Buddhist Landscapes of the Khorat Plateau: Art and Archaeology of the 7th–11th Centuries

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Stephen A. Murphy

The Khorat Plateau is a landscape of some 155,000 square kilometres of what is now northeast Thailand and central Laos. Despite the rich evidence for the region's dynamism and development in the metal age, knowledge of subsequent first millennium developments on the Khorat Plateau remains limited.  The spread of Buddhism across the region has been overshadowed by the attention given the Dvāravatī culture of the Chao Phraya Basin to its west and the Zhenla and later Angkor civilisations to its south and southeast.

This important new work, built on extensive fieldwork and archaeological surveys, reveals the Khorat Plateau as having a distinctive Buddhist culture, including new forms of art and architecture, and a characteristic aesthetic. Moreover, by combining archaeological and art historical analysis with an historical ecology approach, Murphy traces the outlines of Buddhism's spread into the region, along its major river systems. He is able to read this history into and against the Khorat landscape, attending to the emergence of monumental architecture such as stūpas and Buddha images carved into the rockfaces of hills and mountainsides, and theimportance on the Khorat Plateau of the use of boundary markers, or sīmā. This book provides a new picture of the region in the first and early second millennia, adding to our understanding of the development of Buddhism in Southeast Asia., and offering a new basis for other regionally-focused scholarship to thrive —from textual Buddhology to history to anthropology. It opens up new possibilities for understanding the early spread of Buddhism within different landscapes across Asia.

Stephen A. Murphy is the Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art at SOAS, University of London.

Publication year: 2024
est. 288pp / 235 x 187mm
15 maps and 95 images in full colour
ISBN: 978-981-325-213-4
Series: Art and Archaeology of Southeast Asia: Hindu-Buddhist Traditions

NUS Press (with the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme, SOAS University of London)