History and Significance of Raden (Mother-of-Pearl Decoration) Craftwork in Thailand― Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
In Thailand in the 18th century and after, exquisite raden craftwork in which an enormous number of tiny seashell parts are finely combined, has developed. If you have already visited the Grand Palace and Wat Pho famous for Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, you may know it. The raden craftwork has been still continued, although not very extensively. However, there have hardly been any studies on the history of Thailand’s raden; its transition and social significance has not been researched not only in Japan but also even in Thailand. At the 9th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, Prof. Tomohito TAKATA of Siam University who is specialized in Buddhism art history in Thailand gave a presentation on the history of Thailand’s raden in the early-modern and modern times.
Mr. Takata, first of all, explained that raden works in Thailand are seen on the doors and windows in Buddhism temples, on the pedestal bowl offerings for monks, and on the sutra boxes and Cabinets, they had been donated closely related to Buddhism, and they had been made rather exclusively with strong relationship with the royal family of Thailand. Further, he chose, as the analysis subjects, the temple doors whose dates of making or construction are accurately known and divided the history of raden from the 18th to the early 20th century into three periods according to the differences in the main motifs, patterns and techniques utilized. The three periods are the 1st period (from the middle of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century), the 2nd period (from the first half to the middle of the 19th century), and the 3rd period (from the latter half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century). Based on this, he further pointed out that, in the 1st period when the patterns and motifs only included tendril patterns and portrait of the deities in which external influences were hardly observed, the Buddhism values such as the three realms of existence were expressed in raden works like in other wooden sculptures and paintings. In contrast, the 2nd period characterized by appearance of the story of Ramayana as well as Chinese decorative patterns reflects diplomatic relations with China and East Asia during this era. Further, in the 3rd period when the patterns that expressed forms of medallions in raden were made, new relationship between Thailand and the West as well as an increase in power of the royal family gave influence over raden crafting.
The workshop also included participation of Ms. Ayumi HARADA, expert in Thai art history, from Kyushu National Museum and Prof. Norihiko OGURA from Department of Crafts (Urushi-Art) of Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts. Ms. Harada gave us comments on the origin of Thai raden, external relations, etc. from the expert’s point of view. Further, Prof. Ogura delivered opinions from a viewpoint of an artist. The workshop also contained active discussion about relationship with Japanese raden works of the 19th century that have been discovered successively in Bangkok in recent years. The workshop could also serve as a good opportunity to recognize significance of Thai raden that had not often been subject to academic discussions.