Amulet means an object worn in belief that it bestows protection from evil and harm. The practise of wearing amulets was already present since the beginning of civilisation in every races, cultures and religions.
Buddhist means a person following the teachings and goal of Buddhism, the religion founded by Sakyamuni Buddha more than twenty-five centuries back, in the area now known as India. The goal of Buddhism is to achieve Nibbana, the state of final release from the cycle of birth and death, the state of liberation; it constitutes the highest and ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspirations. The word Buddhist can also refer to other things closely related to Buddhism or of Buddhist origins.
Thai refers to a race of Asians, there are two theories about the origin of Thais. The first being that about 4,500 years back, the Thais originated in northwestern Szechuan in China and later migrated down to Thailand along the southern part of China (Funan). The second theory being that the Thais might have originated here in Thailand and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including China. Whatever the truth is, by the 13th century, the Thais had already settled down within Southeast Asia. The word Thai can also refer to other things of Thai origin.
Thai Buddhist amulets are therefore objects originated from Thai related to Buddhism, worn and/or used in belief that they bestows protection from evil and harm. Although they are related to Thai Buddhism, the Buddha had discouraged the practise of magic, rituals and astrology.
ORIGIN OF THAI BUDDHIST AMULETS
The motif images of Thai Buddhist amulets were usually the Buddha, it was until the past century when images of Arahants (disciples of Buddha whom had achieved Nibbana), famous monks and Devas gained much more popularity. In fact, the Buddha had forbidded the worship of his images in attempt to achieve enlightenment, but rather achieve enlightenment through practising the Dhamma. The worship of Buddha's images may also lead to the wrong practise of worshipping idols instead of practising and understanding the Dhamma. No images of the Buddha were made during the life of the Buddha, and after the Buddha's passing away, Buddhist paid respect to the Buddha's relics, Stupas and to his footprints. Five centuries later after Buddha's Parinibbana, the army of Emperor Alexander of Macedonia/Greece were sent to conquer the area of present-day northern India. Sculptors and other craftsmen were sent along with those troops and these sculptors subsequently became Buddhist followers, the first images of the Buddha were then created. Images of the Buddha are then made in accordance to the thirty-two marks of a Buddha, symbolising the thirty-two qualities of a Buddha. And since then till now, images of the Buddha are used by Buddhist to pay respects, take refuge, and reminding oneself of the Buddha and his teachings.
Thai Buddhist amulets can be divided into two categories, the first being ancient votive images of the Buddha, these were cached images in form of small tablet images and statue images of varied sizes, usually stored in ancient Stupas (a Buddhist architectural), temples, and caves. These ancient votive images were made from terracotta (Nur Din) or metal alloy (Nur Chin).
There are eight original Buddhist Stupas. After Sakyamuni Buddha's Parinibbana, his relic was subsequently divided to eight parts, to be brought to eight different parts of the land to spread the Buddhist religion. There are two main reasons for the building of Stupas; to enshrine Sakyamuni Buddha's relics after he passed away; and to commemorate eight great deeds accomplished during Sakyamuni Buddha's life. They are; Birth, Enlightenment, Turning of the Wheel, Miracles, Descent from Tushita, Reconciliation, Complete Victory and Parinibbana. The Stupas were built respectively at the sites; Lumbini, Magadha, Sarnath (Varanasi), Samkashya, Rajagriha, Vaishali & Kushinagara.
As centuries pass by and Buddhist spread north and south, the Buddhist practise of building Stupas also spread to other parts of the world and sacred objects such as scrolls of scriptures, images of Buddha, and relics of holy monks were also enshrined in Stupas built in later centuries. These Stupas spread to many Asian countries, including Thailand, the first Stupa built in Thailand is the Phra Pathom Chedhi in Nakhonpathom, it is also the tallest Buddhist structure in the world. (Chedhi is the Thai word for Stupa)
The most probable purposes of these ancient votive images are that they were probably created as votive offering to the Triple Gems (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha). Spreading the Buddhist Dhamma (teachings), creating images of Buddha, building temples and Stupas and rebuilding them are considered great merits by Buddhist. Images of the Buddha are used by Buddhist for remindance of the fact that Nibbana is achievable by all beings and these images also served as sacred objects used to spread the Buddhist religion. In Thailand, these images were made and stored into Stupas, originating from various different periods of Thai history and it is also a practise that 84,000 pieces of these images are stored into a Stupa, to signify the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha. Some of these images traced back to approximately 1,000 years of history, back to the time of the Khymers.
