Brief Biography of Somdej ToBE2331: Born in Ayudhaya Province
BE2342: Ordained as a Novice at a monastery which is now Wat(Temple) Chaiyo in Ang Thong Province at the age of seven
BE2350: Ordained as a monk under royal patronage at Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of Emerald Buddha)
BE2395: Appointed as the abbot of the Wat(Temple) Rakang
BE2415: Died peacefully in the meditation posture
FAMESomdej To gained more social recognition than any other Supreme Abbots. He is the most revered, renowned, and worshipped Thai abbot.
The amulets that Somdej To made are of great(est) holiness and widely popular among Thai Buddhists. They became Thai Buddhists’ most wanted and most expensive in Thailand. Somdej To amulets are made from limestone power mostly made during his reign of Wat Rakang (BE 2395 – 2415), were made holy by chanting of 700 years old supernatural prays dated back to Sukothai Era in which the Abbot who applied this must be spiritually pure.
พระสมเด็จเนื้อผงหลังอักษรจีน (Amulets with Auspicious Chinese words)
ตามประวัติศาสตร์, ชาวจีนจากแผ่นดินใหญ่อพยพมายังประเทศสยาม 2 ครั้ง
(1) ช่วงปี พ.ศ.2187 สมัยอยุธยา ชาวจีนเชื้่อสายแมนจูเข้ายึดเมืองจีนจากชาวฮั่น ชาวฮั่นอพยพมายังประเทศในแถบเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ รวมถึงประเทศไทยด้วย ชาวจีนกลุมนี้มีการศึกษาสูง มีฐานะดี ต่อมาเป็นข้าราชการในตำแหน่งสำคัญๆ และ เป็นพ่อค้าที่มีอิทธิพลในกรุงศรีอยุธยา ซี่งต่อมมาเป็นต้นตระกูลของผู้มีชื่อเสียงและเป็นเจ้าของกิการใหญ่โตในประเทศไทย ชาวจีนกลุ่มนี้เปป็นชาวแต้จิ๋วและฮกเกี้ยน หนึ่ีงในนั้น คือ พระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช ผู้กอบกู้เอกราชให้สยามจากพม่าในปี พ.ศ. 2310
(2) ความแห้งแล้งระหว่างปี พ.ศ. 2471 - 2473 และพายุหิมะในปี พ.ศ. 2474 ในจีนส่งผลให้แรงงานชาวจีนอพยพมายังประเทศต่างๆ ในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ ชาวจีนเหล่านี้เป็นคลื่นของคนที่เกื้อกูลสยามตามคำกล่าวทื่ว่า "เสื่อผืน หมอนใบ" ที่ ขยัน ถ่อมเนื้อถ่อมตัว ซื่อสัตย์ หนักเอาเบาสู้
ชาวจีนรุ่นหลังของทั้งสองรุ่นการอพยพข้างต้นได้ร่วมกันสร้างพระเครื่องเนื้อผงของสมเด็จโตหลักอักษรจีนระหว่างปี พศ. 2394 – 2415 จากการที่ข้าพเจ้าได้ศึกษาค้นคว้าเป็นเวลากว่า 10 ปี ข้าพเจ้าได้พบว่าพระเครื่องเหล่านี้มีลักษณะพิเศษเฉพาะดังนี้
(1) มี 2 ทรง คือ ฐานสามชั้นของวัดระฆัง และ ฐาน 7 ชั้น ของวัดไชโย
(2) มีลักษณะของธาตุทั้ง 5 (น้ำ ไฟ ไม้ ทอง ดิน) ที่เชื่อกันว่าเป็นกลุ่มของสีมงคลดังนี้
ก) ธาตุน้ำ หมายถึง ความเฉลียวฉลาดและไหวพริบปฏิภาณ(สีเทา สีน้ำเงิน)
ข) ธาตุไฟ หมายถึง ความกระตือรือร้นและชื่อเสียง(สีแดง สีชมพู สีม่วง)
ค) ธาตุไม้ หมายถึง ความเจริญรุ่งเรืองและความเอื้ออารี(สีเขียว)
ง) ธาตุทอง หมายถึง ความแข็งแกร่งและความยุติธรรม(สีขาว สีเงิน สีทอง)
จ) ธาตุดิน หมายถึง ความอดทนและความแน่นอน(สีเหลือง สีครีม สีส้ม สีน้ำตาล)
(3) คำจีนมงคลที่นิยมอย่างแพร่หลายในกลุ่มชาวจีนปรากฏที่ด้านหลังของพระสมเด็จชุดนี้เป็นภาษีจีนโบราณย้อนหลังไปหลายร้อยปี ซึ่งมีนักภาษาศาสตร์น้อยคนนักที่จะรู้จัก เท่าที่ข้าพเจ้าได้เห็นกับตา มีเพียง 25 คำจีนมงคลเท่านั้น
Historically, Chinese from mainland migrated to Siam in 2 occasions
(1) In 1644 (BE 2187, Ayudhaya Era) due to political turmoil as Manchu took control of China from Han. Han race migrated to countries in southeast Asia including Siam. This group of Chinese were highly educated and wealthy who became high ranked government officials and influential merchants in Ayudhaya Dynasty who finally became the founders of many Thai economically reputible families and business establishments. They were Chaoshou (Teochew) and some Hokkein (Taiwanese). One of them is “King Taksin The Great” who salvaged Siam’s independence from Burma in BE 2310.
