Adventures at Wat Arun: A Dash of Chinese

Most of the foreigners going to Wat Arun has one goal and that is climbing the steep steps of the towering temple. But there more to Wat Arun than its tower and that is what I discovered during our visit to this place last January.

White demon of Wat Arun
White giant of Wat Arun.

We passed between the giant demon guards of Wat Arun and entered a silent sanctuary.

Outer courtyard of the Wat Arun ubosot

It is silent during that moment because there is no person other than me and my travel companion and Malaysian-blogger-friend Foong PC. The noise of tourism went back immediately.

Tourists of Wat Arun

I immediately noticed the presence of non-Buddhist elements in this place. Present in this place are statues that are definitely of Chinese origin. The totem pole has dragons and the two statues near the door look like terracota statues.

The place that we entered is the outer courtyard of Wat Arun's ubosot or the ordination hall, the most important place in a Buddhist temple complex. It is the place where the Buddhist ceremonies take place.

I think that this outer courtyard was placed to separate the ubosot from the outside world.

Statues of Buddha at Wat Arun

Statues of Buddha line up the wall of the ubosot's inner courtyard. Eric Lim, the owner of Tour Bangkok Legacies website, said that these statues were made during the reign of King Rama II. This means that these statues are at least 189 years old.

The Buddha statues may be interesting but what caught my attention are the row of Chinese statues. I think it weird to see statues of Chinese deities in a Buddhist temple.

Elephant statue at Wat Arun

I have an inkling that the Chinese deities were placed to become the outer guards of the ubosot. They were placed at the place where there is no roof unlike the Buddha statues sitting at the side.

Inner courtyard of the Wat Arun ubosot

I bet the Chinese deities are angry with this. Imagine, they were revered for so many centuries as gods in China and yet in Thailand they are just guards.

Towers at Wat Arun ubosot

Small towers are located at the corners of inner courtyard. These towers also contains the Chinese deities. Two of them is a lady holding a gift and an old man holding a pole sword.

Statue of Chinese dieties at Wat Arun

I am surprised with the liberality of the Thai Buddhists in mixing elements of other cultures or religions to their Buddhist faith. Even their kings bear the name of Rama, who is the hero of the Hindu legend Ramayana.

I think that placing non-Buddhist elements to their temples is not a big deal to the Thais as long as gods of other religion will not replace their Buddha. But I think that Chinese deities still disagree.

Chinese statues at Wat Arun

10 comments:

  1. Oh! You are so far ahead of me blogging about Wat Arun now! I will be blogging about my Bangkok trip soon! : )

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    1. I am looking forward to your posts about Wat Arun, Bangkok Chinatown and other places that we visited during our trip.

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  2. LOL about your comments on the Buddha and Chinese deities! I think some of the deities are considered as deities in Chinese Buddhism :)

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    1. Wow! Thank you for educating me about this. :-) I really have little idea about Buddhism. Now I know why there are statues of Chinese deities at Wat Arun.

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  3. Very nice. How come nga walang tao? Was it a holiday? Or were you really early lang? =)

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    1. Hello Ate. :-)

      Na-tsamba lang na konti lang yung tao noong bumisita kami ni Foong sa Wat Arun.

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  4. Not sure if I've just comments in your blog a while ago, but here I'll do it.

    What you see are not deities. I mean at least Thai didn't import them on purpose to decorate the temple. They are what Thai called "Ab-chao" and were used to balance the Chinese merchant ships. The mechanization bet. TH and CH were flourished esp. in the early of Ratanakosin era (about 100-150 years ago.) Chinese merchants would put these dolls in their ships to reduce the swaying of the ship due to wave. Once they arrived TH, they would discard their dolls and load with goods. Now weight of the goods they loaded would help balancing their ships the same way these dolls did for their trip back to CH.

    But you are right that we don't mind placing non-Buddhist elements to the temples. It is not a big deal. Not to say that TH culture are mixed with others, esp. CH, for centuries.

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    1. Thank you very much for educating me about Ab-chao. You are correct. I read about it somewhere in wide wide world of the Internets.

      It is interesting that they didn't throw the ab-chao away. They used it to decorate Wat Arun.

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    2. Correction: I was wrong when I said our trade with Chinese was popular about 100 years ago. I was a bit tired on that day so I miscalculated and after I sent my comment I was too lazy to correct it. However since I stumbled upon your blog again hope you don't mind if I do. It was 200-250 years ago. :)

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    3. Wow! You really know Thai history. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge. Hope you visit again.

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