When temples and Stupas were destroyed either from age, natural disasters or during times of war, these small votive images together with the stored Dhamma scriptures were subsequently discovered and unearthed gradually from past centuries to recent decades in Thailand. Buddhist held these historical religious artefacts holy and sacred, and the Thai people started wearing and keeping them as amulets. It might also be possible that the first people whom found and worn these amulets may be the soldiers and the people in times of difficulties such as natural disasters. In Thailand, these votive images were discovered at historical ancient sites of Kamphangphet, Lampoon, Phisanulok, Lopburi, Sukhothai, Ayuthaya, Suphanburi, Chiengmai, Chiengrai and Chainatch.
With the gradual discovery of these ancient votive images, and with the continuous erecting of new temples and Stupas in different periods of Thai history, these small votive images may also had been continuously created by monks and artisans over the various past centuries for storage in temple caches and Stupas. They may have also been distributed to the people from time to time.
NEW PERIOD OF THAI BUDDHIST AMULETS
The second category of Thai Buddhist amulets are made by monks from since the last century. As mentioned earlier, the majority Thai Buddhist amulets depicts the image of the Buddha, however images of Arahants, popular monks and Devas had also gained popularity in recent decades, especially the images of popular holy monks. These images often bear words from Buddhist scriptures written or inscribed in old Khymer language scripts and contemporary Thai language scripts. The name of the particular monk and temple making and commissioning the amulet are oftenly also included on the amulet, along with the date it was made and issued. Yantra scripts and other Buddhist symbols such as images of Stupas, Bodhi leave, etc, are also oftenly included on the amulet.
Like ancient votive images, they are also made from terracotta (Nur Din) and metal alloy (Nur Chin), however other materials such as wood from auspicious trees, ivory and horns had also been used to make these amulets, the list of materials is endless. And a majority of these new period amulets are made from a mixture of powder-based (Nur Phong) materials. They may consist of materials such as burned palm leaves of scriptures, food grains, herbs, crushed stones from temple buildings, filed metal from ancient Buddha statues, powder from previous famous amulets, lime powder, etc, and again the list is endless. Amulet in form of medals (Rians) also gain popularity in these recent decades, they resembles coins, two dimensioned and in various shapes and sizes oftenly depicting images of a particular popular monk whom usually is the monk whom consecrated and commissioned these particular amulet. Three dimensioned miniature statues (Loop Meun) were also popularly created, they are usually made of metal alloys, and in some cases from terracotta and mixed powder base. These are the three most common types of new period Thai Buddhist amulets made from since the last century; Nur Phong/mixed-powder based amulets, Rian/medals, Loop Meun/Miniature statues.
New period of Thai Buddhist images are made for a few purposes other than for Stupa storage, some common purposes are; to rise funds for the purposes of temple building or repair, fund rising for building hospitals, orphanages, commemorating an event, etc. When a devotee supports such acts of good deeds whether with physical participation or monetary donations, these amulets would be given to the devotee as tokens of good wishes.
THE HOBBY OF COLLECTING THAI BUDDHIST AMULETS
Since the olden days, these amulets were believed to bestow great protection from harm, and some particular pieces are highly sought for, usually after incidents where people had miraculously survived accidents, mishaps or assaults and escaped death unscathed while wearing a particular amulet. Some particular amulets made by certain monks or temples are believed to bring the wearer Kong Gapan (invulnerability from weapons and firearms), and Keow Klab (avoiding and survival from accidents and mishaps), these had resulted in the Thai people collecting and valuing these famous pieces. Usually a practise more by Thai men than women, because during old times, men folk at times traveled from places to places, trading at foreign villages and into mountainous routes flocked with dangers and bandits, and during times of war, men have to become soldiers.
