Sunday, January 16, 2011

071209 Wat Had Siaw 1 - background

An interruption to normal programming - a 'special feature' series of posts on Wat Had Siaw in Chomphet district of Luang Prabang.

This little temple is hidden on the forested banks of the Mekong. Within the viharn (main building housing the altar + main Buddha image) are some beautiful mural paintings, depicting some story(ies) that the cat has not come across before in the many other temples it has been to. Wat Had Siaw is also one of the only 4 temples in Luang Prabang that has a long, narrow window-less building purpose-built for the practice of walking meditation.

As of December 2009, the temple buildings were not in great shape. There are large cracks right through the walls of the viharn - not sure if it is structurally sound. The mural paintings have seen quite a lot of damage. & one wall of the 'meditation building' is in danger of collapse. (By all accounts, all that remain of two of the temples further upriver from Wat Had Siaw are ruins.)

The cat does not know if there are any plans by anyone to restore Wat Had Siaw. These posts are made in hope that Wat Had Siaw will catch the interest of someone:
  1. with a much better camera
  2. with much better photography skills
  3. who would like to help create & share with everyone a sort of photographic record/documentation of this temple & its murals, before it is too late.
Anyone interested/with ideas or info about this temple is welcome to contact the cat at laomeow at gmail dot com.

In December 2006, the cat chanced upon an exhibition, The Quiet in the Land, at the Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang. One of the exhibits mentioned that 4 temples in Luang Prabang have a long, narrow window-less building purpose-built for the practice of walking meditation. One of the temples is ວັດຫາດສ້ຽວ Wat Had Siaw (also romanised as Vat Hat Siao, Wat Had Seo, etc).

In December 2009, the cat decided to try & track down this temple during its visit to the Chomphet side of Luang Prabang. Back then, had yet to publish its detailed hiking map of Chomphet district. None of the locals the cat asked had ever heard of this temple. All it knew - from a map in Hans Georg Berger's book Het Bun Dai Bun - was that Wat Had Siaw was somewhere along the Mekong, upriver from Wat Tham Sakkhalin.

& so one afternoon, the cat crossed the Mekong to Ban Xieng Maen, & started walking for as long as it could make out a path parallel to the Mekong & leading upriver. Without this map, the cat ended up detouring along narrow branch trails while trying to figure out where various forks in the path lined by vegetation well above its height (the cat is very short!) & blocked off by 'fence ladders' led to. After crossing a small gully & a much larger one, it finally saw this some 40 minutes after leaving Wat Long Khoun:


The very well-ventilated (note gaping hole beneath roof) residence for monks & novices:


Doesn't seem that promising - looks like the remains of the foundations of 2 buildings:


More to come in subsequent posts...

No comments: