Exploring Thai massage from the viewpoint of iconology: focusing on the iconography of Wat Pho

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Ya-liang Chang


The importance of Wat Pho lies in preserving many unique images of traditional medicine which is dominated by Thai massage, that shows an important connection between images and Thai massage. The objective of this study is to explore the cultural context behind Thai massage through the iconography of Wat Pho including 60 stone inscriptions and 80 Ruesri Datton images. Thai massage contains valuable knowledge, which is usually preserved in literature, such as in manuscripts and stone inscriptions. In these sources, only a small part is presented in the iconography, recorded in 10 Sen lines and Ruesri Datton images, which has become the core of Thai massage, wherefore it is important to analyse the iconography. The research method of the study is qualitative, the research steps include literary reviews, analysis of the treatment stage of Thai massage, and the use of iconology theory to explore Thai cultural context by analysing the iconography of Wat Pho. The research result shows the iconography of Wat Pho reflects the structural relation formed by "Buddhism," the "King," and the "tradition of iconography," namely embodying Thai cultural context hidden in the iconography. The special finding among them is the concept of the tradition of iconography, as a cultural element, it is rarely mentioned in other studies. In a word, Thai massage not only represents a unique cultural meaning but becomes an important intangible cultural heritage in Thailand.


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