One of the main reasons for preparing the many photo albums I have on my Photo Dharma website has been to learn more about the countries and people, history and culture of the many nations I have been visiting and residing in in SE Asia.
As I usually give some write-up of the places I go, I first have to research into them and then distill it a little – or sometimes elaborate it a little – before posting, and that way I get to know a bit more.
The collection I am announcing today was made at a Chinese temple not far from my current residence in the International Buddhist College, Sadao, so after making the photographs I started looking for some information.
I was surprised to find out that Chinese temples are not temples in the legal sense in Thailand, and that the Chinese (if they do not declare as Christian or Muslim) are automatically classed as ‘Buddhist’, even though they might not identify themselves that way informally.
Chinese temples are called Sanchao in Thailand, and do not come under the Department of Religious Affairs as Wats, Churches and Mosques do, but under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior, which might be a mixed blessing.
As confucianism and Taoism are not recognised by the Thai Government, then the Chinese cannot identify as them officially, but (if they are not Christian or Muslim) must choose Buddhism.
I found this very oinformative article on the subject by Tatsuki Kataoka, From Religion as Non-religion: The Place of Chinese Temples in Phuket, Southern Thailand.
Religious organizations officially registered with the Department include Islam, Christianity (Catholic and Protestant as separate categories), Brahmanism, Hindu, and Sikh, as well as Buddhism. As for Buddhism, the Thai Sangha (Theravada) and two Mahayana sects (“Chinese” Chin Nikai and “Vietnamese” Annam Nikai, though both are actually Chinese) are listed in the religious statistics of the government (Thailand, Krom Kansatsana 1998).
These matters aside, the temple attracted my attention when I first came here in July. It wasn’t here in 2008 or 2010 when I last visited, and it is really stands out with its bright colours along the grey road leading into Hatyai from the Malaysian border.
So at the first opportunity I went along to get a closer look. The temple turned out to be very photogenic indeed, and out of the 45 photographs I took only 4 were unusable, and that because they were duplicates.
We went on a sunny day and I was a bit worried about the light being too bright, but in fact the deep blue sky and clear light only served to enhance the scenes.
Besides the gaily coloured decoration on the gables and pillars of the temple, it also has some good murals illustrating Chinese proverbs and auspicious sayings, which are normally found in these temples, and are one of their most endearing aspects.
On the album page you can find some more information about the temple and view the photographs in a variety of ways: as thumbnails, two types of slideshows (pan & zoom or cross fading) and in high definition. Here are a few samples.
Amitabha, Sakyamuni and Kuan Yim