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Looking Back: More myths of Phuket’s emerging Buddha

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Looking Back: More myths of Phuket’s emerging Buddha | The Thaiger

PHUKET: As I mentioned in my previous Looking Back column (story here), the Phra Phood, or the Emerging Buddha of Thalang, may have been discovered sometime in the mid 18th century by local villagers living near the town of Thalang, in the northern part of Phuket.

The large golden Buddha image got its name from the fact that when it was uncovered, the lower half of the statue was buried deep underground. When the governor of Thalang first heard of the discovery, he ordered the villagers to dig up the statue from the ground so that it may be taken to a temple to be properly worshiped. But when the villagers tried to dig up the statue, it is said that swarms of locusts and wasps began to emerge from the disturbed ground to attack the villagers that were trying to recover the statue.

For generations, the people of Thalang have believed in the divine powers of the Emerging Buddha. Many stories that have emerged about the Golden Buddha statue are shrouded in legend. In the year 1809, towards the end of King Rama I’s reign, the Burmese attacked the South of Thailand once again. They reached Thalang and sacked the town. When they conquered Thalang, the Burmese looted everything of significant value and burned the rest. They soon came across the revered Emerging Buddha outside of the town.

Seeing that it was made of gold, the Burmese were determined to take the statue back with them. But as the soldiers dug around the statue to uncover the lower half, again massive numbers of wasps, locusts and red ants began emerging from the disturbed ground and attacked the diggers. Many hundreds of Burmese soldiers were stung by the insects and were forced to abandon the digging. It is said that the soldiers that were stung later became critically ill and many died of fever.

Determined to take the statue home with them, the Burmese began using fire to smoke out the ants and wasps from around the statue. However they were not able to recover the Buddha statue since a few weeks later, a Thai army from Nakhon Sri Thammarat arrived in Phuket drove the invading Burmese out of the island.

Many years later, a monk from Sukhothai called Luang Por Singha travelled to Thalang and came across this peculiar half buried Buddha statue. Because it was made of gold, the monk was afraid that thieves might be able to saw off the Buddha’s head easily. He urged the locals to build a temple at the site where the Buddha was located.

The locals of Thalang heeded his advice and built the “Temple of the Golden Buddha” at the site. They built a chapel around the Emerging Buddha and declared it the principal Buddha image of the temple. Luang Por Singha was appointed the temple’s first abbot.

Many years later during his tenure as abbot, it is said that Luang Por Singha sculpted an eerie riddle on a scroll, which translates roughly as follows.

“Shrugging three or four times, bearers bring ghosts to burn. The ghosts that have not yet decomposed, their fragrance can be smelled from afar”.

When he died, he passed on the riddle scroll to his successor, with a condition that the new abbot must unlock the meaning of the riddle. If he cannot do so, he will not be able to stay at the Temple of the Emerging Buddha for long. As time went by, Luang Por Singha’s successor was not able to crack the riddle. True to his prophecy, he did not remain the abbot of the temple much longer. Each successive abbot that followed him was not able to crack the riddle either, and they too were not able to stay at the temple for long. In time the temple’s eerie reputation began to spread as a temple that “ate its abbots” and no monk was willing to take up residence there. The temple began to fall into disrepair and became abandoned.

In the year 1897, a monk named Phra Kru Jitthasomanwat of Phra Nang Sang Temple in Thalang was able to crack the infamous riddle. He then asked for the Temple of the Golden Buddha to be renovated and volunteered to become its 15th abbot. He remained the temple’s abbot for 61 years, proving that his solution to the riddle was indeed correct.

Phra Kru Jitthasomanwat explained that Luang Por Singha’s riddle was referring to the tradition of cremating deceased Chinese monks using scented wood, such as Sandalwood. The “shrugging bearers” referred to the bearers of a palanquin, as they moved a few steps forward and a few steps backwards. The “ghosts” in this case were the scented woods inside the palanquin that would have to be burned with the deceased. “The ghosts that have not yet decomposed” referred to the scented woods that were not yet burned. “Their fragrance can be smelled from afar”, referred to the fact that when such palanquins carrying scented woods passed by, the strong scent of the wood inside would diffuse across a great distance.

After the riddle of Luang Por Singha was solved, the Temple of the Emerging Buddha was restored and became a thriving center of worship for the people of Thalang once again. In the year 1909, King Rama VI, at that time still the Crown Prince of Siam came on a state visit to Phuket Island. During the trip, he visited the Emerging Buddha statue and royally bestowed the temple its existing name, “Temple of the Golden Buddha”.

Despite its long history, no one knows for sure where the Emerging Buddha originated from or who sculpted it. But one of prevailing theories among many Chinese people is that the Emerging Buddha was actually sculpted in China many centuries ago. Known in Chinese as Kim-in-jor, it is said to have resided in a temple in Shanghai. During one of the wars between the Tibetan Empire and the Chinese Tang Empire in the 7th century AD, Shanghai was attacked and captured by the Tibetans. The Tibetans found the golden Buddha statue and decided to load it onto a ship and transport it elsewhere. During the journey, a storm broke out and sank the ship.

The golden Buddha image was never recovered, but many Phuket locals of Chinese origin believe it was washed ashore in Thalang and sank in mud, never to be found again until centuries later. Till today, many Chinese locals in Phuket highly revere the Emerging Buddha image and every year, during important Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year, Chinese locals of Phuket would flock to the Temple of the Golden Buddha to worship the sacred golden image.

Anand Singh is an avid Phuket Historian and can be contacted here.

— Anand Singh

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Thai Life

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers

The Thaiger

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Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Daily News

The answers are in the banana leaves.

Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.

There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.

An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.

SOURCE: Daily News

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger

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Entertainment

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival

The Thaiger

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The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | The Thaiger

On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.

At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.

In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Finalists for this year

Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.

But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.

“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.

His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”

Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.

“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

The Korean Wave

K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.

The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.

“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.

“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.

“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”

The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.

“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Be who you want

Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.

Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.

“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.

“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”

But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.

“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.

“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Business

Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand’s Santa Fe restaurant chain

May Taylor

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Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand’s Santa Fe restaurant chain | The Thaiger

(…or is that a 90% ‘steak’?)

PHOTOS: Wongnai

DealStreetAsia, an investor news site reporting on Asian business, confirms that Singha Corporation has purchased a majority stake in the Thai restaurant chain, Santa Fe. It’s understood that Singha purchased the shares held by Lakeshore Capital for approximately US$50 million or 1.53 billion baht, giving it a 90% stake in the chain seen in most Thai shopping centres.

The Nation reports that Singha will now oversee over 110 restaurants across Thailand in one of the country’s biggest food industry deals of the year. The company first turned its attention to the food industry two years ago, launching Food Factors Company under the Boon Rawd Brewery group.

WongnaiFood Factors aims to make 5 billion baht over 3 years under the stewardship of Piti Bhirombhakdi. The company has an ambitious long-term target of 10 billion baht a year, along with plans to be listed on the stock exchange.

The Santa Fe chain was established in 2003 by Surachai Charn-Anudet’s KT Restaurant Company, with the aim of becoming a major competitor to Sizzler, the American chain brought to Thailand by Minor Food.

SOURCE: The Nation

Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand's Santa Fe restaurant chain | News by The Thaiger

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