The mural at Wat Ban Kor captures the essence of Lanna life decades ago

Wat Ban Kor has been recognised as a treasure trove of invaluable mural paintings in the Lanna tradition. Located in Ban Kor village in Wang Nua district, the temple was selected as one of the cultural preservation projects funded by the US Ambassadors' Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The programme, established by the United States Congress in 2001, is aimed at providing financial and technical support for the preservation of museum collections, ancient and historic sites, and traditional forms of expression in less developed countries worldwide.

The programme allocated more than two million baht for the restoration of the temple's run-down main chapel and its old mural paintings inside and outside the chapel.

The work began in 2005 and was completed early this year.

The renovation was carried out by the Fine Arts Faculty of Chiang Mai University in collaboration with Naresuan University's Pha Yao campus.

Wat Ban Kor was built in 1932. The temple's first abbot, Luang Pu Kham Por, was a well-known artist in his own right.

The monk created murals that feature Buddhist scriptures and episodes of the Ramakien _ the Thai version of the Ramayana epic.

His paintings also capture the essence of daily life in the community around the temple decades ago.

The monk used paint in powder form, which was made from natural materials found in the locality.

Withi Panichphan, a fine arts lecturer of Chiang Mai University who is in the temple conservation team, said although the paintings in the temple do not look grand and sumptuous by the standards of royal arts, they have touches of genius and represent the originality of Lanna paintings that are rarely found anywhere else.

US ambassador Ralph Boyce handed over the restored temple to the village on Friday.

''It is a great opportunity [for the US] to play a part in preserving the invaluable mural paintings,'' he said.

Mr Boyce said the project will also help encourage the community residents to participate more in looking after their cultural heritage which has been neglected for several decades.

Phra Kru Thawornworarak, the present abbot, said villagers earlier were not aware of the value of the paintings and lacked a sense of belonging and ownership. Some of them had even suggested tearing down the chapel and building a new one.
They thought better of it after a visit by experts from Chiang Mai University.

Bangkok Post