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Phra Soomdej or "Soomdet" THIS SITE IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION
The immensely popular Soomdej Image ranks highly within all the Great Five Groups of portable Thai Buddhist Imageries, namely: 1) Soomdej Group 2) Soomkor (Lila Medkhanoon) Group; 3) Nang Phaya Group; 4) Pongsuphan Group and 5) Phra Rod Group. Some of the early versions created by top Guru Monks such as the famous Soomdej Wat Rakang (B.E.2400-2413) can be very expensive and probably can fetch an very high premium price per piece. Although most people would only know that the most well known Soomdej Watrakang or Bangkhunprom which has their temple around the metro Bangkok region but there are also many other Soomdej imageries being created by other Thai Temples and/or famous Guru Monks around the Buddhism-dominated Kingdom.
<<<--- Shown at left is a classic three- tiers SOOMDEJ image which forms the majority of Soomdej images. Other variations may have multi-ladders at its base. The image at left hand side is a smaller sized WRK version with a user cased a portion of a larger Soomdej WRK at the rear section - I am not sure why was it being done so, but probably it was due to personal reason and I've never attempted to ask the owner why .
<<< ---Credit: A small Soomdej WRK COL. Samay Soontata; far left image - Phra Krut Wat Bangkhunprom Uncle Wichien
To an average public, the pricey collectibles of old collectible Soomdej images can be financially out of reach for them. However, there are many Soomdej images still being produced by famous temples around the country. For an example, even the most famous of them all, Wat Rakang is still periodically producing for the Thai public because it will be stupid to think temples are only creating images solely for commercial objective. Recently, I was offered a piece of freshly produced (20,000 pieces edition) Soomdej image by WRK, although it was never being blessed by the same Guru that created the great original Soomdej image from yester-years, but I thought it is good enough just for personal use. CLICK to see an its FRONT and REAR section will reveal even though if it is new but it is still a high quality image especially in the choice of materials used. Naturally, we would assume the entire batch has been blessed by the current respectful Monks from the WRK temple. So, if you cannot afford to possess one of those highly prized old collectibles, a new but good amulet such as this should be a more practical mean instead of aiming to spend so much on old collectibles. Frankly, I would believe most amulets basically serve their basic objective in offering the public a handy carrying tool for self protection but it was only the strong belief among the collectors who likes to think that old and new are different (well, a contradiction to what I have just said, but who would want to visit this website if I only show you what most shops have in their racks? haha...). So, we have a interesting scenario where there are separations in "classes" of amulets - it is just like in field of academic studies, there could be thousands of universities for higher studies worldwide, many would think a graduate from a respectable academic icons such as MIT, Harvard, Cambridge would command more respect than others. The same goes for amulets, temples or more importantly, specific Guru Monk who blessed or overseeing the creation of a particular amulet will or may command a more following than the rest of less unknown. So, in the art of collecting amulets, history or age of an antique amulet may not necessarily reflects a higher premium than a newer one. Just take the Soomdej images by WRK, various amulets by Chao Khun Nor or the mini-statue of LP Negrn - comparatively, these collectibles may not be carrying with a long history behind in their creations than comparing images such as Phra Rod or the Phongsuphan etc. but they have immense following among the Thai and/or collectors worldwide because the public believe in who made those amulets and not the "history". So, personalities may sometimes just make a huge differences in the perception in their respective value; and an equation of an aged old amulet without a good "blessing" from a respectable may just be defined as an antique rather than a tool to rely on for personal protection or delivering other spiritual purposes. However, one would believe with proper and continual chanting, it may "revive" its abilities to serve. But one way or another, there is no denying fact that amulets have fast developed into a commodity and sometimes prices are also "engineered" at times by merchants based on scarcity - this is indeed a sad state. But whatever it is, while we can still enjoying what we believing in strongly, I always put freshly produced ones as personal priority (even if you think they may not possesses more "power" than older ones but give away to others who does not has one yet is an excellent idea) because as most of us are busy fighting to make a living, the lack of spiritual aspiration can also be quite disturbing, so, just treat it as a proper channel to denote some $$ to help the temples for day to day maintenance while at the same times, ease off a little discomfort we had inside our mind...
