part of the temple ; and in the same courtyard are also numerous small spires. In an
adjoining court is the idol-house, and in close vicinity are the monks' residences and preaching-hall. Not far distant is the part of the
ground set apart for cremations, the recent use of which is proved by two or three heaps of fresh ashes. The hall for idols I judge to
be about one hundred and twenty feet in length, square, and about eighty in height ; perhaps this is an overestimate. Externally it is
an ugly building - a Chinese pagoda spoilt - but internally it is very effective. The walls are pierced with a fretwork of pigeon-holes,
in each of which is a gilt idol about a finger in length. All around, on hundreds of pedestals, are figures of Buddha and his disciples
in various attitudes, from a few inches to six feet in height ; and in the centre, on a broad pedestal or throne, between six huge red
pillars, whose capitals are lost in the darkness which hides the roof, is seated a colossal image of Buddha, in what Buddhists call the
position of contemplation, the legs crossed, the right hand clasping the right knee, and the left lying palm upwards across the thighs.
The head is indistinct, as there are no lights in the upper part of the building. The general expression is that of profound meditation,
and the effect decidedly grand. The size we cannot judge with any accuracy, the only clue we have being that a priest, who has
ascended as far as the hand to dust it, seems no larger than the thumb of the image. The idol is, I believe, made of brick and plaster,
covered with lacquer, and then gilt. On the right and left of this great seated figure are two standing figures about twenty feet high,
representing Sariputra and Moggalana, the disciples of the left hand and the right hand.


The Wheel of The Law - Henry Alabaster (1871) - Trubner & Co, London - page 270-271.
Tricky Vandenberg - February 2012