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March 24, 2012

Buddha Park

The Buddha Park is situated in a Mekong River’s meadow of around 25km from Vientiane downtown. This sculpture park is not a temple (Wat), yet sometimes is referred to as Wat Xieng Khuan (Spirit City) as it contains over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues.

The park construction was started in 1958 by Luang Pu (Venerable Grandfather) Bunleua Sulilat. Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat was a priest-shaman who integrated Hinduism and Buddhism. He had already built a sculpture park in Thailand before coming to Laos.

All statues in Buddha Park are made of reinforced concrete and are ornate, and sometimes bizarre, in design. The statues appear to be centuries old, though they are not. There are sculptures of humans, gods, animals, and demons. There are numerous sculptures of Buddha, characters of Buddhist beliefs like Avalokiteshvara, and characters of Hindu lore, including Shiva, Vishnu, and Arjuna. These sculptures were presumably cast by unskilled workers under the supervision of Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat.

The most notable sculpture resembles a giant pumpkin. It has three stories representing three levels - Hell, Earth and Heaven. The entrance is a mouth of a 3-metre-tall demon head and has staircases supposedly from hell to heaven. Each story contains sculptures depicting the level. At the top, there is a vantage point where the entire park is visible. Another hallmark is an enormous 120-metre-long (390 ft) reclining Buddha sculpture which can be seen from board on Mekong River.

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