Featured Image: Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia
Tuesday, 17 July 2018, Shanghai, China – Today we have decided to write sort of an informal blog post, inspired by the death of Anthony Bourdain and his TV series, Parts Unknown. His first episode was about the country of Myanmar, and that inspired us to create a blog post about some of the best known Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia.
They are in no particular order.
5. Angkor Wat
- Located in Angkor, Cambodia, the former capital of the Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest religious monument in the world.
- Commissioned by Suryavarman II in the 12th century, it was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu. Over time, however, it was gradually converted into a Buddhist temple.
- The temple was somewhat neglected by the end of the 16th century but not completely abandoned – the moat protected the temple from jungle overgrowth and encroachment.
- The first western visit to the temple was from a Portuguese friar in 1586.
- He said that the temple, “is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”
- The temple was visited again by a French explorer in the 19th century.
- Rather impressively, the temple managed to avoid any substantial damage throughout the Vietnam War, Cambodian Civil War, and the Khmer Rouge.
- The temple remains a national symbol of Cambodia, appearing on the country’s flag, as well as the main tourist attraction for visitors.
4. Shwedagon Pagoda
- The pagoda, which is technically a gilded stupa, is located in Yangon, Myanmar. It is 99 m (326 ft) tall.
- The pagoda is considered to be the most sacred in Myanmar, as it is believed to house relics of the four previous Buddhas of the current kalpa, or eon.
- The relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the Buddha himself.
- The temple was built by the Mon people of Myanmar between the 6th and 10th centuries AD.
- The temple fell into disrepair after a series of earthquakes during the following centuries caused structural damage.
- In 2012, the Shwedagon Pagoda Festival was celebrated for the first time since 1988, the year it was banned by the military government.
- The pagoda is a Yangon City Landmark.
- Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the island of Java in Indonesia. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.
- It was constructed by Mahayana Buddhists in the 9th century, during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty.
- The temple is particularly recognisable due to its cage structures.
- The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief structures and 504 Buddha statues.
- The temple’s central dome is surrounded by 72 of these Buddha statues, each in its own perforated stupa.
- Popular interest in Borobudur increased during the British presence in Java, in the 19th century.
- The temple fell into disrepair in the 14th century. Restoration was undertaken by the Indonesian Government and UNESCO between 1975 and 1982.
- It is considered one of the greatest archeological sites in Asia, in the same league as Angkor Wat and Bagan.
- Bagan is an ancient city in the Mandalay region of Myanmar.
- The city was the capital of the Bagan Kingdom from the 9th to 13th centuries.
- This kingdom would go on to unite the areas forming modern day Myanmar, which gave the city a strong claim to fame.
- The city is the main attraction for tourism in Myanmar.
- According to Burmese Chronicles, the city was founded in the second century AD and first fortified in the ninth century.
- During its heyday from 1044 to 1287, Bagan was the political, economic, and cultural capital of the Bagan Empire, the most powerful in the region at the time.
- Over 10,000 religious monuments were constructed in Bagan over 250 years, including 1,000 stupas, 10,000 small temples, and 3,000 monasteries.
- The city was so prosperous that it attracted monks and students from as far as India, Sri Lanka, and the Khmer Empire.
- All good things must end, and in the late 13th century the Bagan Empire collapsed due to repeated Mongol invasions. Damn Mongols.
1. Uluwatu Temple
- Uluwatu Temple is a Hindu sea temple in Bali, Indonesia.
- It is not a Buddhist temple but we included it anyway because of how beautiful it is.
- The temple is a pura, a place of worship for Balinese Hindus, and is located at the edge of a 70 m (230 ft) cliff.
- The temple is best known for its monkeys, who live in the temple and are notorious for theft of the visitors’ belongings. Fortunately they are willing to trade the items for fruit, but unfortunately, this incentivises them to steal more because they can collect more fruit this way.
- It has been found that the monkeys in the area learn bartering behaviour and pass it down to their offspring, thereby continuing the cycle of theft against humans and getting rewarded for it with fruit.
- A Kecak, a traditional Balinese dance, is based on the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic, and is performed daily at 6 PM at the temple, against the backdrop of a beautiful Balinese sunset and sea.