Thus, the practise of collecting Thai Buddhist amulets manifested into a hobby in recent decades, whereby people had started hoarding, selling and trading them, creating an market demand in them and became dealers and collectors. Just like anything else which are collected, their original purpose are not for collection, it is when a group of people whom shares a same liking to a particular type of thing and caused a market demand, and thus the hobby of collecting Thai Buddhist amulets evolved.
Similar with collecting other items such as coins and currency, stamps and antiques, popular pieces, rare pieces, and old pieces in general resulted in higher prices, and therefore resulted in imitations being made. Identifying authentic piece from imitated piece makes these hobbies more interesting, and experts from various fields and hobbies emerged over time. Similar again with collecting other items such as coins and currency, stamps and antiques, their original price may not be expensive in the past, but when collectors created the demand for them years later, the difference in price are often astonishing.
Thai Buddhist amulets, associated with Thailand's main religion; Theravada Buddhism, and the Thai culture of wearing amulets, makes the hobby of collecting Thai Buddhist amulets extremely popular in Thailand, and spreading it's influences to other parts of Southeast Asia. Thai Buddhism amulets are not exactly an intergral part of Theravada Buddhism, but it certainly is in Thai life and culture.
INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE
To improve knowledge of Thai Buddhist amulets and to improve the knowledge of identifying them, one will inevitably need to know it's background information and the amulets itself or photographs for comparision and reference. One can obtain these information and photographs through books and magazines featuring the subject of Thai Buddhist amulets collection. There are many books in Thai language and sometimes in English, covering the subject, other than information about monks, temples and their amulets, books provide a lot of good photographs for references. Some of these sources worth reading are as follows:
Dictionary Of Buddha's Small Image Book 1 to Book 5
This series of books do not have much text, however they contains collections of photographs of competition pieces, photographs of prize winning Thai Buddhist amulets are catalogued into a book after a Thai amulet competition. From these books one can know what are the collector's pieces and recognise them, the books covers statues images from different periods of Thailand, ancient votive images, to collector's pieces of Thai Buddhist amulets from recent decades. From these series of books one will get a general idea of what are the popular pieces and what amulets are worth collecting. Dictionary of Buddha's Small Image Book 1 to Book 5 provides very good reference for the collector.
Books About Individual Monks And Their Amulets
Books on amulet of individual monks, information about the monk, information about his amulets, provide information about the biography of the particular monk, and information about the batches of amulets created by him, such as the year made, number of pieces created, the different moulds used which may also covers remade pieces, etc. These books often contains clear, large size photographs for reference. They may also provide information on popular pieces, details of the material used, and details of the consecration ceremonies. These books are very good reference which features on only one particular monk and his amulets, however they often covers all the amulets of a particular monk thoroughtly. They may be published by the temple committee of the monk, or by the companies of amulet magazines, whereby the writers are usually collectors whom specialise on the amulets of a particular monk.
Books About A Particular Type Of Amulets
Also on the market, there are books written on information and tips regarding a particular type of amulets, such as a book focusing on Rian/medal amulets, or a book focusing on Phra Pidta, etc. These books will often covers information and tips regarding the particular type of amulets covering the most popular pieces from old periods to popular pieces of recent decades. These books often have good photographs and background information, and oftenly the authors will provide pointers in identifying these amulets. These books are very valuable aid if a collector is interested in a particular type of amulets.
There are large number of different magazines on the subject of collecting Thai Buddhist amulets. Most magazines features on popular collector's pieces, some features on new created amulets of current monks and also the latest amulets. There are also articles about the popular amulets or about the popular monks written by the editors of the magazines, these articles usually provides information and sometimes rumours. And of course, these magazines provides photographs for reference and oftenly, these magazines even also feature articles with photographs providing pointers on how to identify a particular authentic amulet, guiding the collector to look out for certain identify points of an amulet. And all of these magazines contains lots of commercial advertisments by Thai amulet dealers and shops, and from these magazines one will know what are the general prices of the amulets in the Thai amulet market. There are oftenly even posters of amulets and monks. On other words, these magazines are like car or fashion magazines.
Examining amulets needs a little tools; but a 10X magnifying glass helps a lot and a good source of light. It is best to examine amulets under a table lamp providing white light. Imitation pieces of various different qualities are also valuable, as they provide good references to the collector for comparision. If you do not read Thai language, at least learn to read Thai numbers, it's not hard to learn the numbers 0 - 9, but it will help the collector a lot in many areas.