(2) The drought during BE 2471 to 2473 and the snow storm in BE 2474 in China caused Chinese labors to leave the country for southeast Asian countries. They became second wave of Chinese contribution to Siam admirably represented by the popular trademark phrase "One pillow, one mat". These second Chinese wave was modest, honest, hardworking, and tactful.
Successive Chinese generations of both exoduses unitedly created Somdej To’s amulets with auspicious Chinese words using Rakang Temple’s molds for front surfaces during BE 2394 to 2415. Over a decade of rigorous study and research, I have discovered that these amulets show particular features as follows:
(1) Two types are Rakang Temple’s 3-layer base and Chaiyo Temple’s 7-layer base.
(2) Five natural organic elements (water, fire, wood, gold, soil) are strongly believed among Chinese in Thailand as superficial natural materials. They also collectively constitute each and every organic life. Symbolically, they are represented by group of auspicious colors as follows:
a) Element Water represents wisdom and Flair (colours - grey, dark blue, blue)
b) Element Fire represents Enthusiasm and Reputation (colours - red, pink, violet)
c) Element Wood represents Prosperity and Compassion (colour - green)
d) Element Gold represents Strength and Justice (colours - white, silver, gold)
e) Element Soil represents Patience and Firmness (colours - yellow, cream, orange, brown)
(3) Auspicious Chinese words and widely popular Chinese clans appeared at the back of these amulets are ancient Chinese language dated back some many hundred years which only few modern Chinese can read. As far as I witnessed the actual amulets with my own eyes, there were only 25 Chinese words.
ชาวจีนที่นับถือพระพุทธศาสนาที่สนใจที่จะครอบครองพระเครื่องเนื้อผงเหล่านี้ กรุณาติดต่อ firstname.lastname@example.org
****พระเครื่องมีจำนวนจำกัด****CHINESE BUDDHISTS WHO ARE "GENUINELY" INTERESTED TO OWN THESE AMULETS,
PLEASE CONTACT email@example.com****These amulets are reasonably priced********Only limited amount of amulets available****
Phra Somdej amulets with garuda chest and alms bowl head (Photo 1) were made for special 3 purposes as described in “Somdej To’s amulets”. This article will highlight the physical information of these amulets.
First, there are two types of this Phra Somdej. The first type is Buddha sitting on a ring of lotus buds and has 4 sizes (1, 3, 4, 5). The second type is Buddha sitting on a Buddha Altar Table and comes in only one size (2). Second, there are two types of texture namely dry (size 1) and moist (2,3,4,5). Size 1 (the largest) is very dry as it had been bathed in a large jar filled with holy water chanted religiously with Buddhist prayers during 3-month Buddhist Lent in 2411 BE ended 2nd October. The Tung oil in the amulet was dissolved into holy water during the amulet bath in holy water jar, causing uncharacteristic super dryness of amulet as easily seen in above picture.
I have clean the surface of an amulet size 1 to see the real texture. Photo 2 compare the cleaned surface (first amulet) with the original surfaces (the next 3 amulets).
Phra Somdej Keiser (size 1 in photo 1) can be regarded as the flagship of all Somdej TO’s amulets (Phra Somdej). It is like vintage Rolls Royce car. Size 5 is about 2.6 cm tall and 1.7 cm wide very suitable charm for ladies and I gave one to my wife. She wears only this amulet around her neck all the times.
This article is the introduction to my presentation on (1) Wat Rakang (2) Somdej To extended to Somdej To’s Amulets.
Wat Rakang is a Buddhist temple located adjacent to Chao
Phraya River on the opposite riverside of “Temple
of the Emerald Buddha” It was built in Ayudhaya Era named Wat Bang Wah and was
promoted to Royal Temple Status in Thonburi Era together
with change of name to Wat Rakang around B.E. 2312 following the discovery of a
large Rakang embedded underground inside the Wat’s premise. Wat Rakang is located on the bank of Chao Phaya River right
opposite to the Temple
of the Emerald Buddha. Its
location is so exceptional that King Taksin of Thonburi Kingdom built his
palace nearby. Wat Rakang became notable because
In Thonburi Era, it was appointed as Royal Monastery by King Taksin.
