Eighty new sculptures that will promote the art of traditional Thai healing are to be sculpted and displayed at Wat Pho, once Thailand’s center of learning for the traditional art of healing. One hundred eighty years ago Wat Pho held this prestigious moniker but the statues that were once there have since been stolen or damaged. Of the 80 Ruesi Dat Ton statues that were originally there, only twenty four remain and are now kept in the Sala Lai pavilion.
The Public Health Ministry’s Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM) is responsible for the sculptures which have a budget of eight million baht (close to $230, 000 USD). Nine of the Ruesi Dat Ton statues have been completed and it is expected that the remaining statues will be completed by March of 2017.
Dr. Suthep describes Ruesi Dat Ton as a traditional Thai exercise that combines stretching and the application of pressure to energy points with breathing techniques and meditation to develop a flow of energy throughout the body. “Ruesi” in Thai, is a Yogi or Hermit. “Dat” means to stretch, adjust, or train. “Ton” can mean oneself. “Ruesi Dat Ton” means the Yogi’s self- stretching or self-adjusting exercises. The poses and exercises range from very simple to very complex; some of the advanced poses can take years to learn. Suthep also says that when energy flows and is in balance, health is maintained, youthfulness preserved, and self-healing is promoted.
The new statues in Ruesi Dat Ton postures are to be made of a mixture of metals including brass, zinc, tin, lead, and copper. The originals had been crafted from zinc and tin. A poem which describes the health benefits of each posture will be posted on each of the statues as the originals had. The original statues had marble tablet inscriptions but the remaining 24 statues from the original set had been separated from their inscriptions.
The original 80 Ruesi Dat Ton statues had been created in various postures as ordered by King Rama III in 1836. There were 57 seated/kneeling, 20 standing, two couples, and one lying. The king had also ordered the marble tablets with poems describing the health benefits of each posture. Poems were written by high-ranking officials, monks, and lay people. The king wrote six of the poems himself.
All 80 statues had been placed in 16 pavilions inside Wat Pho but were later moved to the Sala Lai pavilion during the reign of King Rama V.
Last year’s TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards listed Wat Pho as Thailand’s most popular tourist attraction due to its unique architecture, intricate details, beautiful stupas (places of meditation), and the large reclining Buddha statue.
The abbot of Wat Pho, Phra Thep Veeraporn, said that 3, 000 – 5, 000 people (locals and foreigners) study traditional Thai healing arts at Wat Pho each year.