Paul Holberton Publishing
Date de publication
Nombre de pages
28 x 24 x 0 cm

Cosmologies and Biologies

Illuminated Siamese Manuscripts of Death, Time and the Body

Paul Holberton Publishing

À paraître
This is a fascinating study of rare Siamese illuminated manuscripts of two kinds,
biological and cosmological. Beautiful in themselves, they are produced under
unusual conditions and no one of these manuscripts is like another, though they
draw on a common pool of rituals, actions and stories. This ground-breaking publication examines closely and contextualizes fourteen of the most striking and visually unique manuscripts of this kind known, in or outside Thailand.
These manuscripts are religious in nature, containing several genres of Buddhist
texts including liturgical, narrative, historical, grammatical, psychological, ritual, and
magical material, but, compared to other Thai and other South-East Asian examples
they are particularly strong in the realms of medical, biological and cosmological Thai
thought. A recurrent feature is the story of Phra Malai, a monk whose travels to various
heavens and hells is described and illustrated. A number of rare medical manuscripts
serve to reveal how mythology, biology, astrology, physiognomy and pharmacology are blended together in the pre-modern Siamese/Thai tradition.
These and other such illuminated manuscripts were produced in 18th- and 19thcentury
Siam (as Thailand was then known) and are richly illustrated both with delightful and evocative depictions of the Buddha, Hindu deities, Bodhisattvas, nuns, monks, and laypeople, and with some grotesque and terrifying ones – they attest to a
particular interest in corpses and their implications among some of their readers.
The author, who has both lived the Buddhist life in Thailand and researched in Thai
monasteries, has an extensive knowledge not only of the history but of the dynamic of
Thai religion, studying not just older texts but continuing rituals and contemporary
media. He was inspired to write this book by the very great value he saw in these
particular manuscripts, a most unusual collection amassed with a discriminating eye.
The book consists both of an explanation and a detailed catalogue of some exemplary manuscripts and of a fascinating introductory essay discussing the belief systems and activities they represent.
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