Mon Buddha Images

Mon Buddha Statue

The Mons, scattered over southern Myanmar have played an important role in Buddhist art since the mid first millennium. Plaques, plus statues of lions decorating the Kyontu pagoda near Waw, Bago District, attest to Mon veneration of the Buddha in about the 5th century and the influence of Gupta art. By the 7th-8th centuries, however, Mon images of the Buddha had become localized. They have plump faces with downcast eyes shaped like lotus petals, full lips, large hair curls, low ushnishas and long ears. Their robes were worn so that the bottom of the uttarasanga (the upper garment of a monk) formed the curve at the front and back, and the antaravasaka (undergarment) flowed below, as exemplified by two bronze images found at Thaton and Twante. In the 9th century the ushnisha became a high round knob, and in the following century it had the appearance of flowing upward seemingly from the hair to form a dome, as on Pyu Buddha images at Thayekhittaya (Srikshetra). Late 11th century Pala influence is shown in two Buddha statues on a votive tablet from the Kyaik De-ap pagoda (an old Mon pagoda in Yangon, destroyed during World War II).

A fragment and Buddha statues in the Shweizayan pagoda, Thaton, both with a hintha on each shoulder, have eyes downcast, a sweet smile, a narrow band on the forehead, and tight curls in a grid pattern terminating in a layered ushnishal the antarvasaka has a belt and central fold. All the above are characteristics of Khmer Bayon art (late 12th-early 13th century), and probably result from the prozimity of the great Bayon period Muang Singh complex.

Among large 15th-century ceramic plaques brought into Thailand from Bago is the glazed ceramic head of a youthful crowned Buddha statues with high eyebrows over wide-open starting eyes. This style may have been the prototype for 17th-century crowned Buddha images imported into Thailand from the Kaw Gun Cave north of Moulmein (Mawlamyine). With the crushing of the Mon Kingdom in the mid 18th century, Mon influence in southern Myanmar waned.