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Wat Samphao (วัดสําเภา)

Thai. Name of a Buddhist temple in Chonburi named for a junk, which is known in Thai as reua sampao (fig.). Hence, its main entrance gate is topped with a large replica of such a boat in silver metal, with a gilded Buddha image standing on the prow, whilst the flag at the stern is the Thong Thammachak, i.e. the Buddhist Flag of Thailand (fig.), which consists of a reddish Dhammachakka, i.e. the Buddhist ‘Wheel of Law’ (fig.), on an orange field. Two green-faced giant guardians, known as yaks, flank the gate, whereas the railings towards it are also decorated with smaller versions of the boat on top of the gate. In mid 2023, the ubosot still lacked the chofa, i.e. the spires on the rooftop, yet they were laying ready for installation nearby. Adjacent to the ubosot are various statues, some rather large, such as that of Phra Siam Thewathiraat, the guardian spirit of the nation; Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy; Phra Siwalih, who attained Enlightenment on the very day of his ordination; and King Chulalongkorn, i.e. Rama V (fig.). The fact that Thai kings are revered even after their death, stems from the idea that they are considered avatars of deities who descended from heaven to fulfill their role on earth and after their demise returned to heaven. There are also some smaller, yet still life-sized statues, some of the same characters, but also of a reusi or hermit; Maitreya, a bodhisattva also known as Mi Le Fo, Huan Xi Fo or Budai, depicted as an obese bald figure and commonly referred to as the Chinese ‘Smiling Buddha’ (fig.); and his Thai look-alike Phra Sangkatjaai, with whom he is often confused, yet who has short curly hair (fig.). At the back of the ubosot is a small cemetery with stupas containing the ashes of local dignitaries and monks, whilst the inner wall surrounding the temple's compound is lined with small replicas of Reuan Thai-style houses in various colours reserved to enshrine the ashes of deceased lay folk. Also against this enclosing temple wall, in the back and adjacent to the cemetery, is a shrine in the form of a wooden shag with a balcony dedicated to Tah Phah Khao (ตาผ้าขาว), i.e. ‘White-robed Maternal Grandpa’, an upasaka who is believed to be a kind of clairvoyant able to predict which monk would attain Dhamma, that is to say to act virtuously and righteously, and become a Luang Poo or Luang Pho. WATCH VIDEO.