Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rare (This week's Photo Hunt theme)




The Kek Lok Si Temple (AKA "Temple of Supreme Bliss" or "Pure Land Temple") that's situated on Huock San (trans. Crane Hill) is said to be the most visited tourist spot in Penang. This prominent local landmark which can be seen from miles away and dominates the surrounding Air Itam (AKA Air Hitam; trans., "Black Water"!) area -- yet appears to still be constantly being added to! -- also is widely considered to be one of the finest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia as well as is generally recognized as the largest Buddhist temple complex in Muslim majority Malaysia.

In the middle of my photograph of what is just only a section of the Kek Lok Si Temple stands its most famous structure: A rare -- unique, even -- pagoda variously known as the Pagoda of Rama VI (on account of the temple's foundation stone having been laid in 1915 by King Rama VI of neighboring Thailand) as well as the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas (because it supposedly is home to ten thousand images of Buddha; many of them affixed on to the interior walls of the structure).

"So what makes this pagoda so rare?" I hear you ask. In order to answer this question, let me direct you to look carefully at the seven storey monument in question and point out that it's actually an amalgamation of architectural styles from not one but three different major Buddhist cultures. (By the way, if you click on the image above, you will be shown an enlarged version of the photograph.)

More specifically, the 30 meter high pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a tre-foil arcade- and niche-rich middle tier that is of Thai design and a Burmese domed crown; with the idea behind this being that this religious tower physically testifies to the Kek Lok Si Temple's embracing of not only Mahayana Buddhism (as represented by its Chinese elements) but also Theravada Buddhism (as represented by its Thai and Burmese sections).

On a secular note: I'm inclined to look at this cultural and architectural mixing as yet another example of the general Malaysian tendency towards "rojakness" -- this despite the pagoda's construction having pre-dated the creation of Malaysia, the country, by a few decades -- that I discussed some months back on this blog and, frankly, would love to see more of, be it in this country or pretty much elsewhere... :)

26 comments:

Jane said...

Great picture and history lesson!

Incog & Nito said...

A beautiful picture and story, thanks for sharing. Happy weekend.

Thai News said...

Beautiful picture i agree!

Gattina said...

Wow, I don't regret that I came back, lol ! This was very interesting and the temple is just wonderful. I don't like so much statues of chinese buddahs, the others are more beautiful, but that's a question of taste.

Jenn in Holland said...

Extremely lovely.

superkimbo said...

Not only rare, but beautiful too! We really need to visit Penang! Thank you for all the historical details - I love learning more about Malaysia!

Bengbeng said...

Hey, I love yr piece abt the pagoda. Never knew the history of the place. I will link yr blog to mine so I can read yr blog on a more regular basis. Hope you don't mind. You have some good stuff here.

YTSL said...

Hi Jane --

Thanks for the compliment. Hadn't quite thought of my post as a history lesson but maybe it is... ;D

Hi incog & nito --

Thanks and happy weekend to you too! :)

Hi Thai news --

Thanks for visiting! :)

Hi (again) Gattina --

Which kind of Chinese buddha statues do you not like? I'm more okay with some than others but there's a wide range with even those alone.

Hi jenn in holland --

Have noticed that you've become a fairly regular visitor to this blog. Thanks! :)

Hi superkimbo --

Yes, you really need to visit Penang -- and before you leave Malaysia too! (BTW, tried leaving a comment over on your blog and ran into technical difficulties. If you're reading this, here's asking whether you tried drinking the snake wine? ;b)

YTSL said...

Hi bengbeng --

Am glad you like my piece on the pagoda. And do please link away and thanks for wanting to read my blog more regularly! :)

Danella said...

What a beautiful temple and story.

Mine is up.

soccer mom in denial said...

What a lovely photo and terrific explanation. I learned something today!

jennyr said...

cool thing...great photohunt!

srp said...

Wonderful history lesson here and gorgeous architecture. I also loved the entry about the colorful tiles and those could be considered rare as well. There is not much handiwork like that around any more.

YTSL said...

Hi Danella --

Yup, went and made a reciprocal visit to your blog. (More than incidentally, I do make it a point to do that for all Photo Hunters who post comments here! :) )

Hi "soccer mom in denial" --

Glad you feel that you learned something today. :)

Hi jennyr --

Agreed that it's a great photo hunt. :)

Hi srp --

Thanks for checking out this entry but also at least one other on my blog. Re the tiles: Colorful they certainly are but rare? Not around Penang; at least that is the case still! :b

Shelby said...

beautiful photo and I learned something too - thanks!!

take care and happy Saturday!

shelbydupree.blogspot.com

jmb said...

Lovely photo again and great explanation.

Melissa said...

Beautiful! Thank you for giving such a great explanation! :)

YTSL said...

Hi Shelby --

Happy weekend to you! It's actually Sunday here already as I write this but yeah, I did have a happy Saturday. :)

Hi jmb --

Thanks, and for visiting once again too. :)

Hi Melissa --

You're welcome. Am finding the Photo Hunt to be a nice opportunity to share small little stories and/or small groups of factoid as well as photos. :)

Jennifer said...

Very Cool - and Very Beautiful!

YTSL said...

Hi Jennifer --

Thanks for the compliments and for visiting! :)

jenny said...

I enjoyed your photo and the background!! Good luck in your new palce and with your new job!

YTSL said...

Hi Jenny --

Glad you enjoyed and thanks for the good wishes! :)

meeyauw said...

That is a beautiful temple. I loved the large version, it is so intricate. I bet when a person visits there is more to see than can be seen in one visit. Thank you for the great commentary.

YTSL said...

Hi meeyauw --

Am glad you had the patience to download the large version of the picture!

Also, I know that many people feel that they can "do" the Kek Lok Si Temple in one visit but I've found that it's one of those places that's worth visiting more than once because sometimes, it can be rather overwhelming to try to take in in its entirety during just one visit. ;b

alejna said...

What a fascinating description to go along with the great photo. I love your use of the term rojak to describe aspects of Malaysian culutre. (And thanks for linking back to that post, by the way.)

YTSL said...

Hi Alejna --

Just to make it clear: I'm by no means the only Malaysian who uses the term "rojak" to describe those aspects of Malaysian culture which are best described that way. Not only that but we really can and do find it pretty close to impossible to find an English word that can be as appropriate as "rojak" for that kind of mixing... ;b