Sukhothai was the first notable kingdom of the Tai people, centered around the city of Sukhothai in the Central Plains. The Khmers referred to the Tai as Siam, a name that came to be used for this and subsequent Tai kingdoms. Theravada Buddhism achieved new expression during the Sukhothai period, in innovative architecture and images of the Buddha finely cast in bronze. Sukhothai was made powerful by its most illustrious ruler, Ramkamhaeng, but by 1320 was only a local power again.
This modern relief depicts Ramkamhaeng, Sukhothai’s most illustrious ruler. He extended the kingdom and negotiated treaties with neighboring states.
Inscription No. 1 (1292)
Ramkamhaeng is credited with inventing the Thai alphabet and using it to record the history of Sukhothai on this stone
Ceramics were used to adorn buildings. This one is from the 14th century.
This 14th-century engraving shows the Buddha being reincarnated as a horse. It is one of a series discovered at Wat Si Chum at Sukhothai.
Sawankhalok was the old name for Si Satchan alai, where many kilns were sited. From this derives the name Sangkhalok, given to 13th–15th-century pottery from the Sukhothai Kingdom.
New, sophisticated techniques for casting bronze produced this classic 14th-century Walking Buddha image.
Reconstruction of Si Satchanalai
Sukhothai’s twin city, Si Satchanalai was the classic Thai muang or city-state. Within the walls was the symbolic power center of the crown prince. Beyond were the life-giving waters of the Yom River, rice fields, homes, and potteries, all within a ring of forested mountains, the outer limits of the muang.
Where to See the Sukhothai Kingdom
The main sites are Sukhothai itself, Si Satchanalai, and Kamphaeng Phet. Artifacts are housed in the Bangkok National Museum, the Ramkamhaeng National Museum, the Sawankha Woranayok National Museum, and the Kamphaeng Phet National Museum.