The Buildings, Statues and Drawings at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

136 high-definition creative commons photographs from Wat Pho in Bangkok, showing the buildings, Buddha statues and drawings, together with further relevant information.

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The Buildings

Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Manglaram Ratchaworamahawihan, which is popularly known as Wat Pho, was probably built on the site of an older Temple, perhaps used by the Chinese community in Bangkok. It was constructed by Rama I beginning in 1788, but was very much extended by Rama III. The Temple has at least four Viharns and an Ubosot Hall at the center of the complex.

There are also many Cedis in the temple, including four main Cedis which contain the ashes of the first four Chakri kings in this dynasty (Ramas I-IV). They are beautifully decorated and look equally good during the day or when light up at night. The Temple came to be known as Wat Pho after a sapling was brought to the Temple from the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura.

The Buddhas

One of the main attractions at Wat Pho is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which houses one of the largest and most magnificent Buddhas in this pose. The statue is around 15m high and 43m long, and has feet which are richly adorned with 12sq metres of mother-of-pearl designs.

In the Ubosot, Viharns and in the cloisters around the temple there are more than 400 other Buddha statues, only a small selection of which are presented here. They were mainly collected for preservation by Rama V (Chulalongkorn) from various sites around the country.

Chinese Characters

The Temple was greatly enlarged by Rama III, who had extensive trading connections with China, and introduced many Chinese elements into Thai traditional architecture, including ceramics, as seen on the Cedis, and the many Chinese figures seen around the temple.

Thailand, with its fertile valleys, was a main producer of rice and other crops in the 19th century, which it exported to China as well as other countries. The ships on the way home, used these Chinese figures as ballast, but these statues became very popular in their own right and were eventually imported for their intrinsic merit also.

Medical Drawings

The Temple became a center for Thai traditional medicine and massage, and remains to this day one of the main training centers for these arts in the country. There are two small pavillions in the Temple, one of which houses medical drawings, which appear to explain median points on the body.

Normally a human is used in the illustration, but also yakkhas are shown having these points also. Their exact interpretation is still a matter of debate. The second hall shows the character for the birth day of the week, and also has scenes from everyday life. Besides these there are also a number of side halls offering Thai massage, besides a center for training in the art.

Panorama of the Medical Diagrams in one of the Pavillions
Panorama of the Medical Diagrams in one of the Pavillions

Window Drawings

The Temple of the Reclining Buddha has very large wooden windows of both sides of the Viharn. At the bottom of the windows there have been drawn some very fine illustrations. At present I have been unable to identify the stories.

The bottom of the window in nearly every case has been quite badly worn away with weather and lack of care, and all of them have suffered damage thereby. I present them in black and white here as the colours in the morning sun tended to distort rather than enhance the originals.

 

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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