|How does a modern city identify with the ruins from its past? Ayutthaya presents an implicit dilemma. On one hand, the city is moving into the future.
Factories manufacture electronic goods, mechanical parts, and a variety of textiles. Businesses and shopping malls glisten with urban energy. Motor traffic
clogs city arteries as metal vehicles speed toward anonymous destinations, and electrical lines now stretch out like tentacles from house to house.
In sharp contrast are the remnants of Ayutthaya's past. Ancient towers peek out from behind concrete houses, schoolyards, government offices, and
overgrown jungles. Bell-shaped reliquaries echo as dots on the horizons, and crumbled fortresses hint of unsuccessful defense. These secluded structures
reach forth like architectural skeletons; seductive and signaling an antiqued yesteryear. Ayutthaya is reminded of its ancient past no matter how much its
residents look toward their future.
Yet, there is a catch when recalling Ayutthaya's past. Most of the city's rich history has been destroyed, unwritten, or forgotten. Ayutthaya's legacy was
partially destroyed by Burmese invaders in 1767 along with its archives of historical records. The majority of the ancient population was forced into
captivity and removed, and those lucky enough to survive migrated away. The remaining walls were peeled away brick-by-brick to construct and finance
new capitals in Thonburi and Bangkok. When people eventually returned to reclaim Ayutthaya, it had become a totally different city.
New neighborhoods sprung up around the ruins, and new names and stories were created to explain them. Many temples had fallen into neglect and
swamps swelled around them. Others hid nestled in trees and shrubbery for generations. Some were picked clean by looters during the decades that
In result, modern residents have an awkward relationship among the architectural ghosts of the fallen city. Residents drive by ancient temples daily without
knowing they are there, or ever bothering to learn their names. Many Thais take them for granted because they are empty and so commonplace. Still,
modern citizens have inherited a trick question: how can they read the bones of the city's past, so that the current population can take pride and grow more
This website is an attempt to answer this question. Our goal is to visit virtually all of the ancient temples and to gather historical information about them. We
intend to map, catalogue, and study all the old sites, canals, and roads that remain. In this process, we hope to spark vital interest in preserving the ancient
sites and to bring the community together to increase awareness of their cultural value.
|Text by Ken May