WAT TUEK





Wat Tuek is an active monastery situated on Ayutthaya’s city island in Tha Wasukri Sub-district. The temple is located on U Thong Road on the northwest corner of the island, close to the northwest point of the city called Hua Laem (sharp corner).


History


This area was the residence of Luang Sorasak before he was appointed Uparat or Viceroy and later coronation as King Suriyenthrathibodi, nicknamed King Suea. Luang Sorasak was the son of King Narai (reign 1656-1688 CE) and a royal concubine. King Phetracha (reign 1688-1703 CE) adopted Luang Sorasak after the death of King Narai. It is understood that his residence became a temple, as we had seen, for example, from Wang Chai, being the residence before from King Chakkraphat (reign 1548-1569 CE) turned later into the temple Wat Wang Chai.


Wat Tuek has a pavilion dedicated to King Suea (reign 1703-1709 CE) aka Phra Sri Sanphet VIII of the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty, and his relationship with Phan Thai Norasing has here been put in paint. Phan was a coxswain on the royal barge Ekkachai (Primary Victory). In 1704 CE King Sua went fishing at the mouth of the Tha Jin River near Samut Sakhon (1). His royal barge cut through the Khlong Khok (Ma)kham, a canal with many bends. Phan, unfortunately, missed a turn and steered the royal barge against a tree branch, with the result that the prow (likely the figurehead) broke off and fell in the water.


Phan realised that he made a major offence against the law in vigour, jumped out of the boat onto the river bank and prostrating himself, begged the king to behead him and to set up a shrine on the place of incident. King Süa, liking the old man much, revoked the punishment, but Phanthai held on. The King then ordered his rowers to make a statue in mud representing Phan, cut off the head of the figure and invited Phan back on board.


Alas, Phan kept on begging to be executed according to the royal decree. King Sua pleaded numerous times to get Phan back on board, but the latter refused and wanted to die. The king ordered then the execution of Phan Thai and enshrined his head and the (sacred) broken part of the prow. After the incident, the king ordered the Khok Kham Canal straightened, but it was only in the reign of his successor that the canal was finalised and renamed Maha Chai Canal. (2) The incident must have occurred in the vicinity of present Wat Khok Kham. [1]





Architecture


There are two old monastic structures at Wat Tuek, an ordination hall and a vihara, the latter being the royal pavilion or ‘tamnak’ of King Suea. An inner wall surrounds both and, on their turn, is surrounded by an outer wall. The ordination hall contains next to the main image about a dozen golden Buddha images in various poses.


The vihara is turned into a commemoration hall for King Suea with sword welding statues and paintings of King Sua on the eastern side of the wall. Beside a statue of King Sua, there are images of soldiers and an elephant. The structure of the vihara has been changed and does look anymore as indicated on the 1968 CE ground plan. The two elevated entry doors in the west remain, while the two of the four elevated side entries are gone. The elevated double staired entry platform in the north is also gone. The elevated area inside the vihara on which the pedestal and the main Buddha image stood, accessible via four stairs, has been levelled. In short, the building has been seriously modified.


The small vihara within the inner wall of the large vihara has today the main image of a hermit and other images of various kinds.


The chedis behind the vihara and the ordination hall indicated on the 1968 CE ground plan did not survive the test of time.


There is a well, said to be old, within the walled boundaries of the old vihara, but this well is not mentioned on the 1968 CE ground plan. So it is very questionable that the well is old.


The location earlier occupied by a school, features today a reclining Buddha in the Entering Nirvana posture (ปางปรินิพพาน), one of the rare in Ayutthaya. It shows the Buddha passing to nirvana. The eyes are closed, the head lies on a pillow, and one arm lies beside it.


After preaching to Subhadda, the Buddha gave final advice and orders to his disciples, urging them to maintain purity and good behaviour (such as avoiding wealth like one avoids fire or pits, not cutting down trees, not paying attention to worldly affairs, and not giving horoscopes), resist desire, and let dharma and the monastic code replace him as their teacher. He asked his disciples if they had any final questions about dharma, but they did not. The Buddha’s last words were, “Listen well, my disciples, and remember that all things are impermanent. Continue striving to follow dharma.” Then through meditation, he passed slowly into nirvana, never to be born again. At that final moment, the earth shook, and flowers fell from trees onto his body.


Wat Tuek also features a preserved buffalo Cyclops. The one-eyed calf's body floats in a fish aquarium next to the sermon hall. The formalin in which it is kept starts to evaporate, and the calf's body begins to be exposed. Some locals believe that this carcass can bring good luck or help predict fortunes.





Wat Tuek on the maps


Wat Tuek is not found on Engelbert Kaempfer, and Jacques Nicolas Bellin’s map as the temple was established after the departure of Kaempfer in 1690 CE and the French in 1688 CE.


Wat Tuek is indicated on a map drafted in the 19th century by an unknown surveyor. The monastery stands in the middle behind the Tha Kop and Sat Kop fortresses near the sharp corner of the river. Wat Khok was in the southwest. The map shows only a structure but no presence of a stupa. The northern boat landing (Tha Nuea) is indicated.


The temple is on Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map of 1926 CE in an identical position as the 19th-century map. The plan shows walled premises with a structure and two ponds. Phraya Boran (1871-1936 CE) was the Superintendent Commissioner of Monthon Ayutthaya from 1925 till 1929 CE.


The Fine Arts Department [FAD] drafted in 1957 and found in the ‘Guide to Ayudhya and Bang-Pa-In,’ shows ‘Wat Tuk' with a single structure.