There is a common misconception by new collectors that only old amulets or amulets made by popular monks are good, this is not true. All amulets are generally good, the monks put in efforts into creating and consecrating them. Even if an amulet is not consecrated, if it bears the image of Buddha, you must respect it.
There thousands of types of amulets, popular amulets numbers to a approximately few hundred types. A glance through competition catalogue books will reveal what are the popular amulets and pieces. Top of the range items are often not easy to collect nor advisable to collect them without adequate experience, the reason is pretty apparent.
POPULAR AMULETS OF OLDER PERIOD AND DECADES
In general, older amulets with popular market demand are harder to collect and identify their authencity due to circulation of imitation pieces, some of these are: Cached ancient Nur Din/terracotta and Nur Chin/metal alloy votive amulets with centuries of age. Older period of Loop Meun/miniature statue amulets, usually Loop Meun made before BE2500. Popular Nur Phong amulets of older periods. Rian/medal amulets of older periods, as a general guideline, Rians made before BE2500 are harder to collect. And also the first batch of amulets and the top-ranged amulets of individual popular monks. These are personal opinions of mine, not meant to discourage but rather to highlight an area which should be noted with caution when purchasing these amulets.
POPULAR AMULETS RECENT DECADES
Oftenly, one will see certain amulets, oftenly new amulets, being advertised by dealers, if one keep tracks of the market for sometime, one may observe that every now and then, there a sudden trend of popularity in a certain amulet will arise, and a sudden difference in price every now and then. These might due to several reasons, a common cause is the passing away of a well known monk, or a very good monk making his first batch of amulets for his temple. A dealer or a group of dealers may suddenly release a particular amulet hoarded in store years back and promote them at high prices with with heavy advertising. Oftenly these trends are like passing rain clouds. There are however some amulets that are always in demand, always popular and collected by collectors, such as the examples mentioned above and the next paragraph. Twenty years back collectors were collecting these amulets, ten years later they still were, till this date they still are, and in future decades, these are amulets will still be ones collected.
The following are some of them (alphabetical order of name):
• Amulets of Luang Phor Kasem Khemako, Lampang
• Amulets of Archarn Nong Thammabhuto, Wat Saikhao, Pattani
• Amulets of Dhan Chao Khun Nor Norata, Wat Thepsurin, Bangkok
• Amulets of Luang Phor Pae, Wat Pikhunthong, Singhaburi
• Amulets of Luang Phor Prom, Wat Chongkae, Nakhonsawan
• Amulets of Luang Phoo Tim Issaro, Wat Lai Hanrai, Rayong
• Amulets of Archarn Tim Thammadharo, Wat Changhai, Pattani
• Amulets of Luang Phoo Toh Indalasuwannoe, Wat Pradoochimphi, Bangkok
• Amulets of Luang Phoo Waen Sujinoh, Wat Doi Mae Phung, Chiengmai
Popular amulets created in recent decades by temples (alphabetical order of name):
• Wat Bangkhunprom (Mai Amataros/Indraviharn), Bangkok
• Wat Changhai Rajburanaram, Pattani
• Wat Paknam, Bangkok
• Wat Prasat Bunyawas, Bangkok
• Wat Rakang Kositaram, Bangkok
• Wat Suthat Thep Wararam, Bangkok
There are much more, many more indeed. There are also many popular amulets by monks of earlier periods, however to a collector outside Thailand, the amulets of these above mentioned monks and temples are easier to collect and identify and also generally better known to collectors outside Thailand. These are the recommended amulets to start with, and they are nevertheless as equally popular as amulets of older periods of decade because of their lower price and better information, therefore imitations pieces are equally, if not much more numerous.
REMADE BATCHES AND LATE BATCHES
It is not uncommon for the laymen to make new batches of amulets or remake popular batches of amulets of a monk, in years or decades later for the particular monk to consecrate when he is very advanced in age. This are considered new batches of amulets are considered late batches by collectors. Remade batches and late batches are usually not popular and seldom collected by collectors. Oftenly, amulets made during this period of time are usually not collected because in collectors's views, the original batch or the first few batchs are preferred rather than these late batches of amulets.
