Long before the country opened up, the world was privy to images of the Myanmar of old. Perhaps some of the most iconic of these images were the fields full of temples that stretched to the horizon or the statues of the Buddha that so many now come to see. Buddhism has spread around the world and many countries, including western countries and all throughout Asia, have their own versions of statues and temples. As is often the case, such tributes are astounding works of art, and here are but a few of the most recognised in the world.
Wat Arun – Bangkok, Thailand
Found on the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun, meaning “Temple of Dawn”, is one of the oldest and certainly one of the more famous landmarks in Thailand. Despite its name, the best views of the temple – an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the centre of the Buddhist universe – are to be found in the evening with the setting sun as its backdrop.
Pha That Luang – Vientiane, Loas
Built in the 16th century over the ruins of a former Khmer temple, Pha That Luang, which means “Great Stupa in Lao”, is probably the single most important monument in the entire country. The stupa features several terraces, each level representing a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment; the material world being the lowest level and the highest level the world of nothingness. In 1828, a Siamese invasion led to the destruction of the temple, which was later rebuilt in 1931 by the French.
Borobudur – Java, Indonesia
Taking some 75 years to complete and found 25 miles northwest of Yogyakarta, this is the largest and most famous Buddhist temple in the world. Construction of the Borobudur, which began in the 8th and 9th centuries in what was then the kingdom of Sailendra, required an estimated 2 million blocks of stone. Abandoned in the 14th century for reasons that are still unknown, it lay hidden in the jungle under layers of volcanic ash for centuries.
Jokhang – Lhasa, Tibet
Attracting thousands of pilgrims each year, the Jokhang Temple is the most significant sacred site in Tibetan Buddhism. The temple was built in the 7th century by King Songtsän Gampo and it survived many an onslaught by the hostile Mongols. Today, the entire complex covers an area of around 25,000 square metres.
Haeinsa Temple – Hapcheon-gu South Korea
First built in 802 (and later rebuilt in the 19th century after a fire in 1817) Haeinsa, which means “Temple of Reflection on a Smooth Sea”, is one of the most revered Buddhist icons in South Korea. The temple’s greatest surviving treasure is a complete copy of Buddhist scriptures (the Tripitaka Koreana) written on 81,258 woodblocks that remained intact despite the blaze.