Wat Bowonniwet

26

Nov
2021

Wat Bowonniwet

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Hidden in quiet, tree-filled grounds, this mid-19th-century temple was constructed by Rama III. The style bears his trademark Chinese influence. A central gilded chedi is flanked by two symmetrical chapels, the most interesting of which is next to Phra Sumen Road. The interior murals are attributed to monk-painter Khrua In Khong, who is famous for the introduction of Western perspective into Thai temple murals. As court painter to King Mongkut (Rama IV) he was exposed to Western ideas and adapted these to a Thai setting. The result was a series of murals that on first glance look wholly Western, but that portray the same Buddhist allegories found in traditional Thai murals. For instance, a physician healing a blind man can be interpreted as the illuminating power of Buddhism. The images are all the more remarkable for the fact that Khrua In Khong never traveled to the West. The main Buddha image, Phra Buddha Chinasara, is one of the best examples from the Sukhothai period.

King Mongkut served as abbot here during his 27 years in the monkhood and founded the strict Tammayut sect of Buddhism, for which the temple is now the headquarters. Since Mongkut, many Thai kings have served their monkhoods at the wat, including the current monarch, King Bhumibol (Rama IX). The temple also houses Thailand’s second Buddhist university. Across the road from the temple is a Buddhist bookstore that sells  English-language publications.

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