This rise the questions on why some amulets cost only a few Bahts and why some amulets cost a few thousand times more. This is because of market demands by the Thai amulet market, it is the market demand set by Thai amulets collectors that influence the value of an amulet on amulet collecters' market. Thai Buddhist amulets collectors generally prefers to collect the first few batches of amulets made by a monk or temple, thus causing market demands and therefore the higher price and value on the market, the practise of collecting only the first few batches is especially common if a particular monk have a long history of making amulets and had made many batches of amulets, thus the earlier batches are popular because of rarity. However if a particular monk only made a few batches of amulets, almost all batches are popular with the collector.
New amulets refers to Thai Buddhist amulets made in recent years, generally at this point of time when this article is written, perhaps most collectors will rate amulets created from BE2530 and later as new amulets. Most collectors starts from collecting new amulets, and perhaps some collectors might still collects new amulets after they had moved on to collecting old ones. New amulets provides better assurance of authencity and they are often not expensive. However choose wisely on which new amulets to collect, whether a new amulet made in recent years is collectable will depends on several factors.
For instance, if a particular popular monk made amulets from BE2500 to BE2540, his later batches of amulets made after BE2530 might not be much sought for by collectors. Oftenly, collectors are only interested in the first few batches. In another instance, if another particular popular monk of our current period just started making amulets recently from BE2530 or even from BE2540, these amulets are in fact sought for by collectors, simply because these amulets belong to the first few batches. In both instances, both amulets are made after BE2530 and are generally considered new by collectors, however in the former case, the amulets are of later batches, in the latter case, the amulets are of the earlier batches.
New collectors sometimes select new amulets based on the popularity of the monk creating them, choosing remade batches or later batches of amulets made by monks of older period, not taking into account that these amulets are of the later batches or remade batches.
CATALOGUE NUR DIN
NUR DIN / TERRACOTTA VOTIVE IMAGES
These are some examples of Nur Din/Terracotta votive images unearthed from historical holy sites of Kamphangphet, Lampoon, Phisanulok, Lopburi, Sukhothai, Ayuthaya, Suphanburi, Chiengmai, Chiengrai and Chainatch, all of them are a few centuries old. There are many types and many names given to these images, the following are just a few examples of the popular types among collectors.
CATALOGUE NUR CHIN
NUR CHIN / MIXED ALLOY VOTIVE IMAGES
These are some examples of Nur Chin/mixed alloy votive images unearthed from historical holy sites of Kamphangphet, Lampoon, Phisanulok, Lopburi, Sukhothai, Ayuthaya, Suphanburi, Chiengmai, Chiengrai and Chainatch, all of them are a few centuries old. There are many types and many names given to these images, the following are just a few examples of the popular types among collectors.
CATALOGUE NUR PHONG
NUR PHONG / POWDER BASED IMAGES
These are some examples of Nur Phong/powder based images. Nur Phong images have existed since the past two centuries, and are probably evolved from the ancient Nur Din votive images. Usage of materials and substances becomes more elaborate over time and the usage of mixed powder base gradually becomes more in practise than the ancient method of using terracotta base. There are many types and many names given to these images, the following are just a few examples of the popular types among collectors.
LOOP MEUN / MINIATURE STATUE IMAGES
These are some examples of Loop Meun/three dimensions miniature statue images. Loop Meun images have existed since the past century, and are probably evolved from the ancient Nur Chin votive images. Development in metal working technology gradually made mass producing Loop Meun images in three dimensions easier than the ancient methods of two dimensions Nur Chin images. There are many types and many names given to these images, the following are just a few examples of the popular types among collectors.
RIAN / MEDAL IMAGES
These are some examples of Rian/medal images. Rian images have existed since the past century and they might had been created after Thailand started the usage of the flat coin curreny. From the Sukhothai period to early Bangkok period, Thailand was using bullet-shaped coins known as Pod Duang. In the 17th century, a Thai minister visited Singapore and reported to King Rama III on the usage of flat copper coins upon his return. The flat coin curreny was subsequently implemented in Thailand and in the 18th century, AD1908, the usage of bullet coins/Pod Duang officially faced off. Medal image amulets might had been created following the technology of the flat coin curreny, one of the first Rian/medal image amulets, were created in AD1897. There are many types and many names given to these images, the following are just a few examples of the popular types among collectors.
