Buddhism

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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Vessantara Jataka mural of gods caring for Prince Vessantara's children while Jujaka sleeps in a tree

The third-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city tell the story of Prince Vessantara (Phra Wetsandon in Thai). It’s the last of the 547 Jataka tales, a collection of birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting some of the Buddha-to-be’s pre-enlightenment lives. The Jataka tales are, for the most part, morality stories in which… Read More

Folktales

Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady” (Long Version)

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Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

This version of the Nang Phom Hom folktale is based on the paintings on the third-floor window shutters and doors of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city. It’s much longer than the story as it’s normally told, but overall the plot is the same. And though I wrote it strictly following the outline provided by these 88 paintings and the brief poem… Read More

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Culture

Ground-Floor Isan Culture Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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mural of fifth khong

This is the second of two pages explaining the ground-floor murals inside Wat Nong Wang’s Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa. These murals are all about Isan culture. Murals #1-23, about Khon Kaen history and the general introduction about the murals are on the first page. อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (click here to read a Thai version)   Northeastern Way of Life (24) Land of the Kaen. Khon Kaen is known to some as… Read More

History

Ground-Floor Khon Kaen History Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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mural of bueng bon lake

The ground-floor murals inside Wat Nong Wang’s Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa show both Khon Kaen history and Isan culture. This twin theme was suggested by the abbot, Phra Tama Wisut Tajan, and the murals were painted by local artist Kru Thammarong Kawboran. My thanks to Kru Thammarong for discussing the meanings of the pictures, and pointing out some of the specific things depicted in them – many have fun… Read More

Temples

The Luang Por Phra Phut Buddha Image

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Luang Por Phra Phut Buddha image

A very ordinary Thai temple in most regards, and not high on the list of Phuket’s main tourist attractions, Wat Phra Thong (วัดพระทอง) is nevertheless a great detour for temple enthusiasts. People come to the “Temple of the Golden Buddha” (named by King Rama VI while he was still just a prince) to see its unique namesake Buddha image, which is usually called Luang Por Phra Phut (the “Emerging Buddha”)… Read More

Temples

Wat Khuat Mak Dhamma Siri

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Wat Khuat bottle temple's wihan and stupa

Wat Khuat Mak Dhamma Siri (วัดขวดมากธรรมศิริ) is the eighth “bottle temple” that I have found in Thailand. It’s quite large and the bottle decoration (mostly from beer and energy drinks) is used throughout the whole temple, not just on a few buildings. It’s definitely worth the trip. Almost always referred to as just Wat Khuat (วัดขวด), which means “Bottle Temple,” it’s less than an hour from both Hat Yai and… Read More

Temples

Wat That Khon Kaen

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cloister around the stupa at Wat That

While Wat Nong Wang is Khon Kaen’s largest and most interesting temple, and the city’s only must-see attraction, Wat That (วัดธาตุ) at the other end of Bueng Kaen Nakhon lake is also worth visiting. Its soaring stupa and ubosot, which make a beautiful backdrop to views from across the lake, are frequently described by travel writers as classic Isan/Lao design, but both are actually Central Thai style. Wat That was… Read More

Culture

Wat Pho Ban Nontan Meditation Hall Art

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picture of turtles carrying books on their back on Wat Pho Nontan meditation hall

Nobody knows when Wat Pho Ban Nontan began, but the many clay Buddhas found here show that it is very old. It was upgraded around 1789, when Khon Kaen city was founded on the other side of the lake. Up until the mid-20th century, it remained surrounded mostly by wilderness. Though the city has now engulfed it, the temple retains the wilderness connections as best as it can with some… Read More

Buddhism

Corpse Meditation Murals at Wat Um Long

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Wat Um Long corpse meditation mural

The small old ubosot at Wat Um Long in Thoen, Lampang province, is interesting and unusual in many ways. The most interesting for me is that the majority of interior wall space is covered with murals of a monk doing corpse meditation. (The rest are scenes from the life of the Buddha.) This is not an uncommon subject matter for inclusion in temple paintings, but it’s rare for it to… Read More

Buddhism

The Buddha Nearing Death at Wat Yang Tuang Wararam

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close up of buddha vomiting on mural painting at wat yang tuang wararam

The Buddha died of dysentery after eating spoiled pork. Some people (seemingly mostly Westerners who are uncomfortable with the idea of the Buddha eating meat, even though this is discussed in the Pali Canon many times) have decided that the final meal of “soft pork” was actually a type of mushroom and he died from poisoning. Regardless of what the food was, the Buddha knew that is was bad and… Read More

Culture

Mural Paintings of “Kalam” at Wat Nong Wang

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Buddhist temple mural painting of woman tying a mut mee silk pattern.

Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang (วัดหนองแวง) is Khon Kaen’s one must-see. Each of the nine floors has something on display. One of my favorite things there are the murals on the second floor which show kalam (คะลำ), an Isan word meaning “things people should not do.” Many of these social rules are about showing proper respect to those with higher status than you, but others cover… Read More