Culture

Boon Khao Jee Photo Essay

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women making khao jee at the temple

These photos are from the Boon Khao Jee (บุญข้าวจี่) ceremony in Ban Hua Na, Amphoe Nong Ruea, Khon Kaen province on February 7-8, 2020. Thanks to Pra Kru Sathaphon Thammasan, Mae Turian, and Khun Pam for helping me out. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Khao Jee and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions. Preparation The day before Boon Khao Jee was a mostly… Read More

Buddhism

What the Bodhisatta was Born as in the Jataka Tales

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mural painting of a gold-trimmed elephant and a man taking one of his tusks

These are all the past-life incarnations of the Bodhisatta (what a Buddha-to-be is called) as recounted in the Jataka tales. The first of the two lists simply records his main character in each of the 547 stories while the second tallies all the individual lifetimes found in the Jataka tales taking duplicates, multiple lifetimes, and passing mentions into account. Any list of this sort will be inexact because it’s not… Read More

Buddhism

Gods of Directions and Celestial Bodies at Wat Nong Wang

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painted doors

The paintings on the window shutters and doors on the fourth floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang feature four separate but related things – gods of the celestial bodies (เทพนพเคราะห์), daily Buddhas (พระประจำวันเกิด), the guardians of the directions (เทพประจำทิศ), and animals of the directions (สัตว์ประจำทิศ) –all in groups of eight. For religious purposes Wednesday is split into daytime and nighttime resulting in eight days in… Read More

Temples

Wat Nong Wang

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stupa seen from across a lake

Wat Nong Wang (วัดหนองแวง) is Khon Kaen city’s biggest, most important temple, and also its one must-see tourist attraction. It was founded in 1789, the same year the city was settled, though there are no old buildings left. It became a royal temple in 1984. About 55 monks and 225 novices live here. It’s ordinary in most regards, except for the stunning nine-story Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon, a stupa unlike… Read More

Culture

Boon Khun Lan Photo Essay

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man putting sack of rice on the pile

These photos are from the Boon Khun Lan (บุญคูณลาน) ceremony in Ban Thung Nang Ok, Amphoe Mueang, Yasothon province on December 30, 2019 to January 1, 2020. Thanks to Mae Nang, Mae Yewa, Khun Noi, Khun Noot, Khun Wii, and everyone else in the village for being such great hosts and answering all my questions. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Khun Lan and an overview of heet… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Kam Photo Essay

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two monks walking in and out of ubosot

These photos are from the Boon Khao Kam (บุญเข้ากรรม) ceremony at Ban Khok Nong Waeng, Amphoe Non Daeng, Nakhon Ratchasima Province between November 29 and December 10, 2019. Thanks to everyone there, especially Phra Khru O-Pat, Phra Bunserm, Phra Apichat, Mae Wanni, and Mae Un, for being so helpful and welcoming me at the temple for ten days. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Khao Kam and an… Read More

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Khmer Ruins

Prang Phon Songkhram Khmer Ruin

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bannalai and gopura

A temple for one of the 102 arogayasala (hospitals) built by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219), Prang Phon Songkhram (ปรางค์พลสงคราม) follows the standard design of arogayasala, including being built primarily with laterite, using sandstone only for trim. The only original entrance is through an eastern gopura. It’s cross-shaped with small chambers to the east, south, and north (which still have their roofs) and an uncarved lintel over the outer front… Read More

Buddhism

Mahanipata Jataka Murals in Thai Temples

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temple mural painting of naga on anthill

The 547 Jataka tales (chah-dok in Thai) recount stories from some of the past lives of the being who would eventually become the Buddha. The final ten, called the Mahanipata Jataka in English and tot-sah-chat chah-dok in Thai, are morality tales in which the Bodhisatta (what a Buddha-to-be is called) develops the ten paramitas (“perfections of character”) that one needs to master in order to reach enlightenment. Mural paintings of… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Kuti Ruesi Ban Nong Bua Rai Khmer Ruin

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platform in front of temple

At the foot of Phanom Rung mountain, Kuti Ruesi Ban Nong Bua Rai (กุฎิฤษีบ้านหนองบัวราย) was the temple for one of the 102 arogayasala (hospitals) built by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) around the empire. Like a lot of his projects, it was not fully completed. Like other arogayasala, it’s built with laterite using sandstone for the trim and has a single east-facing tower for the main sanctuary with a single… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Kuti Ruesi Ban Khok Mueang Khmer Ruin

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pond in front and temple in background

Just 750m away from Prasat Muang Tam, Kuti Ruesi Ban Khok Mueang (กุฏิฤาษีบ้านโคกเมือง) was built much later by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) for one of the 102 arogayasala (hospitals) he opened across the empire. It has the standard arogayasala design: a single east-facing tower, a single bannalai southeast of the tower, an enclosure with just one gopura, and a rectangular pond outside to the northeast; all built of laterite… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prasat Ban Bu Khmer Ruin

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south side of temple

Prasat Ban Bu (ปราสาทบ้านบุ) is one of the 17 dharmasala fire shrines King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219), a devout Buddhist, built along the road from Angkor to Phimai, and one of only two in Thailand that have been restored; Prasat Ta Muean being the other. The clear color difference shows that over half of the laterite blocks used to rebuild it are new. Prasat Ban Bu is a single east-facing… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Arogayasala and Dharmasala

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typical dharmasala

One of the great things about visiting Khmer temples is that most have their own unique style. But in Thailand there are two exceptions to this, the arogayasala (hospital) and dharmasala (resthouse) temples, all of which have the same general layout and design as the others. Both of these were specialized temples commissioned by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219). One of the greatest Angkor kings, he restored a beleaguered empire… Read More

Culture

Maha Sarakham’s Many Museums

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display cases with mushrooms

Maha Sarakham city is never going to become a top tourist destination, but if you do find yourself here, there’s an abundance of museums that can keep you occupied. None are worth a special trip – in fact, several are so small they hardly qualify as museums – but each has its own appeal.   Boon Tam Tan Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์บุญตามทัน) This small private museum on the southern outskirts of the… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Wat Mahachai Northeastern Local Culture Museum

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five broken Khmer statues

In 1964 Dr. Phra Ariyanuwat Khemacharee, the former abbot of Wat Mahachai, saw foreigners coming to Isan to buy ancient artifacts – Buddhas, Khmer stone carvings palm-leaf manuscripts, etc. – so he requested people bring these things to the temple to protect them. Later the two-story Northeastern Local Culture Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์วัฒนธรรมท้องถิ่นภาคตะวันออกเฉียงเหนือ วัดมหาชัย) was built to house the diverse collection that had resulted, including a lot of Khmer-era sandstone statues and… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Khu Khat Khmer Ruin

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bricks under a tree

At first glance, all you’ll see of Ku Khu Khat (กู่คูขาด) is a large Buddha on a small, tree covered hill. But get closer and you’ll find that the hill is a pile of laterite blocks and brick covered almost completely by dirt and leaf debris. Some laterite is still visible and a few bricks can be seen sticking out of two places under the big tree.

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