EXAMINING THE AUTHENCITY OF THAI BUDDHIST AMULETS
With imitation pieces constantly being produced, and the high number and high quality of imitation pieces circulating for popular amulets, identifying genuine pieces from imitation pieces becomes a skill and a challenge to collectors. Examining the authencity of amulets becomes easier if some background knowledge regarding the amulets are known, the background knowledge of the amulets will provide invaluable aid to the collector in identification of an amulet and the identification of authentic pieces. Gather and consider this informations:
THE FACTORS CAUSING IMITATION PIECES TO BE PRODUCED
• Popularity of the amulet
• Value of the amulet
• Rarity, number of pieces made for the amulet
Popularity/demand, value, and rarity are the three determining factors of whether an amulet will be faked, and imitation pieces be produced. Knowing the popularity/demand, and price/value of the amulet, rarity of the amulet and the popularity of the monk/temple making the amulet will give an general idea of the possiblity of imitation pieces being created for the amulet, and it will also suggest the quality of imitation pieces being created.
When a particular amulet is popular and in demand, it's not uncommon to have imitation pieces circulating in the market, there isn't much reason to produce imitations for unpopular amulets. Value of the particular amulet is important consideration, producing high quality imitation pieces may not be easy and may not worth the cost if the authentic pieces are not expensive in the first place. The market demand and popularity of the amulet, however, is the most important factor causing imitation pieces to be produced. It is more profitable to produce amulets of high market demand, even though the original authentical pieces may not be expensive at all, because demand makes them more saleable and liquidifable. The very expensive pieces may not always be in high market demand, because not all collectors are willing to spend such money.
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT MATERIAL AND MOULD
• Types of different materials used for the same amulet
• Number of different moulds used for the same amulet
The same amulet may had also been produced in different materials, some are more expensive, some are cheaper, some are rarer. There are usually differences in the number of pieces made for different materials, such as gold, silver, navaloha, and bronze for medal amulets. An particular amulet may have been produced out from several different moulds, they may all look alike in general, but in detail there are some differences and some moulds are more popular (Blok Niyom) are will be more expensive. There might be popular moulds (Blok Niyom), director moulds (Blok Kamakan), special mould (Blok Pisit). These are generally more popular.
REMADE BATCH AND COMMEMORATIVE BATCH
• Existance of any remade batch/commemorative batch
• Differences between original batch and remade batches
When a particular amulet is popular, it's also not uncommon that remake batches, or commemorative batches will be made. Remade batches and commemorative batchs may look alike with the original batch, and may even easily be mistaken for the original batch if one have no knowledge of the whether remake/commemorative batches exists and what are the differences between the original batch. Know what you are paying for.
After gathering and considering the above mentioned informations, examine the actual amulets physically. In the next following two articles, I can only provide a general overview, not all points mentioned will be applicable, since every type of amulets are different, and every piece are different in some way or another.
EXAMINING THE AUTHENCITY OF MEDAL AMULETS / RIAN
Rians/medal amulets are moulded out of different types of metal, pure or mixed alloys. Majority of medal amulets are machine-moulded, old period of medal amulets may be moulded manually by hand. They are moulded in molten state, and cooled immediately to solidify them. After solidified, uneven edges are then filed and smoothed, paint or enamel are then coated.
Medal amulets/Rians are easiest to identify authencity, easiest to produce imitation too. Easiest to identify because it's identification is based on geometry and dimensions, easiest to produce imitation because of the same reasons. However very high quality imitations do exist, especially for pieces which are expensive and popular and often old.
You need a 10X magnifying glass to examine amulets. Examine the difference between pieces in regards to the following (not all are applicable):
• The shape, size and thickness of the medal.
• The depth of the imprint (indent) and height of the relief of the moulding.
• The clarity, the size and shape, thickness, and the depth and height of the wordings and Yantra scripts.
• The direction Yantra scripts overlap and intertwine each other.
• The clarity of the figure's eyes, forehead wrinkles, ears, hair and the wrinkles of the robes.
