Xieng Khuan or more commonly known as Buddha Park, is a site located about 25 km from the capital city of Vientiane. Set along the mystical Mekong River, Buddha Park is home to several concrete sculptures ranging from the weird to the wonderful.
Buddha Park was founded in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a priest-shaman who practiced his very own self-improvised mix of Hinduism and Buddhism; his belief system is reflected superbly in the bizarre sculptures scattered around the site. Starting with a dome structure made up of three floors representing the three stages of the evolution of life: Hell, Earth and Heaven. The entrance is an open mouth of a demon inviting you in; you find yourself surrounded by scenes of bliss (Earth) to then be taken aback by evil-doers depicting barbaric scenes of torture and death (Hell). Up a narrow, spiral staircase takes you to the top (Heaven) of the dome where you can see the entirety of Buddha Park splayed out in all its crazy glory.
The park isn’t very big but it still manages to instantly capture you by taking you on a journey through its collection of weird and wonderful sculptures of demons and deities; you’re left wondering wtf is this all about. The ornate details and elaborate carvings embellish even the creepiest of these concrete wonders.
From googly-eyed giants to serpent-wrapped goddesses to multi-headed ghouls, I was in awe the whole time! This was definitely my kind of place (not to mention it was basically empty).
Among the brow-raising weirdness is a much more familiar image: a huge, beautiful lying Buddha obviously representing the founding priest-shaman’s Buddhist faith. Buddha is probably the only recognizable image in all the sculptures. There aren’t any descriptions of any of the sculptures; your imagination is your only guide.
Xieng Khuan Buddha Park was most definitely weird and wonderful. I highly recommend a visit if ever you’re in Vientiane!
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Have you been to Buddha Park? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit?
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