Keeping an eye on worshippers

published : 30 Apr 2020 at 04:00

newspaper section: Life

Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram on Fueang Nakhon Road in Bangkok's Phra Nakhon district is known for many things. Established 150 years ago under the order of King Rama V to be the symbolic temple of his reign, this important Buddhist place of worship houses the cremated remains of eight monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty and is the residence of the current Supreme Patriarch. Architecturally, the temple is a rare example of East-meets-West design, with an exterior that is distinctly Thai and interior showing strong Gothic influence.

Over the years, however, there is one thing that a lot of visitors to Wat Ratchabophit were probably never aware of: they were being watched by thousands of pairs of eyes belonging to Thai divine beings that are half Chinese.

These eyes and the faces they belong to are part of the traditional pattern called thep phanom (devas with their palms together in a respectful manner) depicted on the glazed tiles that cover much of the external walls of the ordination and prayer halls. The reason for the deities looking more Chinese than Thai was that, like the Thai bencharong ceramics made during the early reigns of the Rattanakosin Period, these imported tiles were designed in Siam but made by craftsmen in China.

If you get to visit the temple after the partial lockdown is over, don't forget to also check whether each of these faces is the same or not.

When travelling, it's not unusual to run into many faces. While many just flash by, others linger on not just in your memory but also in your memory cards. It might be a person, an animal or even a non-living thing.

If you have taken a picture of such a face with a story you wish to share, a face with the eyes looking directly at the camera signifying that the shot was made not against their will, feel free to email the photo and a brief text to [email protected] By the way, the minimum file size is 2MB.

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