• The significant hair-fine lines, needle lines, dots, grooves, ridges and plateaus formed on the medal from the moulding.
• The shape of punched in stamps and coding, and the shape and size or font of the punched in numbers.
• The freshness/aging of scratched Yantras scripts if any.
• The sawed/chiseled/filed marks of the edges, some old medals made before BE2500 may have these marks due to different methods/technology of production.
• The color tone and of the medal's metal in regards to gold, silver, navaloha, bronze or other alloys.
• The color tone of the medal's coated paint.
• The aging of the medal, the luster and patina of the metal, and the freshness of the coat of paint.
Take note that although all medal amulets/Rians moulded out of the same mould should be identical, there are bound to have some very slight differences from piece to piece, which occurs more often with older medals made before BE2500, such as extra lines and dots, and variable clarify in fine detailed areas. This is because of the moulding and color coating process, as the same mould is used for same few thousand pieces and may cause some slight differences such as extra tiny dots, variable clarify and deepness in hair texture, forehead wrinkles and the wordings, these differences however, are extremely slight and uncommon for newer medals.
Examining Rians/medal amulets rely a lot on sensitiveness to shapes and sizes, geometry and dimensions, and more importantly on finesse and detail and therefore spotting differences between imitation pieces from authentic pieces.
The above guidelines and advises are made from a general point of view, not all points mentioned in this article are applicable, simply because every pieces are different and special in their own ways.
EXAMINING THE AUTHENCITY OF POWDER BASED AMULETS / NUR PHONG
Nur Phong/powder based amulets are moulded out of mixture of holy substances, powder and binding/hardening agent. They can be hand-moulded or machine-moulded. They are moulded when the mixture is wet, and left to dry and harden after being moulded into shape.
Powder based amulets are hardest to produce high quality imitations, hardest to identify authencity too. Hardest to produce high quality imitations because of wide scope of factors influencing the appearance and aging of different pieces, hardest to identify authencity because of the same reasons. Nevertheless, imitation pieces are many and be cautious when buying pieces with high chances of being imitated.
You need a 10X magnifying glass to examine amulets. Examine the difference between pieces in regards to the following (not all are applicable):
• The finesse/coarseness of the powder and substance, or a mixture of fine and coarse powder, how evenly mixed is the mixture and the smoothness/roughness of the surface in general view and in detail.
• The volume of the amulet, tightly or loosely packed powder, machine-moulded amulets are usually more tightly packed, there are less air pockets within the amulet, hand-moulded amulets can also be tightly packed, depending upon the pressure applied during the moulding process.
• The color and tone of the powder and substances, the different colors evident when examined in detailed, and the amulet's color and tone from a general view.
• The degree of moisture of the amulet, and it's effect on it's surface's appearance with age; oily, grossly, dry cracked.
• The appearance of the surface with aging; mouldy/fungus, layer of oxide, layer of dried mud for cached/buried amulets, stains from oil, brown stains resulting from prolonged contact with decaying flowers left on amulets, stains from sprinkled water, or stains from aging of ink stamps, etc.
• The composition of the powder's mixture of substances, such as filed metal dust, gold/silver leaves, grains, hairs, fabrics, burned leaves, crushes crystals/minerals, sand/stones, shredded leaves/petals, powder from old amulets, etc, being mixed into the powder.
• The scent of the amulet, generally most Nur Phong/powder based mixture of amulets emits a fragance, mixed herb substance (Nur Wahn) produce a particular odour, flower/pollen based substance (Nur Kesorn) emits a flowery fragrance, but burned leaves (Bailan), incense ashes (Nur Phom Tut) and terracotta/clay/earthern sustances (Nur Din) in general have no scent.
• The inserted takruts if any, and the aging of the takruts' metal, embedded crystals, laquered surface, etc.
• The average size, thickness, deepness of imprint, significant coding/markings, cut marks at edges of the amulet if any.
Take note that the colour tone and the composite of the mixed powder may varied from piece to piece due to uneven mixing of materials, and when powder based amulets are kept in different atmospheres over time, they may ages differently and thus the end result is that they may look significantly different from piece to piece, the factors affecting the condition and appearance of powder based amulets are endless especially with aged amulets.
