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Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิง)

Thai. ‘Temple of the cross-legged sitting pose’ or ‘temple of the gesture of sitting with the legs folded back to one side’. Name of a Buddhist temple in Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya, at the southeastern bank of where the Pa Sak River confluences with the Chao Phraya River (fig.). It was built in 1324 AD and —as it predates the foundation of the city by some 26 years— is located off the island where the city center of Ayutthaya was, and still is today. The wihaan, which on the outside is surrounded with bas-reliefs of the Ramakien epic (fig.), houses the 19 meter tall Luang Pho Toh Buddha image (fig.), which reportedly dates from 1334 AD and is seated in the maravijaya pose. However, after one of its many restorations, King Rama IV in 1854 AD renamed the statue Phra Phutta Triratana Nayok. The district in which the temple is built has a large Chinese community and at the northeastern side of the Theravada part of the temple complex, which includes some impressive wooden Reuan Thai in the architectural style of central Thailand, is thus also a large section devoted to Mahayana Buddhism, with a notable Chinese-Taoist shrine (fig.), as well a building dedicated to Princess Soi Dok Mahk (สร้อยดอกหมาก), a woman of royal Chinese descent, who in the past visited this temple while in accordance with her own tradition— would sit with her legs folded back to one side. Whereas choeng (เชิง) in its own right may be translated as ‘gesture’ or ‘posture’, phanan choeng (พนัญเชิง) derives from phanaeng choeng, which means ‘to sit cross-legged’ (fig.), a term that may also be used instead of phab phiab, i.e. to ‘sit with the legs folded back to one side’ (fig.). Over time, it became uncertain if the name of this temple originated from the cross-legged pose of the Luang Pho Toh Buddha image or from the sitting gesture of the princess of Chinese ancestry.