The basic structure of a classic Soomdej image comprised of a Lord Buddha image that surrounded by an arch and sits with his two hands adjoining on a three-tiers which signify evolving changes and instability, sufferings and state of emptiness. Other noticeable items verified by grader that surfaced in some early versions are monk cloth and the Singharaj (lion) base. In any case, early Soomdej images aged more than 100 years ago are not very "pretty" in appearance. They usually have rough textures, coursy surface with cracks in front/rear section and probably not straight in terms of vertical alignments when observed in its rectangular structure due to old soft rocked-mold method. Naturally, many later versions improved on its appearance with finer surface and textures from newer techniques. The second image illustrate another rarer form of a Soomdej with a front curtain form of design instead of a traditional Arc. Some older Soomdej such as this has liquor coating which contributes to its reddish colour. Another common evolving form of a Soomdej carries a design with some leaves behind the Load Buddha image at the center, this design usually has an overall sized smaller than conventional Soomdej.
<<<--- The image shown at the top far left hand side illustrates a basic formation of a typical 3-tiers Soomdej image. This particular image was sometimes called "Phra Krut" - image that recovered from long safe keeping at old Pagoda or those which were cemented on walls or a temple. This particular image was one that recovered from a small unknown temple in Thailand where many Thai collectors and/or public are turning to such alternatives. CLICK TO SEE ENLARGED VIEW (76k Jpeg). The pages that followed shown many of this group of recovered images. Although there are no conclusive evidence that these group of images may present better "value" or "power" but psychologically. one may think "older must be better" and since they have been kept in a holy place it should be "good" for personal use. But I would rather think it is the appreciation and remembrance of old culture has more to do with that kind of thinking.
The unique form of Soomdej Kes-chai-yoh images from Wat Kes-Chai-Yoh, An Thong were reputedly blessed by Bhudhacharn Toh are another variation of Soomdej image. SD Kes-Chai-yoh can be easily recognized by its long curving ears of the image and the deeply recessed abdomen section center and it has multi-tiers formation. The images shown at the left and far left were two typical examples of this unique Soomdej image. Note: This Kes-Chai-oh is my personal collection. Although the 3-ladders Soomdej design are the most common form, another version of Soomdej design adopts a Multi-tiers formation. Both of these Soomdej could have many differing forms, sizes & versions made by various temples and/or blessed by individual Guru Monks. But probably the most well known Soomdej among all were blessed by the late legendary Thai Monk, Phra Bhudhacharn(Toh) Promrangsi of Wat Rakang, Bangkok. It was known a selective old Images from a few temples (such as Bang Khun-Phrom) were also being blessed by him which makes them highly collectible.
<<<--- The above images shown a typical formation of a multi-tiers Soomdej image. This tablet has 9-tiers while others may have 4, 7 or even a higher odd numbered of ladders (The "Kes-Chai-Yoh" image shown at the top has a rather odd number of 8-tiers). CLICK TO SEE AN EXPLOSIVE VIEW (318k Jpeg). The image was "extracted" from an incredible collection - "BOX of amulets" by Mr. Adisak.
Surprisingly, Thai amulets do not just come in the form of traditional way of using power/herbs, wood, ivory to make them but another alternative is actually metal-made medallion pendant. A more acceptable explanation for its popularity is very much due to its durability and easier maintenance than amulets that use conventional materials.
SUPPLEMENTS: The FIVE COMMON FORMS (Phra Prathan, Chedi Form, Lotus Kes, Than Sam, Prok Bodhi) images in the SOOMDEJ WRK and NINE EVOLVING FORMS with SOOMDEJ WAT Bang Khun Phrom. Other Good reading Supplements: http://www.yianhoe.com/somdejtoh.asp
<<< ---Credit: Uncle Wichien. The picture shown at the left hand side is an aged WRK bronze metal-plate of a Soomdej with the Guru, Phra Bhudhacharn(Toh) at its rear section. Front View (150k) | Rear View (118k). Note: This WRK Medallion together with the LPP were given to me as a personal gift on Wesak Day, 2004.