In Rattanakosin Era, it was formally fostered by the elder sister of King Rama I for its renovation and developments where a large undergrounded ancient bell was found. For this reason, Wat Bang Wha Yai was then renamed as Wat Rakang (Bell).
Its head of Buddhist monks was appointed as the first Buddhist Supreme Patrairch of Rattankosin Kingdom.
It also accommodated Somdej To which was the most revered Buddhist monk in Thai history.
The principal Buddha Statue enshrined in the Chapel was nicknamed by King RAMA V as “Receptively Smiling Phra”.
was born in 2331 BE and ordained as Buddhist novice in Ayudhaya province in
Ayudhaya province since childhood. In 2350 BE, at the age of 20, he received a
royal ordination at the Temple
of the Emerald Buddha and resided in many Wat but mostly Wat Rakang. He passed away in 2415 BE at the age of 85. Throughout his
life, he concentrated on Buddhism scripture and meditation without any slight
interest in the monastic dignity. He spent most of his time on Buddhist hike
throughout Laem Thong. He had done 5 major remarkable successes
He made the most wanted and popular amulets in Thailand.
He discovered the religious ancient prayers (over 700 years old) on how to make amulets holy dated back to Sukothai Era.
He discovered Phra Chinnabunchorn prayer which became a very popular household prayer in Thailand. Phra Chinnabanchorn Prayer is an ancient prayer narrated around B.E. 2123 by northern Jao Koons under the wish of 20th Chiengmai’s King. Somdej TO discovered this prayer during one of his Buddhist hikes. Phra Chinnabanchorn Prayer has 2 versions namely Thai/Myanmar version (14 parts), and Sri Lankan version (22 parts) of which the first 14 parts are exactly the same as Thai/Myanmar version. Somdej TO polished a virtual unknown prayer into one of the most chanted prayers among Thai Buddhists.
He discovered Phra Thung Sethee Gru Kamphaeng Phet in 2392 BE upon his Tudong passed kampang Phet. The damaged Phra Thung Sethee Gru Kamphaeng Phet was crushed into small grains and blended into Phra Somdej Wat Rakang.
SOMDEJ TO’s AMULETS
Amulets are materials full of holiness from pure spiritual mind power of monks through chanting of prayers under meditating mind. This mind power is opposite to black magic spell. The level/degree of holiness depends on the monks’ peace of mind. Somdej To’s mind power has been universally recognized by Thai Buddhists for more than 150 years. His amulets are about 150 years old but proven to be more popular than any other much older amulets.
Meditation is the key to holiness of amulets. Power of mind is of unlimited strength. The very elementary mind power is hypnosis where an experienced hypnotist can readily control the mind of other people. One of the so-called duties of Buddhist monks is to practice this control of mind to the levels much deeper than that of hypnotists.
A physicist named Albert Einstein who determined power of mind scientifically with theory of Relativity. His theory claims that a physical object can go forward into the future or go backward into the past by traveling faster than the speed of light. Light is the fastest scientific way to travel. On the contrary, human’s mind can travel much faster than light. Mind is then the faster way to travel. This is why some people can see the future and the past of any event very far away.
If you think about someone who seriously practices how to achieve “peace of mind” and way to “concentrate on mind power” many hours a day, every day a year for over 60 years or so like Somdej To, you can imagine how powerful his mind is and what would be if this powerful mind is transferred into amulets. The only way to sense these mind power is to pray until your mind is in focus then to use this focused mind meditation until your mind is in emptiness so that you can intuitively feel the supernatural power Buddhist monks packed in the amulets.
Of many thousand original Somdej To’s limestone amulets I have closely studied over 40 years, there are at least 1,000 distinguishable amulets which no one is an expert. Of all Phra Somdej amulets I have seen, there are 4 amulets that impressed me most because (1) they were made from the same batch but went through different molds (2) they represented molds designed by amateurs during early age of Somdej To showing by the unbalanced(unsymmetrical) features (3) they were kept in perfect original conditions – clean from all impurities such as human sweats and dust – through many generations (4) The owner is extremely cherish as they are the only 4 unused (brand new) Phra Somdej amulets in possession.
Over the 1,000 different shapes and main mass of all Somdej To’s limestone amulets, I categorize them into 4 broad groups of similar overall features as follows :
Group 1 : Phra Somdej Wat Rakang and Wat Chaiyo – Plain
Front surface is typical. Back surface is generally plain caused by pressing against different planes such as wood board, concrete floor. All were made at Wat Rakang. The three-layer base amulets were distributed at Wat Rakang. Amulets in this group were originated by all types original Thai-raced Somdej To’s followers/pupils.
The 6-7-9 layered base amulets were placed in pagodas at Wat Chaiyo in Ang Thong Province during the beginning of 25th BE century (around 2411-2415 BE) and later discovered around end of 25th BE century when the pagodas collapsed. Photos 9 and 10 are photos of front and back features of 7-layered base amulets of Wat Chaiyo.