Footnotes:


(1) Municipality of Sakhònburi - Known before as Mueang Tha Jin (Chinese Harbour), referring to a port involved in trade with China and having a large Chinese settlement. Sakhon Buri was established in the reign of King Chakkraphat (1548-1569 CE) around 1549 CE in reaction to the Burmese invasion of 1548 CE, mainly for troop mobilisation and area to gather provisions before the battle. After King Suea ordered the Maha Chai Canal dug, the town was called Maha Chai. During an administrative reform in the reign of Rama VI, the town was named Samut Sakhon. [2]

(2) In 1705, King Suea ordered the digging of Khlong Khok (Ma)kham to connect the Chao Phraya River with the Tha Jin River. The excavation work remained unfinished after his death in 1709 CE. In 1721 CE, his successor King Phumintharacha (reign 1709-1733 CE), also called King Thai Sa, pushed forward to finish the canal. The remaining part was dug 3 metres deep and 16 metres wide in over two months by 30,000 conscripted men. The canal was later renamed Khlong Maha Chai. The canal eased the passage from the Chao Phraya River to the mouth of the Tha Jin River at the Gulf of Thailand.





References:


[1] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. p. 393 / Source: British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat & Royal Autograph - Luang Sörasak (King Süa) and King Thai Sa.

[2] Bhamorabutr, Abha. Ancient cities in Thailand, printed 2524 BE.



Groundplan of Wat Tuek



Reference: Krom Sinlapakorn (1968), Phra Rachawang lae Wat Boran nai Jangwat Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya (Fine Arts Department).





No 1: The vihara wall, made of bricks and mortar, width 26 metres, length 50.40 metres, height 2 metres, 80 cm thick, one door on the east and west sides, 1.60 metres wide, two doors on the north side, 1.60 metres wide, are old walls.

No 2: Platform in brick-and-mortar in front of the vihara, width 1.50 metres, length 4 metres, and about 1.50 metres high.

No 3: Vihara facing east, formerly a royal residence of King Suea, later converted to a vihara, made of bricks and cement, width (x) metres, length 28 metres, leaving only the walls of the vihara on all four sides with similar Gothic doors as the Dusit Sawan Thanya Maha Prasat Throne Hall in Phra Narai Ratchaniwet at Lopburi. There are five window openings on each side, 1 metre wide, 2 metres high, and there are lamp compartments in the shape of the Bodhi leaf, four on the long side, three on the wide side, width 47 cm., height 92 cm.

No 4: The base of the main Buddha image was originally a pedestal built of bricks-and-mortar, 3 metres wide and 5 metres long. The main Buddha image was utterly destroyed.

No. 5: Kiatikul School, a public school, asked to rent the temple land for 360 Baht per year, with elementary school level 1 to high school year 6.

No. 6: A small vihara, built in the Ayutthaya period, made of brick-and-mortar, 11 metres apart 3.40 metres wide and 4.60 metres long.

No 7: A damaged square chedi, made of brick-and-mortar, from the Ayutthaya period, about 6 metres high with a 2.60 metres broad base, 1.60 metres from the vihara wall.

No 8: The wall of the ordination hall, 2.40 metres from the vihara wall, made of masonry, 18 metres wide, 34.40 metres long, built in the Rattanakosin period, with an expensive door on the east, 1 metre wide, 40 metres high, and the south has two entrances, 1.40 metres wide.

No 9: Boundary stones from the Ayutthaya period. There are eight stone plates, width 34 cm, length 54 cm, located on a small square brick base, made in new cement, 80 cm high.

No 10: Ordination hall built in the Rattanakosin and Phra Achan period - was restored in 1929 CE. The chapel is 8.40 metres wide, 19 metres long, facing east. At the front, there are two entrance doors, 1 metre wide, three doors, 1.80 metres wide, 2 metres high. The side door is 1 metre wide and 1.40 metres tall. Along the middle wall of the Ubosot, in the south, there is a bronze Buddha image in the attitude of offering offerings. Gilded in Ayutthaya style, 2 metres high, which King Mongkut invites from Wat Sala Poon. On the opposite side, on the north side, there is a bronze Buddha image in the posture of the chairman of forgiveness in Ayutthaya style, but a new head was cast. The pillars of the chapel are made in brick-and-mortar. There are four pillars on the north and south sides.

No 11: The base of the main Buddha image, made of brick-and-mortar, 4 metres long and 4 metres wide, 1 metre high, with the main Buddha image brick-and-mortar from the Rattanakosin period in the attitude of forgiveness with a lap of 1.50 metres, height 2 metres on the back, and there are Buddha images made of brick-and-mortar in the attitude of subduing Mara from the Rattanakosin period, the lap width is 70 cm, the height is 1.10 metres, arranged in rows, totalling 20 pieces.

No 12: Chedi, 4.80 metres away from the ordination hall, made of brick-and-mortar, Ayutthaya style, 3 metres wide and long on each side. It is a small square chedi, about 5 metres high. The top is broken.

No 13: The temple wall is made of brick-and-mortar. The east and south sides are destroyed. The west side is 67 metres wide the north side is (x) metres long. The front of the temple has a doorway 1 metre wide. This entrance has a small tilted pavilion with a width of 2 wa, length of 4 wa, the height of 4 wa and a clay tile roof. The chofa consist of Bai Raka decorated with stained glass and a damaged front. There is a sign that reads the temple name. At the front of the temple are carved images of fans, water pots and kettles, decorated with green and white glass patterns and engraved wooden numbers and Thai characters.