Spirit house figure of a male servant

  • Earthenware
  • 8 x 6 cm
  • 16th-19th century, Ayutthaya period or Bangkok period
  • Origin: Chao Phraya River network, Central Thailand
  • Provenance: Ayutthaya, Central Thailand
  • Gift of Sarah M. Bekker
  • S2005.8

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 8 January 2007) An earthenware head of a male figurine with a top knot was excavated at the Ban Tao Hai kiln site north of Phitsanulok (Hein and Sangkhanukit ca. 1985, 25, fig. 17 [A92EW]). Other figurines of this type were collected on the surface. 

Hein, Don, and Prachote Sangkhanukit. 1985. Report on the Excavation of the Ban Tao Hai kilns, Phitsanulok, Thailand. Research Centre for Southeast Asian Ceramics Papers 1. Adelaide: University of Adelaide.

2. (Louise Cort, 8 January 2007) In modern Thailand, there are two varieties of "spirit houses." The 'sanjaothi', "abode of the lord of the place," seemingly the older of the two, rests on four posts and incorporates ancestral energies and spirits of the land. The Brahmanic type known as 'sanpraphoom', "abode of the honorable land guardian," rests on a single pillar. It typically houses an image of Prah Chaimonkon, "lord of glorious victory" (Cranfill 2006).

Cranfill, Marisa. 2006. "Sanpraphoom: The Spirits in the Spirit Houses." Newsletter National Museum Volunteers 12: 12–24.

3. (George Williams, research assistant, 30 January 2007) In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition, Taking Shape, and to reflect current understanding, changed Date from 16th–18th century to 16th–19th century.

4. (Louise Cort, 18 February 2009) In a meeting at the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, Pakkret, Nonthaburi, where he is collaborating in a study of pottery production in Nonthaburi province, Mon ceramic specialist Pisarn Boonpoog said that small figures of this type were probably not made by Mon potters working in villages along the Chao Phraya river, but by Thai. If Mon potters did make them, they could not keep them at home (in household spirit shrines). The figures would have been offered only to the village temple or to the spirit house or holy shrine for the village as a whole, known as san chao (Thai) or hai prachu (Mon).

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