Group 2 : Phra Somdej Wat Rakang and Wat Chaiyo – Chinese words
Amulets in this group have virtually the same front features as amulets in group 1. The only main difference is in the various Chinese words Group 2 have at the back. I have witnessed around 30 different Chinese words from over genuine 10,000 amulets. These amulets were originated by Somdej To’s Buddhist Chinese followers/pupils of all saes (surnames) living in Arun Amarin District of Bangkok.
Group 3 : Phra Somdej – garuda chest and alms bowl head
Amulets in this group were specially made to celebrate (1) Somdej To’s sixtieth anniversary of age in 2390 BE and King Rama V (on his reigning Thailand on October 1, 2411 BE). In both occasions, not many amulets were made and were named Phra Somdet Keiser as King Rama V had given one of this amulet to King Keiser of Germany upon his visit to Europe in 2440 BE. This particular amulet has been kept in one of the museum in Germany which I am trying to find out where this museum is. Anyone who can help me with my search will be doing a significantly wonderful contribution to the Thai history.
In addition, I also witnessed few amulets of this nature with Chinese words at the back believed to be made by Chinese during 2411-2415 BE together with amulets in Group 2.
Phra Somdej Keiser amulets were made in very limited few quantities, for special occasions (not sure how many amulets were made) and for special personsgiven to King Rama V (about 375 amulets made), and with Chinese words 托大 師 given to his closed Chinese followers (not sure how many made but I have seen very few in over 10,000 amulets with Chinese words). With these limitations and its popularity, Somdej To had made Phra Somdet – garuda chest alms bowl head for his dedicated followers instead.
Group 4 : Phra Somdej with peculiar models and materials
Somdej To was in a way a true scholar who experimented with different materials and features of his amulets all the times. Therefore, it is no surprise for anyone to see his amulets with unusual materials and arts. Therefore, it is true to say that nobody can claim to be Phra Somdej guru. With my 40 years dedicated study virtually of his amulets alone, I still find myself a kindergarten kid in this subject.
There are a number of Phra Somdej Wat Rakang with some meaningful symbols at the back such as various saints and angels, garuda seal symbolised king Rama V which I happened to witness and brought some to share with you.
There are also special large Phok Bho amulets where I have seen only four amulets out of over 10,000 Phra Somdej amulets I witnessed over the past 40 years.
According to historical milestone, first Thai amulets were made with clay some 1500 years ago (around 11th – 13th century) in today Mahasarakham province (Thailand’s city in northeast) known as Nadoon amulets and some 1300 years ago (around 13th century) in today Lampoon province (Thailand’s city in north) known as Lampoon amulets. With a distance of 700 kms and 13th century communication mean, it was not logical for Lampoon (north) and Mahasarakham (northeast) to share culture including amulet making process. This is a clear proof of strong faith in Buddhism during 13th century throughout Siam. The history of Nadoon amulets is not clearly and reliably recorded while the history of Lampoon amulets is much more explicit as they were made by the first (Lady)King of Hariphunchai (Hariphunjaya) Dynasty. However, this implies an establishment of strong faith in Buddhism throughout Siam in very early age of the Kingdom, at least since 13th Century.
Historically, Wats and Buddhist monks have always been essential parts of regular Thai day-to-day livings as Wats served as schools and clinics while Buddhist monks acted as teachers and traditional doctors. As modern medical treatments were at primitive stage, all illnesses depended on Buddhist monks instead for modern medical treatment. They used natural herbs and magical means to cure diseases . Buddhist monks have been practicing mediation and traditional medicine since Buddhism became Siam’s national religion. The practicing mediation led to unnatural or supernatural inner power of ascetics and Buddhist monks. The unnatural power in amulets was created by ascetics while the supernatural power in amulets was created by Buddhist monks. The levels of supernatural power vary depending on the levels of mind practice ascetics or Buddhist monks achieved and spiritual prays chosen to recite by ascetics or Buddhist monks. The combination of mind practice levels (mental concentration) and the prays (power of spells) dictate the degree of holiness in consecrating amulets. Ascetics are mind practitioners who focus on power of mind control to achieve physical expression of unnatural power such as invincibility. The nature of this power was used for amulet consecration in the past up to few hundred years ago due to need for soldiers to carry amulets with them to fight the war with bare hands such as Thai boxing and weapons such as sabers, sword, spears, arrows during times before early Rattanakosin Era (King Rama II) where almost all amulets were made by kings in large quantities, consecrated by ascetics, and gave away to soldiers at large. The the turning point from colonization to trading took shape during King Rama II (B.E. 2352) onwards. In parallel, the change from amulets for invincibility to amulets for trading, fortune, prosperity, mercy began to take shape. The consecration almost completely shifted its tone from black magic of ascetics to white magic of Buddhist monks. In the early stage of white magic amulets, amulets were given out to civilians for free. Not until some hundred years later, amulets were made for trade. Civilians must buy amulets in form of donation to Buddhist temples (Wat) signifying the beginning of economic influence on Buddhism in Thailand. This economic influence has continued since then and amulets has become commercial products where more emphasis on marketing tools is evident. Amulets become like most visible high value assets such as houses, cars, watches, handbags, etc, Simply put, amulets become a symbol of wealth and social prestige. This ration explains why amulets with pure religious aims like Somdej To’s amulets have forever been marked with high popularity and exchange price against million of amulets made during his time which contradicts the demand-supply principle.
