The Sin Sai Story at Wat Nong Wang

painting of Sin Sai story on window shutters

The translation of the story is not yet finished, but will be soon. I have set the post to public so that the QR code at the temple does not lead to a broken link. อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) This version of the Sin Sai (สินไซ) folktale comes from the 120 paintings on the second-floor window shutters and doors of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at… Read More

Proverb Murals at Wat Nong Wang

people doing different things

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The fifth-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple tell forty Isan proverbs about living a happy, successful, and moral life that monks sometimes mention in their sermons. Many of these English sentences are clunky, but they read more poetically in the original Isan. Explanations are given when needed, though a few are self-explanatory. Many of them… Read More

Wat Jomsri Bottle Temple

entrance with naga

To the disapproval of the abbot, but with the support of many people in the community, a renegade monk at Wat Jomsri (วัดจอมศรี) who is focused more on magic than dharma has created his own little domain at the back of the temple. Here he has built a mock-cave shrine using old beer and energy drink bottles. Hidden behind foliage, this small, unique sanctuary is built of concrete, stone, and… Read More

Wat Lang Khao Bottle Temple

bottle ubosot seen from a distance

Wat Lang Khao (วัดหลังเขา) is a rather remote and ordinary temple in most regards, but it attracts a trickle of visitors because of its bot khuat (“bottle ubosot”), arguably the most beautiful example of bottle temple art in Thailand. Most of the ubosot’s decoration is typically Thai, but all the green on the walls and roof comes from 620ml Chang beer bottles. Locals gathered and donated tens of thousands of… Read More

Biography of Luang Paw Koon Kantigo, a Former Abbot of Wat Nong Wang

painting of people getting on and off a very busy train

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The idea for Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa, the famous centerpiece of Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city, came from the highly respected Phra Tama Wisut Tajan, the then abbot of the temple. Usually called Luang Paw Koon Kantigo, his life story is told in these mural paintings on the stupa’s fourth floor. It begins in the northeast corner, next… Read More

The Reclining Buddhas of Thailand

large reclining Buddha in Entering Nirvana posture with designs painted on soles of feet

In most of the world, reclining Buddha images represent the Buddha at his death. But in Thailand this is usually not the case. Of the seven reclining postures used in Thailand, two are the Buddha on his death bed, one shows him passing to nirvana, and two are for his cremation; but all of these are rather rare. And none of these is the classic hand-holding-up-his-head posture, which tells a… Read More

The Buddha’s Life Story (Part 1) at Wat Nong Wang

woodcarving of Prince Siddhattha seeing an old man and a sick man

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The carved wooden doors on the sixth floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang tell many of the main episodes from the Buddha’s life up to and including his enlightenment. The artist was Tawon Gonkaew. The story begins at the northeast corner on the east wall (in front of the stairs) and is told counterclockwise around the stupa.… Read More

The Buddha’s Life Story (Part 2) at Wat Nong Wang

woodcarving of the Buddha walking with many disciples

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The carved wooden doors and window shutters on the fifth floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang tell some episodes (the story is far from complete) from the Buddha’s life following his enlightenment. The story begins at the northeast corner on the east wall (in front of the stairs) and is told counterclockwise around the stupa. The first… Read More

Mahanipata Jataka at Wat Nong Wang

woodcarving of a giant naga and a man threatening two others with a sword

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The carved wooden doors and window shutters on the seventh floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang tell the last ten Jataka tales. The artist was Tawon Gonkaew. The Jataka tales (chah-dok in Thai) are a collection of 547 birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting pre-enlightenment lives of the Bodhisatta (what… Read More

Gods of Directions and Celestial Bodies at Wat Nong Wang

painted doors

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) 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… Read More

Wat Nong Wang

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

Mahanipata Jataka Murals in Thai Temples

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 stories, called the Mahanipata Jataka in English and tot-sah-chat chah-dok in Thai (and often known as “The Ten Great Birth Stories of the Buddha”), are morality tales in which the Bodhisatta (what a Buddha-to-be is called) develops the ten paramitas (“perfections of character”)… Read More

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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 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 the Buddha-to-be somehow overcomes… Read More

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

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. (The lead painter was Uthaitong Jantagon from Kalasin.) It’s much longer than the story as it’s normally told, but overall the plot is the same. And though I wrote it following the outline provided by… Read More

Ground-Floor Isan Culture Murals at Wat Nong Wang

mural of fifth khong

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) 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. — — — Northeastern Way of Life (24) Land of the Kaen.Khon Kaen is known to some… Read More

Ground-Floor Khon Kaen History Murals at Wat Nong Wang

mural of bueng bon lake

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) 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, Luang Paw Koon Kantigo, and the murals were painted by local artist Kru Thammarong Kaewboran. My thanks to Kru Thammarong for discussing the meanings of the pictures, and pointing out some of the specific… Read More

The Luang Por Phra Phut Buddha Image

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

Wat Khuat Mak Dhamma Siri Bottle Temple

Wat Khuat bottle temple's wihan and stupa

Wat Khuat Mak Dhamma Siri (วัดขวดมากธรรมศิริ) is one of the bottle temples found around 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 Songkhla, but… Read More

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