insightsocialstudies Belief and Religion Let’s explore the diversity of Thai Culture through Hidden Community in Bangkok (1)

Let’s explore the diversity of Thai Culture through Hidden Community in Bangkok (1)

Kudi-Chin Community; One of hidden community which has cultural diversity in Bangkok

In the first blog I share about the beliefs of Thai people. If you have already read it, you knew that although Buddhism is our main belief, we also apply some beliefs in Hinduism to our way of life, especially about rituals. About the Animism or the Superstition which is our original belief before we followed Buddhism, we did not leave them, in contrast, we integrated them with Buddhism. You can call the religion of Thai People as “Thai Religion” like the Thai academician called. In this blog, I will take you to deeply touch in the belief of Thai people through travelling. The place I chose is one of the hidden communities in Thonburi District, Bangkok. The outstanding feature of this community is the diversity of race and culture. This community is known as Kudi-Chin Community.

Kudi-Chin Community is situated on the west bank of Chao Phraya River in Thonburi District, Bangkok. In the past, travelers especially foreigners did not know about this community much but today after Bangkok has been grown, there is the development of subway near Thonburi District, this community is known by the more travelers. Definitely when the community is well-known more, the residents improve and develop their community better than before for the travelers can easily get insight their community.

As I mentioned, the charm of Kudi-Chin community is the diversity of race and culture. There are five beliefs in this community. These are Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Catholic and Muslim. You will discover these beliefs from the life of the resident, the structure of their house and the religious place. If you enter the community at the riverside, you can either see Wat Kalayanamit or Santacruz Church at first. This zone is the residence of Catholic people and Buddhist people. However if you want to see the residence of Muslim people, you can enter from Arun Amarin Road.

Besides the diversity, Kudi-Chin community is one of the old communities of Bangkok. The history of them can date back to Thonburi period around the eighteenth century. The name of the community relates to one of the religious places in the community. I will recommend it next. Another charm of Kudi-Chin is the beauty and peace of the community. If you want to relax and charge your energy or you are bored with the same tourist place in Bangkok, this community may be one of your new choices.

The Name of the Shrine (Kian-An-Keng) at the gate
Kian-An-Keng; The Shrine which is the origin of the name “Kudi Chin”

Let’s start to know Kudi-Chin community at its name. The place which can tell us about this is Kian-An-Keng or Shrine of Goddess of Mercy. Kian-An-Keng is the Chinese shrine which was built according to the belief of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism. Kian-An-Keng is the Hokkien language (the language of Hoklo who is one of the Chinese race) in Mandarin we can pronounce that Jian-An-Kong. This name means the place of peace in mind. I think that this is a specific feature of this shrine. If there is no Chinese festival, this shrine is so calm.

About the age of this Chinese shrine, it was first built by Hoklo Chinese who is one of the Chinese races during Thonburi period around the eighteenth century. There were two shrine at that time but after the renovation by two Hoklo Chinese families during the reign of King Rama III around the nineteenth century, the shrines were combined in one and raised Guan-Yin or Goddess of Mercy to be the principal deity of the shrine.

In Thai language, there are two meanings for the word “Kudi”.

The first one is the residence and the second one is the religious place. While the word “Chin”, it means China or Chinese therefore when it is combined with the word Kudi it means “Chinese Shrine”. In addition, it is said that there was a residence for Chinese monk inside the shrine before. In conclusion, Kudi-Chin represents to this Chinese shrine; Kian-An-Keng.

On top of the door, it was decorated by wood carving. (The Chinese letters are Kian-An-Keng)

The architecture of Kian-An-Keng is one of its charms. As I mention before, this shrine was built by Hoklo Chinese so the architectural style also relates to this race. Hoklo Chinese will give an important to the decoration. The roof was made a bit curved roof. The color is not so colorful when compare to the other Chinese races’ architecture. There are three entrance doors. On top of the middle entrance door, it is decorated by wood carving. All of the windows were made of carved wood in a dragon design. All of these tell us about the delicate, graceful and unique of their art.

The Red Door of the left building

Before going inside, I recommend you walk to the red door of the left building. It is said that this building was the residence for Chinese monks before. This point is the best area for taking a nice photo. When you step inside, you cannot take a photo (there is a main rule of this shrine). The first thing you will see after you step in is the mural painting of the Chinese guardians and on the left side, there is a statue of Chai-Sin-Ear or god of wealth.

Guanyin or Goddess of Mercy (On the left and right side of her are the images of Ma-Chou)
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Definitely, the main focus point inside is the principal deity of the shrine; Goddess of Mercy or Guanyin.

Guanyin is a Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism according to the interpretation of Chinese people. 

Normally people pray her to ask about health but for Guanyin of this shrine, she is known as a goddess of work because her costume look quite different than the normal appearance of her costume. She is wearing costume for work. These relate to two statues of Ma-chou on the left and right side of Guanyin. Ma-chou is the goddess of work and travel. From the characteristics of both goddesses, they are prayed for success in work and business. About Guanyin, you will also see her statues in various attitudes on the left altar table. The most interesting is the one in the attitude of thousand hands. It represents to help more people.

This is main characteristic of Bodhisattva especially for Guanyin. The kindness and compassion is the core of Mahayana Buddhism.

In front of Guanyin and two images of Ma-Chou, there is also a fortune stick and two pieces of wood in red color which are used for asking questions to the god. Both things are the simple thing which you can find in every Chinese shrine. However, there is no paper in English to read the result of the forecast. On the left side of the main building is the building which is said that this was the residence for Chinese monks before. Today one area of the building has become to the place for enshrining the buddha images in various attitudes. This can also tell us about the beliefs in this community. These images were created according to the belief of Theravada Buddhism but this shrine is the Taoism shrine and also relates to the Mahayana Buddhism form Guanyin.  You can also see this aspect in other shrines in Thailand. In my opinion, it tells about the respect of local belief because the main belief of Thai people is Theravada Buddhism.

All of these are the first place of Kudi-Chin community I recommend to you. There are another three places which reflect the other beliefs and cultures. Please wait to read it in my next blog. If you have a chance to travel to Bangkok and want to deeply get insight Kudi-Chin community more than I write on my blog, you can contact me by the comment or personal message.

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