Making Buddha Statues in the Largest Buddha Statue Factory in Thailand
Buddhism is the official religion of Thailand and so there is a huge demand from Thai Buddhist for Buddha statues for their temples, public places and homes.Just outside of Bangkok is an enormous Buddha factory omen and women where the workers create huge Buddha statues satisfying Thailand’s insationable needs for Buddhist icons.
These are industrial premises where machine tools, blowtorches and smelters input into the Buddha making process. Finished cast Buddha statues need to be buffed to golden perfection. Thai Buddha statues are some of the most ornate of the worlds Buddha images and are mostly finished in gold to emphasis their importance and place in Thai Buddhist culture.Throughout the factory work takes place on casting and then finishing the impressive large Buddha statues. Buddha heads are polished to perfection and the Buddha’s eyes finished to emphasise and bring the fact that Buddha statues and images need to communicate the compassion and wisdom of the Buddha.
Thai Temples, schools, universities , hotels, homes and most Buddhist businesses in Thailand (96% of Thailand’s population are Buddhist) usually have a giant Buddha statue which sits raised off the ground .These Buddha statues are daily given offerings and so are surrounded by flowers, money ,pictures , food, candles, incense and other small Buddhist statues and deities important to Thai religious culture. These ‘shrines’ are worshipped by Thai Buddhist devotees and tended with meticulous care.
How to make a Large Buddha Statue
The art of Buddha making in Thailand for constructing huge Buddha statues is a dangerous one and involves fire, brute labour and dangerous tools.Often people who require a Buddha statue to be made will bring in a photo of what they want the final Buddha statue to look like and the workers at the Samai factory, which makes these giant Buddhas, will work from this. The Buddha factory is located in Nonthaburi which is just on the edge of Bangkok city.
The first step is to use sticky clay, to make a model of the Buddha statue. This must be fine quality clay, which doesn’t contain any sand.Once this clay model of the Buddha statue has been made the customer will examine it to see if this is the sort of Buddha statue they had envisaged when they initially commissioned it. The clay must stay wet and can remain in this state for two weeks, or else it will crack.
Next beeswax is put on top of the clay Buddha statue model. Beeswax is first boiled to soften it before pouring it onto the outside of the Buddha statue model.Once this process is complete the beeswax is cooled by keeping it in water.Beeswax must be moulded and pressed into the various Buddha statues parts – simple Buddha statue design are relatively simple but detailed designs are more difficult.
The Thai workers are very proud to be making Buddha statues and often generations of families and current family members work at the Buddha statue factory.The beeswax moulding can be shaped to form small circular half-shells, which represent the curls of Buddha's hair or as Buddhist mythology reports snails which crawled up the Buddha’s head and died while protecting his head when the Buddha meditated.
After covering the whole Buddha statue in beeswax the next stage is to cover the whole Buddha in thick white plaster. The Buddha factory has rectangular pools of water, where brownish beeswax Buddha heads, Buddha hands and other body parts of the Buddha are stored gives this part of the Buddha factory an eerie feel rather like a macabre collection of dismembered humans body parts.The pools are used for storage of new beeswax Buddha statue models, otherwise the heat will melt them. When the Buddha factory workers need use them, they are then taken out from the water. This ancient craft is known as "the lost wax process."
Whether the Buddha statue factory workers are making a tiny earring or a giant Buddha statue, the process alike: make a wax model of the Buddha cover it in hard plaster, drill a hole in the base of the Buddha and another in the top of the Buddha mould. Then molten bronze, brass, silver, gold or other metal are poured into the hole.
The molten metal heat melts the wax, which then exits out through the bottom hole. The solidified metal replaces the wax, and when it has finally cooled, hardens into the Buddha statue which is the same as the "lost wax" model.Brass, bronze and other metals are melted in the Buddha factory's ovens and then long-handled ladles scoop the molten metal and pour it into each plaster-covered Buddha statue part. The big Buddha statues are made in big pieces, a separate Buddha head, and separate arms for the giant Buddha, and finally the separate body of the Buddha.
The metal cools and hardens inside the plaster mould after one day. The Buddha factory workers then chip away the surrounding plaster, revealing the metal Buddha parts. The Buddha pieces are then joined together with blowtorches, soldering, sanding machines, buffers, and other tools into big Buddha statues.
The biggest Buddha statues can take up to four months to finish, but a small Buddha statue will take around two days to construct.72-year-old Watcharapong Ruangsiripath is the owner of the Buddha statue factory and has been making big Buddha statues for more than 40 years and the Buddha factory has been located Nonthaburi for around 30 years.
They make 10 or more Buddha statues, of different sizes, each week and the Buddha statue factory employs 50 staff. Each step is complicated when making a big Buddha statue and it is a specialised and difficult business. In the past five years for this Buddha factory business has been declining.The factory makes made-to-order Buddha statues, and less people are ordering owing to the state of the overall economy in Thailand All the materials for making the Buddha statues are sourced in Thailand, and are becoming more expensive.
The most popular position for a big Buddha statue is the sitting position where the Buddha is shown meditating. The biggest Buddha statue the factory ever made was 14 meters tall for a Buddhist temple in Buriram, North East Thailand.
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