Today, no one can deny the fact that amulets renewed a chapter that Thai Buddhist imageries, other than offering its basic objective in the form of spiritual protection for its owners as well as establishing as an original art form, they are treated as a form of investment too. Among the many, the immensely popular Soomdej images produced by the many temples and Guru Monks can made verifications such a difficult task even for seasoned collectors. The authentication process of the many versions from various sources can be a tough and tedious process. Although I am not an expert, but I would still like to contribute my part in presenting some collectibles for everyone to share, naturally, you may also participate in this exhibit , as long as they have been authenticate, verified on their respective source, ownership and originality (please make use of the MESSAGE BOARD for this purpose). Well, even if you don't intend to contribute or participate, I am sure many of you can actually help to identify the many images in this site so as I can name and tag them individually, Thank You.
Wat Keschaiyo, Ang Thong, Thailand.
Wat Rakang, Bangkok
However, regardless of its origin, even the same image from probably the same old-time manual mold may contain slight deformities in common protruding areas such as the chest, hands, head and the multi-ladder bases. So, authentication of originality and source of Thai amulets is a highly specialized skill and when you are in the elite league of collectors, a mistake could be costly. Regardless of the number of tiers, one distinctive feature of the multi-tier Soomdej image of such design is its long curved ears and thin body shape of the Lord Buddha who sits atop at the pinnacle of the ladders. Similarly, these series of aged amulets also may have suffered and dried out from age and time but most would think the multi-tier versions may have a finer grained, high powdered surfaced than the original classic.
But whatever it is, as I said earlier, I don't have any old collectible of Soomdej images to showcase and even my mentor's collection do not have such original top, pricey Soomdej Wat Rakang imageries and so, I will only listed down what he and my friends have in possession. In fact, as a hobbyist, many of the Soomdej imageries are from other temples that spread across in the Kingdom. <<< -- The legendary Monk from Wat Rakang may also have produced some commemorative pendants with his own image and some collectors are also beginning to include them in their lists of collectible items.
FRONT VIEW (78k)
Credit: All Images shown in this page Courtesy of Uncle Wichien®
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- Mr. Adisak
Col. Samay Soontara
Brian Koh - Chao Khun Nor
Rock Raymond -Soomdej
Contributing Articles: Main Index Page
Public Knowledge Based Forum: Any comments, questions, suggestions, report of a problem encountering in the site OR wish to share a thought, expressing a personal desire to acquire or disposal any particular Buddhist image ? Please make good use of the
section which may serve more specifically with your objective.
NOTE:- Virtually ALL the images appear in this site have two dimensions in their respective display. I think most seasoned Thai amulet lovers probably possess a pair of hawk eyes second to the Jews in the diamond trades, so, it is the intention to provide a LARGER view of each thumbnail in order for everyone to enjoy, authenticate or verify their originality. The technique to fully explore the convenience of this display system is - even when the larger view appears on the browser, you should use your mouse to click again to see the actual explosive view. Please bear with the slower download time of those explosive views. Enjoy.
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Credit: To all the good people who have contributed their own experience, resources or those who are kind enough in granting us the permission to use their images that appeared on this site. Mr. Wichian Phetratanamunee® (+6-012-2612207 (Malaysia);+66(0)74-421248 Thailand), my master and mentor all these years. My friend, Mr. Ho Fook Sang® from Ipoh, Perak (+06-0125388633, +605-5415433) who has been helping me all this long with wonderful source of information on Thai Buddha Imageries; my partner, Mr. Paul Lim, who shares the same passion together with me. Uncle Lim®, from TONG SOON Trading, Pudu Plaza (+06-012-9128391) who has given me some guidance relating to the background of some of the Thai amulets and lastly, Miss MaeV who helped me edit and patching some mistakes found on some of the pages in this site. Mr. Alan Tan "Arohka®" who contributes some of his excellent articles fro this site, Mr. Weerapong Srivichai®, (+6609999974) from Chiangmai News Co. Ltd. who has inspired me with so many new findings on Thai Amulets; Mr. "Ben", Col. Samay, Mdm Wannee, Mr. Adisak® & many others (such as Stan Thong (StanSLThong@yahoo.com), Raymond Goh(firstname.lastname@example.org), Tony EH (email@example.com)etc... who share so much passion towards construction of this website and not to mention all the time and effort spent by volunteered Co-Maintainers of the Message Board. Note: Certain content and images appeared on this site were taken by using a Canon PowerShot Pro-1, G2 and Sony digital cameras. Some materials appeared on this site were scanned from some leaflets, brochures or publications published in Thai and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification. Site made with an Apple IMac.