Historically, Wats have
always been learning centers and hospitals with Buddhist monks acted as
teachers and traditional doctors who used natural herbs and magical means to
cure diseases. Buddhist monks have 4 duties with Buddhism: (1) Study (2)
Practice (3) Propagate (4) Sustain. Buddhist monks have been practicing
mediation and traditional medicine since Buddhism became national religion of Siam. Both Ascetics and Buddhist monks practiced meditation to
achieve mind control with different objectives and social needs. Ascetics
emphasized on mind control to induce unnatural power such as invincibility to
the amulet possessors suitable for colonization era. Buddhist monks emphasized
on mind control to achieve supernatural power that bring about trade success,
fortune, prosperity, mercy to the amulet possessors suitable to
post-colonization and emerging global commerce.
The unnatural power in amulets was created by ascetics while the
supernatural power in amulets was created by Buddhist monks. The levels of special
power vary depending on the levels of mind practice ascetics or Buddhist monks
achieved and spiritual prays chosen to recite by ascetics or Buddhist monks.
The combination of mind practice levels (mental concentration) and the prays
(power of spells) dictate the degree of holiness in consecrating amulets.
Ascetics are mind practitioners who focus on power of mind control to achieve
physical expression of unnatural power such as invincibility. The nature of
this power was used for amulet consecration in the past up to few hundred years
ago due to need for soldiers to carry amulets with them to fight the war
invincibly and invisibly with bare hands such as Thai boxing and weapons such
as sabers, sword, spears, arrows during times before early Rattanakosin Era
(King Rama II) where almost all amulets were made by kings in large quantities,
consecrated by ascetics, and gave away to soldiers at large. The turning point
from colonization to trading took shape during King Rama II (B.E. 2352)
onwards. In parallel, the change from amulets for invincibility to amulets for enhancing
trading, fortune, prosperity, mercy, and charm began to take shape in addition
to invincibility and invisibility. The consecration almost completely shifted
its tone from black magic of ascetics to white magic of Buddhist monks with
limitation to honest uses. In the early stage of white magic amulets, amulets
were given out to civilians for free. Not until some hundred years later,
amulets were made for trade. Civilians must buy amulets in form of donation to
Buddhist temples (Wat) signifying the beginning of economic influence on
Buddhism in Thailand. This economic influence has continued since then and
amulets has become commercial products where more emphasis on marketing tools
is evident. Amulets become like most visible high value assets such as houses,
cars, watches, handbags, etc. Simply put, amulets mistakenly become a symbol of
wealth and social prestige. This ration explains why amulets with pure
religious aims like Somdej To’s amulets have forever been marked with high
popularity and price despite the millions of amulets made during his time which
contradicts the demand-supply principle.
Buddhist monks have 4 duties with Buddhism: (1) Study (2) Practice (3) Propagate (4) Sustain. On a different perspective, it is common practice for Thai Buddhist monks to create amulets filled with supernatural power in order to (1) test their supernatural power through control of mindpower (2) leave behind some relics for Buddhists to worship as part of sustaining Buddhism (3) draw majority of Buddhists closer to Buddha, Buddhism, and Wats as they worship (rely on) supernatural power of monks much more than practice by themselves.
In Thailand, amulets had initially been made by monarchs of virtually all kingdoms since the beginning of monarch-ruling era in this Laem Thong peninsula. Following different arts and culture of the kingdoms, amulets made were largely diversified in shape, size, Buddhist art, materials. Regardless of kingdoms and eras, five factors remained in common. First, they were made by the monarchs or royal bureau. Second, they were made in large quantity more than enough for the entire army. Third, they were given to soldiers for free. Fourth, they were made holy by renown ascetics. Fifth, the excess amulets were placed in concealed pagodas inside the Wats. After the colonization era ended, amulets were made with different objectives. First, they were made by Buddhist monks. Second, they were made holy without persecuting aim. Third, they made holy with Mercy and Avoidance. Fourth, they were made for individual Buddhists who made donations to Wats.
