As you look at the "bird's eye" photograph of Wat U-Mong temple by Luca Internizzi and Alberto Cassio, you see a bell-shaped pagoda at a sacred place, constructed at Chiang Mai in ancient times. Wat U-Mong temple is located at the foothill of DoiSuthep-Pui Mountain which is the natural boundary between Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). There are three entrances which are like the Pukam Art of Burma. The bell-shaped pagoda is early Lanna architecture (about 19th century of the Buddhist era) influenced by Langka architecture from India. The pagoda and U-Mong (tunnel) were abandoned for a long time, though people in Chiang Mai knew that Wat U-Mong temple was old and a sacred place because of the temple and pagoda with damaged walls and a museum which kept old relics.
Wat U-Mong temple was restored in 2003 by the Department of Arts. Buddhist monks began to reside there. As the land was excavated, it revealed a hidden cave. No one knew about the existence of a tunnel there until it was uncovered the following year
At 140 cm (55 inches) wide 14 meters (46 feet) long and 180 cm (71 inches) high, the tunnel was decorated with murals in a brown color covered with the land and sand from the tunnel itselfl. When the limestone layer was removed, the brown became vermilion red as they were painted 500 years ago.
The faculty of fine arts and the faculty of sciences of ChiangMai University created a simulation image via computer graphics to study the murals for restoration. When I stand in the tunnel, I see all the murals with a glance. It is a stunning panorama and and amazing to me that even though I have lived in Chiang Mai for many years.
When I was very young, I paid homage to this from outside which was rather deserted and I was surprised that I could not enter the tunnel because it was blocked, only stairs were seen.
When I heard the news about the projects from the Department of Arts which oversees all temples in Chiang Mai, I found that Wat U-Mong Temple has precious murals and I followed the work of the restoration team. When the limestone layer covered the murals on the wall surface, the murals seemed to resemble the porcelain from China's Ming dynasty period. Now the true colors, vermilion red and emerald green, are naturally brilliant. The green is quite dark and clearer than the red and blue which was found in the Peony flowers pattern of the China's porcelain in Yuan or Ming dynasty. Looking at the photos from the infrared film of the project member, I saw the picture of flocks of heron and peonies clearly.
There are actually four tunnels that connect with the pagoda in the North. The entrances of three tunnels at the front have murals. The central tunnel (4th) is the largest and has no mural.
Both hand techniques and computer graphics help to recreate the images. The tunnels are exceptionally beautiful. The composition and pattern in the three tunnels are like textile patterns with an artistic technique of powder color and paint in vermillion red, emerald green as well as black and white.
The mural in the first tunnel shows flocks of heron and peonies. The mural in the second tunnel is lotuses and clouds. The mural in the third tunnel is lotuses and in a "pra cham yam pattern," the Thai word for the art pattern.
It is all rather breathaking to see and experience.