The Buddhist Temple of Wat Bowonniwet also known as Wat Bowon may not hold too much significant interest to most tourists but is does however set the tone for some quiet contemplation. The nineteenth century temple is half-hidden in tranquil tree-filled grounds away from the hordes of people who prefer to flock to the other more popular temples in the vicinity. Why not give this one a try.
There are a couple of unique entities setting this temple aside from the others. First and foremost the temple is the headquarters of the strict Thammayut sect of Thai Theravada Buddhism, but probably the other more notable differences are the western-style murals within the Bot. Please do take a look around inside.
Wat Bowonniwet temple was built between 1842 and 1832 by Rama III and was strongly influenced by Chinese style architecture which the king was particularly fond of. The grounds contain a central gilded Chedi flanked by two symmetrical temples with the one next to Phra Sumen Road being the most interesting.
The interior houses murals displaying a fair knowledge of Western domination and mastery. Startling when compared to the typical, but traditional two-dimensional Thai mural scenes. The murals were attributed to Khrua In Khong, a monk painter who was famous for introducing a Western perspective to temple murals.
Khrua In Khong was court painter to Rama IV and although exposed to Western ideas, what makes this all the more remarkable, was the fact that he had never ever travelled to the West. His images were often adapted into Thai settings. The result of which produced a series of murals that on first glance look wholly Western but portray the same Buddha allegories found in traditional Thai murals.
An example of this can be found in one of the murals where a physician is seen to be healing a blind man. This I believe can almost certainly be interpreted as the illuminating power of Buddhism. There is a mural of the main Buddha image, Phra Buddha Chinasara, and one of the best examples from the Sukhothai period.
The temple can be found on Phra Sumen Road not far from Khao San Road in the Phra Nakhon district in Bangkok. The site can easily be reached by taxi or alternatively, take the Chao Phraya River Express boat to Banglampuu Pier and then walk from there. If walking is too much for you then look out for a Tuk Tuk and catch a ride. You may even find a motorcycle taxi driver to take you there. The temple grounds are open daily from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm and entry is free.
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