Almost Unseen Thonburi III : Mix and Match at Klong Dan
The most popular mixed race in Thailand is unarguably Chinese-Thai. And you know, the combination between Chinese and Thai is not limited to race.
You can see the mixture of Chinese and Thai in arts, which has been the core of Thai cultures for centuries.
How to Get There?
You can experience the hybrid arts at Klong Dan, Jom Thong District. It is easy to get there. Taked the BTS train get off at Wutthakat Station. Walk across the street and get into a mini truck (Rod Ka Pong) that says Talad Plu - Wat Sing. The fare is only seven Baht. You can tell the driver to drop you off at Wat Nang or ask the passenger sitting right next to you to help remind you when the mini truck is already at Wat Nang.
After getting off the mini truck, walk through an alley across a small canal. Walk into an alley on your left-hand side. Walk through the alley and walk across the bridge. Then, you will reach the back of the Standing Buddha Vihara. This is a shortcut to the temple, a much better route than going along Ekkachai Road.
The Historical Background
Going back in time 200 years ago, you will see a canal in front of Wat Ratchaorot. It is a route leading to the south, the same as Rama II road nowadays.
At that time, there was still a clash between Siam and Burma. The intel of Siam knew that the Burma would invade the kingdom at Kanchanaburi. King Rama II ordered Prince Chetsadabodin to command the troop to defend the territory.
The Siamese troop used the canal, Klong Dan as a route to Kanchanaburi. Wat Jom Thong was chosen to be a lodging. The temple was also used as a place to conduct "Berg Khlone Tawan" (Pray For Victory Ceremony) to boost the morale of the troop.
The troop went to the war and won. After that, the prince ordered the renovation of Wat Jom Thong. It was built in Chinese-Thai style. The king gave it the new name "Wat Ratchaorot" after this son, Prince Chetsadabodin.
The reason the architecture looks so Chinese because it was the preferred artistic taste of Prince Chetsadabodin. The mix and match of Chinese culture can be seen in the rectangular pillar. The pillar was to support the roof that was made from bricks and cement. There was no traditional Thai ornament like Cho Fa, Bai Raka and Hang Hong.
The Na Ban (Tympanum) was decorated with colorful Chinese style tiles and porcelain.
Changing the material from wood to tiles and porcelain tremendously reduced the maintenance cost as the cement lasted longer than wood.
One of the most familiar items when entering old temples are Chinese statues. They are called Ab Chao. At that time, the trade with China flourished. The King Rama III sent junk ships to trade with China. When the goods from Siam were sold out, the Chinese statues were brought back to Siam as a ballast. Then, the statues were given to temples in Siam. That is why you can see the Chinese statues in old temples in Bangkok.
A trip to the temple would be incomplete without making a merit. At the main ceremonial hall of Wat Ratchaorot, there is a Buddha statue, Phra Buddha Anantakhun Adulyan Bophit. The ashes of the King Rama III are kept under the throne of Buddha statue.
The art lovers may swear "What the HECK" on the top of their lungs, as the painting about the life of Lord Buddha or Jataka Tales are absent. They are replaced by new murals that portray Chinese style arts. The painting shows the images of vases, tables, stools and chairs. It is a groundbreaking milestone for Thailand's art history.
The highlight is the back of the temple. Move yourself quickly away from the heat of the sun and go to the rectangular-shape main vihara.
There is a reclining Buddha statue in the vhihara. Its name is very very very long, Phra Buddha Sai Yad Nad Chanin Chin Sakaya Barom Somdech San Petch Buddha Ba Pit. The reclining Buddha in this temple may not be as large as the one in Wat Pho. But the two reclining Buddhas share the same thing, it is a gold-printed Buddha's footprint. To be continued.