Building Buddhism in Chiang Rai, Thailand: Construction as Religion


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


This project argues that building temples is building Buddhism. Focusing on Buddhist construction in Chiang Rai, Thailand, since its repopulation in 1844, the research uses archival, ethnographic, and visual studies methodologies to track the importance of Buddhist aesthetics in the making of Buddhism itself. Buddhist construction projects are studied in relation to the development of Chiang Rai city as an emerging population center and regional hub for trade, religion, and culture. Foregrounding sima space consecration as an indigenous form of Theravadin religious construction, this dissertation asserts that religious building projects are at the forefront of the Yuan Buddhist imaginaire, and are some of the main ways that Yuan Buddhists organize ritual activity, unify community, and create meaning.