Our articles amplify general aspects of Thai amulets, Phra Somdej Wat Rakang made by Somdej To, and amulet business in Thailand. It is a common habit of Thai Buddhists to donate all kinds of their assets to Buddhist monks and Wats. The Buddhist monks usually give amulets to Buddhists in return. Buddhists usually carry these amulets with them and witness some inexplicable supernatural experience. The more the Buddhists experience, the more the reputation of amulets and Buddhist monks spreads out. This sparks the popularity of the amulets that ends up with escalating amulet prices and Buddhist monks’ reputation which eventually ended up with the influx of Buddhists’ visits to Wats. Wats then become lively and busy with visitors and donations.
These levels of mind power achievements begins with the simplest form called hypnosis and end up with the most difficult form called soul relocation (control of own spiritual activities). Looking from different angles, they are recognized in two opposite moralities known as black and white magics. Black magic of this kind is often seen in the immoral saints (such as number 666 – the Power of Beast in Christianity or Voodoo in African countries). I am not going into details of black magic as it does not lead anyone to right peace of mind, just know that they (1) strongly exist (2) are still practiced in Southeast Asia (3) can be overcome by the Buddhist monks’ merit. White magic of this kind is all seen in daily activities of monks which is worth an effort to amplify. White magic leads to peace of mind that generates high level of mindpower to overcome all black magic without any reservation. Simply put, a person with good moral practice and a holy amulet will not be harm by black magic. But let us concentrate on the physical attributes of Thai amulets which can be understood and appreciated readily by almost anyone.
It is always difficult to categorize or group Thai amulets together in a systematic way due to matrix interaction of two independent categorizing dimensions involved namely materials used to make amulets (stone, wood, clay, metal, herb, limestone) and associated spells of supernatural powers filled into amulets. In addition, different monks do have different levels of achieved mind power which is rather subtle and non-scientific to elaborate on amulets’ supernatural power. There is no pattern of what type of amulet materials is preferred by Buddhist monks or more popular among Buddhists. The key to popularity of amulets is the credential of the monks and the proven supernatural power associated with the amulets. It is worth noting that Thai Buddhists monks of high(est) royally patronaged ranks do not necessarily signify high(est) capacity of supernatural power or meditating level or merit. They (city monks) merely achieve academic qualification and choose to stay in royally patronized Wat in which an opportunity to be merited with monk’s rank appointment is promising but the opportunity to practice meditation is inferior unless they perform religious hike in remote area such as in deep forest like Somdej To did, following Buddha’s practice.
The 6 types of amulet materials used widely for
amulet making are
Stone was used in very early days in form of individual sculpture of large size by carving stone into large Buddha image mostly of about human size or larger. It was impractical to have typical amulets made of stone due to its heavy weight and hardness. However, amulets made of precious stone are popular in limited group of Buddhist followers.
This green stone Phra Somdet was made in 2401 BE by King Rama IV and made holy by Somdet TO. It is a rare amulet as King Rama IV made amulets for The Emerald Temple (Wat Phra Kaew) and Wat Phra Thad Phanom.
Majority of wooden amulets are from Myanmar and in form of hand-made wood sculpture. Consequently, the number of wooden amulets is few and can be recognized as rare antique sculpture. Thai wooden amulets are uncommon and rarely seen unless the Buddhist monks are from Myanmar but take up residence in Thai Wat.
Amulets made from clay are the very first Thai amulets evident by the oldest Thai amulets widely known in Thailand.
(1) The Hariphunchai’s clay amulets made by the first lady king of Hariphunchai Kingdom (1206 – 1385 BE) known as Queen Jamadevi some 1300 years ago and made holy by a group of ascetics led by ascetic Na Rod – the most prominent ascetic in the Kingdom at that time – to honor the Queen Jamadevi’s ruling. Hariphunchai’s clay amulets comprise several different amulet forms. The most prominent Hariphunchai’s clay amulets called “Phra Rod” following the ascetic name Na Rod. Phra Rod Lampoon was made from wet clay, threshed into cake-like paste, force-printed in a mold into amulets, and heated at temperature of pottery making and the clay amulets turn into semi-stone state which are harder and stronger than non-heated (naturally dried) clay amulets. Of the five most wanted amulets in Thailand (Benja Phakee), only Phra Rod Lampoon was heated to temperature up to 800 deg C in the furnace. Phra Rod is strong and hard enough to cut through glass like a glass-cutting knife. In the furnace chamber, the amulets that were exposed to highest temperature zone near the furnace burner would be green (very rarely seen) while lesser concentration of heat would be black, brown, or dark cream.
In addition to Hariphunchai’s clay
amulets, there are
(2) Phra Thung Sethee Gru Kamphaeng Phet which was made from heat-treated clay around 1890 BE by King Lithai of Sukhothai Kingdom (1792 – 1981 BE). The prominent member of Phra Thung Sethee is Phra Soom Kor.
