Monday, November 26, 2012

crash course in Buddhist architecture

I'm sure my friend Nathan, who has taken extensive photos of Korean-style Buddhist temples (here and here, for example), would be fascinated by the similarities and differences (mostly differences!) between Korean Mahayana and Thai Theravada Buddhist temple architecture-- on display at this post of Justin Yoshida's. For my money, I couldn't get over the flooring in the Thai temple. No wood anywhere! Just cold stone! Theravada's harsh, man.



Nathan B. said...

Snakes, skeletons, and sunglasses--you're right, Kevin: I'm fascinated! That's quite a remarkable temple there in Adam's post.

I looked at all the pictures of it, and it felt to me somehow vaguely Indian. I'm revealing my ignorance, perhaps, but that was the vibe I felt from the pictures.

Korean Buddhist temples certainly feel very, very different from Wat Nongwang. I have to say that having been to many East Asian Buddhist temples, the Korean Buddhist temples are my favourites.

I like the Korean natural use of wood when it's unpainted, or when the paint has peeled off, but I also like the Korean style of painting with lots of greens and blues relieved by white and pinks. I find the statuary simpler. Perhaps best of all, I like the simplicity and even coziness of the small prayer halls that are usually behind or off to the side of the main halls. Those spaces can be very intimate and even comforting.

Anyway, I've yet to meet a temple that didn't interest me. Thanks!

All the best,

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for the comment. Just a quick editor's note: the blogger in question is Justin, not Adam. Adam Yoshida is Justin's brother.

I think your "vaguely Indian" remark is more on-target than you realize. I see the Indian influence, too, especially in the hyper-repeated designs (Indian art often has a "fractal" aspect to it). The red-and-gold color scheme, though, makes me think of Chinese temples. Still, Theravada is the older form of Buddhism, so it's spiritually and culturally closer to Buddhism's northern-Indian roots than is Mahayana.

Justin said...

This is definitely not a typical Thai temple, most describe it as a Chinese-style temple, as you noted. The stone/tile flooring was definitely a symbol of affluence at the time it was built (wood was cheap back then). Of course, it would be the opposite now.