One of the things that makes the city of Vientiane so special, is that there are a remarkable number of Buddhist monasteries that exist within the city. Many of these date back for centuries, one even over 1800 years, highlighting the incredible and rich religious culture of this now communist nation.
The Origin of Wat Ong Teu
Wat Ong Theu, which means “Temple of the Heavy Buddha,” was established as part of the relocation of the capital city of Laos to Vientiane. The ruler at the time, King Setthathirat I built many monasteries within the area including this temple. As part of the building of this temple complex, the king had sculptors build six statues of the image of Phra Ong Teu, the first of these were to be placed in his living quarters at Wat Ong Theu.
Because of this, the temple became significantly more important to the king. In fact, most of the original ceremonies of allegiance were held within this temple. Over the years the temple was transformed by later kings away from the temple and into a Buddhist learning center were such things as teaching, enlightenment, and inspiration of worshipers became the focus. This location became one of the central schools for monks in Southeast Asia where they could come to learn the principles of dhamma.
The Rebuilding of the Temple
Because Laos has endured a large number of invasions from imperialistic countries, many of its prized temple areas have been destroyed or fallen into disrepair at some point. In 1827-28, Siam invaded the city and destroyed the temple as well as other monasteries in the city. Following the destruction of group of bandits tried to sack the city again, taking most of the gold that was present at Wat Ong Theu. After the Franco-Siamese treaty of 1843, France decided to make Vientiane its capital city within the country of Laos. In 1900 the reconstruction of the monastery began again, and Wat Ong Theu was opened as a place of study. In 1929, the Lao Buddhist Institute was founded in the temple area and still serves today as one of the primary schools of the Theravada Buddhist religion.
The Beauty of the Temple
While Buddhism dominates a majority of Southeast Asian religious beliefs, it should be understood that Hinduism played a significant role in the area for many of the earliest centuries of recorded history. Because of this, there is a great deal of Hindu influence on the temple complex itself. This is why there is a great deal of Theravada Buddhist architecture within the design and displays of Wat Ong Theu.
Inside the temple walls, you will find two standing Buddhas that are connected to their platforms. Built out of a wide variety of materials, predominantly of bronze, and sitting on a golden pedestal, the statues cast a towering view over the temple complex because of the significance of Buddha within the faith, it is only natural to see that the statues would prominently displayed for all visitors entering the temple area.