(3) Phra Pong Suphan Gru Suphanburi which was made from heat-treated clay around 1890 BE by King Lithai for King U-Thong of Ayudhya Kingdom (1893 – 2310 BE)
(4) Phra Nang Phaya Gru Phitsanulok which was made around 2090 – 2100 BE by Queen Wisut Kasat of Ayudhya Kingdom. Phra Nang Phaya was made from heat-treated clay and kept in the pagoda of Wat Nang Phaya.
It is worth noting that the above 4 renown clay amulets are similar in nature. First, they are virtually contemporary. Second, they were made by the monarchs because the amulet making in those old days were regarded as a big issue and only made for the soldiers to carry with them to battles and wars. Third, they were made holy by hermits (invincibility power) without contribution from Buddhist monks (mercy and avoidance) because in those days Buddhist monks were strictly religious and the duty of practicing war-oriented supernatural power was with hermits. After the uncivilized colonization era ended and the civilized trading era began in late Ayudhaya Era to early Rattanakosin Era (2325 BE onwards), the amulets are then shifted interest to supernatural power of mercy and avoidance. This was beyond hermits’ ability and recalled the practice Buddhist monks.
Although not as popular as clay or limestone due to their relatively much heavier weight, the old metallic amulets were uncommon. The ones made in the old days were originated from monks’ mindpower to practice alchemy. As a result, alloys from alchemy have been mostly used to make amulets. Consequently, the old amulets were made of diversified plain metallic structure or alloys from alchemic venture. Pure metallic amulets were not as popular as clay or limestone due to their relatively much heavier weight and cast-only process, metallic amulets are rare and originated from monks’ mindpower to practice alchemy. As a result, pure metals and alloys from alchemy were difficult and troublesome to make. Therefore, only a handful amounts of metallic amulets were made.
Although not as popular as clay or limestone due to their relatively much heavier weight, the old metallic amulets were uncommon. The ones made in the old days were originated from monks’ mindpower to practice alchemy. As a result, alloys from alchemy have been mostly used to make amulets. Consequently, the old amulets were made of diversified plain metallic structure or alloys from alchemic venture. Pure metallic amulets were not as popular as clay or limestone due to their relatively much heavier weight and cast-only process, metallic amulets are rare and originated from monks’ mindpower to practice alchemy. As a result, pure metals and alloys from alchemy were difficult and troublesome to make. Therefore, only a handful amounts of metallic amulets were made during Sukothai Era (1792-1981 BE) making them probably the second oldest amulets next to Phra Rod of Hariphunchai. Phra Ruang amulets were made of alloys (tin-lead-zinc).
Phra Ruang with gun rail at rear amulets were believed to be made by Khmer and kept in Chedi (Pagoda) in Sukothat before Sukothai Era (1792-1981 BE) begun, making them probably the second oldest amulets next to Phra Rod of Hariphunchai. Phra Ruang amulets were made of alloys (tin-lead-zinc).
Phra Mahaesuan has two identical features both sides except for they are oppositely upsided. Phra Mahaesuan amulets were discovered in Suphanburi around 2456 BE and made of alloys (tin-lead-zinc). They are likely to be younger than Phra Ruang.
But not until past several hundred years ago, the metallic amulets can be made by cold stamping technology of coin making. Coin-like metallic amulets can then be made thin, light, and fast enough to make metallic amulets practical and popular
The amounts of Phra Ruang with
gun rail at rear amulets and Phra Mahaesuan amulets made were believed to be
only in hundred, not thousands or even ten thousands like amulets made by clay,
herb, and limestone.
In all amulets made from herbs, this 2497 BE amulet of LUANG POO TUAD Tuad, Wat Chang Hai (Pattani Province) is one of the most all-time popular clay amulets in Thailand. This amulet comprises many types of natural herbs blended well into the main mass. Only some 60,000 amulets were made and the pictures on the left are typical front and rear features of such amulets.
In all amulets made from limestone, the limestone amulets made
by Somdet TO of Wat Rakang (Bangkok Metropolis) is the most all-time popular
limestone amulets in Thailand.
I have had this Phra Somdej Wat Rakang (Photo 10) around my neck for more than 40 years (since I was 14)
Photos 2 Phra Rod Lampoon (Hariphunchai Kingdom), 3 Phra Soom Kor Thung Sethee Kampang Petch (Sukothai Kingdom), 4Phra Phong Suphan Suphanburi (Ayudhaya Kingdom), 5Phra Nang Phaya Phitsanulok (Sukothai Kingdom) , and 10 Phra Somdej Wat Rakang Bangkok (Rattnakosin Kingdom) are collectively known as Phra Benja Pakee which represent the most recognized Thai amulets.
