Wat Pho: Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn ( Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Since ancient times, Thailand has been rich in its natural resources or so-called a fertile ‘land of fish and rice’. Moreover, many foreigners refer Thailand as ‘Suvarnabhumi’ or ‘golden land’. Undoubtedly, other countries were eager to discover navigating routes to Thailand for benefits of inter-trade or even colonisation. Since then, such glory has continually led to cultural circulation in form of impressive contemporary arts; Wat Pho is clearly evident. More than 300 years, Wat Pho was built in Ayutthaya period from year 1688 – 1703, as its old days, its grandeur and richness of various arts in the temple has remained until now. Wat Pho is not only the centre of Thais’ spirits, but also Thais’ central faith since this sacred temple has been renovated by several Kings of Thailand; King Rama I, II and III. After the first rebuilding, Wat Pho was renamed to Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn and nominated as the royal monastery, first class of King Rama I. Furthermore, Wat Pho has its significant value as the centre of various knowledge sciences. King Rama III has refurbished and assigned to accumulate knowledge from Thai philosophers in many subjects such as medical, literature and prosody inscribed on the marbles decorated on the walls and cloisters of Phra Ubosot (the ordination hall), Phra Viharn (the assembly hall), and the scripture hall or Phra Mondop’s pavilions, known as ‘Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho’. This place is regarded as Thailand’s first university since such knowledge within the temple had been opened freely to public. Likewise, UNESCO registered Wat Pho as the Memory of the World in 2008. However, Wat Pho’s major attractiveness is its contemporary art of Thai and Chinese combination in different styles of stone sculptures (or Chinese statues), decorated within the guarding the gates of the perimeter walls as well as other gates within the compound. These Chinese stone sculptures are also represented the Chinese arts and King Rama III’s glory of cultural interchange period when large numbers of Chinese immigrants had settled down in Thailand, effecting to inter-trade relationships that had reformed Thailand’s economics and political systems at a later time. Similarly, the Thai-Chinese art mural paintings on the interior walls of Phra Ubosot (the ordination hall) had exquisitely performed Chinese stroke techniques of painting to inform the ways of life of Chinese people in Thailand. Nevertheless, Wat Pho’s gorgeous arts included the mighty resplendent giants guarding at the entrance gates of Phra Mondop. These Wat Pho’s Giants were created from the ancient legend, explaining about the combat between the Giants of Wat Pho and Wat Jaeng (Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn). Resulting from this fight, the forests around the temple were totally damaged and became to flat and bared area as nowadays is. Besides, the Thailand’s third largest Buddha Statue, Reclining Buddha (or Phra Buddhasaiyas) is located inside Wat Pho’s Phra Ubosot. Many people pay respect to the sacred image and bless for love. Definitely, Wat Pho with its long history is one of important temples in Thailand. The temple is also the national heritage and well represents the country’s glory and civilisation. In addition to its location in Bangkok’s downtown, this place is referred as one of popular tourists’ cultural attractions. Unsurprisingly, visitors of the Bangkok Art Biennale at Wat Pho will be amazed by contemporary arts from both Wat Pho itself and international artists’ works. The audiences will be fascinated by historical traces at every spot in this venue, such as Chinese-style pavilions near Phra Ubosot’s a double cloister (Phra Rabiang), the great Bodhi tree where is adjacent to the Reclining Buddha building, and Thai traditional massage pavilion. Eventually, these contemporary arts may answer the question of what living history is.