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Ava - Shan Tai Yai Buddha statues

ava shan tai buddha statues

This period, once named “Ava Art”, was eventually renamed “Second – Third Ava Art” since Ava used to be the capital of the Tai Yai Kingdom which was later conquered by the Myanmar Kingdom which then made Ava its capital. Both ethnic groups lived together and exchanged their art and culture but this merging of the two cultures made it difficult for people to decide upon a name for the art of this period. Many called it “Shan Art” and others “Ava Art” depending upon the information they had at their disposal. Actually, this art style was different from pure Tai Yai (Shan); the face of the Buddha statues was rounder with a pointed chin and a small but distinctive mouth. The nose was straight with flaring nostrils and the torso heavier than in the Tai Yai Style.

At the beginning of this period, the legacy of the Tai Yai style was still much in evidence but after Myanmar had established the old Tai Yai capital as its own capital, Myanmar art and Tai Yai art began to merge. In this way, a combination of Myanmar, Mon, Arakan and Tai Yai art came about which resulted in the distinctive style of the Second Ava Buddhist Art period, which was:

  • A halo in the shape of a pointed budding lotus flower or a Chinese gourd (Nam Tao), legacies of the Toungoo and Tai Yai styles.
  • The base of the Pra Ghetmala (top of the head) was wider and was covered with orderly small, blunt and beaded hair curls (Med Pra-sok).
  • The forehead was wide and the temples thick.
  • The face was oval shaped with a pointed chin.
  • The eyebrows were curved like human eyebrows.
  • The eyes gazed modestly downwards in the Bhavana state of meditation.
  • The bridge of the nose was straight and low. The end of the nose was flared like a Lion’s which was considered one of 32 marks of a great man.
  • The lips were small with a clear cleft above the upper lip.
  • The torso was well-built similar to the Toungoo style. (The torso in Tai Yai art was much more slender.)
  • The Buddha wore a plain flap across the left shoulder with the robe draped over the shoulder.
  • The Buddha was seated in the crossed-legged position and the legs appeared almost flattened at the base.
  • The most popular gesture was that of asking the earth to witness. (The Meditation gesture was very rare in this period).
  • Most of the pedestals of this period were high and bell-shaped displaying a distinct influence of Tai Yai art. These were originally decorated with the Tai Yai Lotus – Root motif but eventually, an Open – Lotus motif became more common as the popularity of the Tai Yai style declined.
  • The head was round and inclined down in the style of the Toungoo images, a characteristic that can be traced back to the Buddha statues of Pagan period.

In this Second – Third Ava Art period, various kinds of material were used to create Buddha statues mostly depending on where the artisans that created them were living. Those commonly employed were precious wood, bronze with a high copper content and marble painted with lacquer (Rak), and then adorned with gold leaf. Papier mache images (called Pra Prong in Thai) made from sawdust or paper was also fashioned in this period and these would be crowned or decorated with coloured glass inlays. The Buddha statues fashioned in sandstone or alabasters were very rare.

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