All types of amulets are recognized in their own capacities. But of all Thai amulets, it is widely known that the most recognized and accepted amulets are made by Somdej To of Wat Rakang, called Phra Somdej Wat Rakang. In addition, of all Thai Buddhist monks, he is also most regarded by Thai Buddhists for his supernatural power and consistent kindness to all due to the supernatural occurrence experienced with Somdej To’s amulets by morally disciplined Thai Buddhists, not to mention his perfect and consistent religious ethical practice. With my strong faith in Somdej To since childhood, I choose to concentrate on my rigorous study on Somdej To and his amulets which are amplified in subsequent blogs.
To study Phra Somdej’s limestone amulets thoroughly, one has to adhere to
Careful consideration of main amulet mass ingredients and corresponding crack patterns at all amulet surfaces and of minority mass such as banana, small stone-like masses such as reddish brown broken Tung Settee (wealthy field in Kampangpetch province) amulet, holy white powder, gold and silver dust powder. It is worth noting that if the main mass, crack pattern, and minority mass are right, the amulets are highly likely to be genuine.
Hand-written minute of a Buddhist monk of Wat Amarin (Abbot Kum, a senior Buddhist monk very close to Somdej To). The minute described 4 principal names of Somdej To’s amulets as (1) principal Buddha statue (2) edge of monk’s rope (3) pagoda (4) groove chest-extended ears-supplementary Buddha bases. Other name beside the 4 principal names were for minor parts of the amulets such as head-covering Bodhi leaves, Rafflesia hair (believe to be aura radius), monk’s body-rope, supplementary Buddha bases, thin thread-like bases. Furthermore, as calculated from the memo, there are possible 30 different sub-parts for main structure and 56 different sub-parts of the minor parts making the total different types of Somdej To’s amulets to reach 1,680 (30 x 56). Therefore, nobody can give complete total 1,680 name types and the naming can sensibly be served as academic focus, nothing more.
My final say is whoever can rate Somdej To’s amulets with a glance over as fake, please believe immediately that whoever lacks decent knowledge on Somdej To’s amulets because each Somdej To’s amulet has her own unique identity which take many minutes or even hours of consideration. Although I have been studying virtually only Somdej To’s amulets for almost 40 years, I still have to consider main and minor features, the texture, the mass, the crack patterns, and the 4 edges in details which can take at least 5 highly concentrated minutes per amulet.
The easiest way to study Somdej TO’s limestone amulet is to observe the distortion and collapse of every sub-parts like observing a young actor pretends to act as an old lady. Everything can be monitoring excepted for amulets’ texture like examining wrinkle patterns of old people.
Amulet contests in Thailand play a significant role among Thai and foreign amulet collectors and traders. Originally, they were organised to confirm genuineness and completeness of amulets circulating in the markets. However, as values of amulets increase with public popularity and demand, the contests become commercialized and most contestants are pricing the contesting amulets according to the contest prizes or results. Therefore, two main drives for bringing amulets to a contest are (1) to enhance the amulet prices (2) to achieve owner’s self-esteem. Therefore, contests are now organised by various enterprises with largely diversified standards. Thus the problem is not with the drives for contest but instead with the choice of which contest to concentrate. If one goes to many contests, one may lose balance because various contest committees do have different level of knowledge/skill, objectives, responsibilities, and most importantly integrity.
I would like to give some basic observing precautions that whether (1) the contest is conducted regularly – if not, forget the gypsy contests as their certificates will not be traceable and recognized as future certificates (2) a right to replace the turned down amulet with another amulet(s) until submission right takes place without any additional contest cost – if not, forget the rip-off contests (3) the contest committee in average spend time to review each contesting amulet more than one minute – if not, forget the contest organised by dishonest judgement. (4) the committee given valid explanation on how they reject your amulets and on the reason why your amulets did not earn a a prize – if not, forget the dishonest contests as top prizes are already set for themselves through their nominees or their associates’ amulets. But worst of all, your genuine original amulets are likely to be changed with fake amulets by some committee members. It is fair to say that most contests are organised for organizers to earn money from contest admission fees and to upgrade amulets of their associates from fake amulets of no value to real amulets of high value.
I would like to suggest all newcomers to walk around and observe the above 4 precautions before making a decision to enter the contest and (1) taking photos of your contesting amulets both front and back side (2) do not send too many amulets in one contest because you will find it difficult to remember all of them which will “readily” expose you to the risk of your amulets being swapped. Key caution is to be aware that most contests are organized by (dishonest) amulet traders pretending to be knowledgeable on amulets.
If the amulet contests are to serve as award-hunting objective only, it is fair to say that the objective is unnatural. We should aim at whether our amulet appears to be genuine and original. The award should be treated as a bonus. I personally trust only one contest organizer named Bunamulet” of monthly Thai amulet magazine because (1) the contests are organized every two months (2) the contest results are published in the following issues of magazines (3) the contest is fairly done in both the acceptance and the prize decision as clear explanation can be given to the “rejected” amulets in both stages (4) the certificate can be reprinted later upon change of amulet holder because the organizer is here to stay, providing the evidence of change is proven correct.