Examining Phong/powder based amulets relies on the knowledge of the substances used evident upon examining in detail, awareness of the color, size and space of the substances and how aging affects the surface. When examined in detailed under a 10X magnifying glass, it's like examining the terrain of a landscape.
The above guidelines and advises are made from a general point of view, not all points mentioned in this article are applicable, simply because every pieces are different and special in their own ways.
PERIODS OF THAI BUDDHIST IMAGES
From the 9th to the 12th century, the central and western area of Thailand was occupied by Mon civilization called Dvaravati. The Mon shares the same lineage as the Khmers and settled in southern Burma later. The Influence of Dvaravati includes Nakhon Pathom, Khu Bua, Phong Tuk, and Lawo (Lopburi). Dvaravati was a culture of heavy Indian influence, and Theravada Buddhism remained the major religion in this area and Buddhist images were strongly influenced by the Khymers. This period of Buddhist images and art is known as Lopburi.
After the period of Khymer influence, Lanna and Chieng Saen period arises in the 12th century in Northern Thailand covering areas of Laos, Lampoon, Chieng Saen and Chieng Mai. Chieng Saen period of Buddha images have heavy solid body and wide shoulders, rounded face and the Unisa ends with a lotus bulb like end, and the Sanghati usually ends at the left chest. Later period of Chieng Saen images were influenced by Sukhothai artisans, the round face and strong body of Chieng Saen images turned slender, the Sanghati ends at the waist and the Unisa ends with the Sukhothai flame.
While in Sukhothai in the same period, the first Thai kingdom formed and the kingdom spread to north to Lampang and south to Malay Peninsula. During this time Thailand had strong friendship with neighboring countries. It absorbed elements of various civilisations and Sukhothai artisans reform Buddhist images from the Khymer influenced crowned head and kingly robes figures to the soft, slender surreal appearance of Sukhothai Buddha images, the headdress was replaced by the Unisa. The mythical appearance of Khymer influenced images disappeared and replaced by Sukhothai art expressing the supreme-being qualities and compassionate nature of the Buddha.
In the 14th century, the kingdom of Ayuthaya was established, U-Thong period (pre-Ayuthaya period) of Buddhist images were influenced by both Khymer and Sukhothai art, most U-Thong images have the slender grace of Sukhothai images, and a distinctive wide, thick band along the hairline which is evident in most U-Thong images.
And after Sukhothai's downfall, the Thai moved their capital to Ayuthaya. Ayuthaya period exist from the 15th to the 17th century, and many styles of art influenced Ayuthaya period images when Ayuthaya flourished and interacted with neigbouring civilisations. While new styles of art also arised from older period of arts. Buddha images from earlier Ayuthaya period maintained the Sukhothai Buddha images' appearance, and later images of Ayuthaya period became more ornately adorned, and often decorated with jeweled crowns and kingly robes, inspired by a Jataka tale of how Buddha had used his Dhamma to humbled and enlightened a proud and greedy king known as Jambupati. There was much freedom in style of Buddhist images and these statues images were usually homemade without much specifications during this period, artisans of this period expressed their art freely, resulting in a interesting mix of styles. The Europeans first visited Ayuthaya in the 16th century, and when Ayuthaya was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century, a seriously large number of temples and religious artefacts were destroyed and looted by Burmese forces.
Rattanakosin period started in the 18th century after the fall of Ayuthaya, established in Thonburi and subsequently moved to Bangkok. Buddhist images took on a newer style of art, following the style of art of late Ayuthaya period, artisans further elaborately decorated images and images took on an even more regal and prestige feel than those of later Ayuthaya period. Rattanakosin period statue images significantly are more detail and fine in craft, with glided gold leaves and red or black laquer underneath. The Rattanakosin artisans produced one of the finest of Buddhist images in Thailand in both style and craftmanship.
Ratchakan images started approximately in the same period as Rattanakosin emerged since the start of Chakri Dynasty in the 18th century. Ratchakan images oftenly follows exacty the styles of older periods of Buddhist images, oftenly imitating the styles of Lanna/Chiengsaen, and Sukhothai images and they were sometimes cast out of an alloy of copper and gold.