Praying for better times ahead

Praying for better times ahead

Chinatown temple hosts thousands of devotees hoping for luck in the coming months

Devotees come with offerings to pray for good fortune at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat in Bangkok's Chinatown. Apichart Jinakul
Devotees come with offerings to pray for good fortune at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat in Bangkok's Chinatown. Apichart Jinakul

Since the start of the Chinese New year, devotees have been flocking to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat -- also known as Wat Leng Noei Yi in Chinatown -- to pray and seek the blessings for the months to come.

In February each year, the temple, widely regarded as the most sacred Chinese shrine in the kingdom, hosts throngs of visitors from all over the country -- all hoping to take part in a ritual to dispel bad luck from their lives and pray for prosperity for the year ahead.

The ritual is a part of activities which are traditionally carried out right after the new year. In Thailand, many observe a tradition called kae chong -- which means "neutralising misfortunes" -- to ensure good luck in the coming months, and avoid pi chong, or the "cursed year".

The Bangkok Post recently spoke to some devotees at the temple in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district to get their perspective on the long-standing tradition.

A group of sisters at the temple said they came to pray for a prosperous life, hoping the gods enshrined at Wat Mangkon will help their new second-hand printer business take off.

According to Chinese astrology, those born in the years of the Monkey, Snake and Pig will face adversity in the Year of the Tiger.

One of the sisters, Thananith Teeraphanjavitt, 55, said she felt compelled to seek blessings at the temple, because she was born in the Year of the Monkey.

Ms Thananith said the best time to ask for blessings is 15 days after Chinese New Year Day, when the gods descend from the heavens.

"Vendors and those who were born in 'cursed years' are advised to seek the gods' blessings on that day," she said.

She also said those who were born in "cursed years" should avoid going and eating at funerals, as well as refrain from combing their hair to help ward off bad luck for the year.

That said, her sister Kamolluck, 68, said she's indifferent to the concept, saying good things can also happen to those born in a "cursed year".

"I was born in an unlucky year. Surprisingly, this year, my business is going well," she said.

Another visitor, Kamonchanok, 36, agreed with Kamolluck.

"Like this year, for instance. According to the Chinese zodiac, this year is supposed to be my unlucky year," she said.

''However, I made a handsome profit from trading, my sales increased, and I received the opportunity to expand my online business.

"I also won the gold lottery on New Year's Day."

Instead of hoping to ward off bad luck, however, she said she came to attract good karma.

Unlike Kamolluck and Kamonchanok, Rattana Rengluckrungrod, a 67-year-old shopkeeper, said she strongly believed in the concept of pi chong.

She said in her unlucky years, she has always felt the need to "exorcise the demons" out of her life.

"In one of my 'unlucky' years, I didn't come to pay my respects to the Chinese gods at the Chinese temple and I also went to the funeral that year. When I went home, I fell down and broke my arm," she said.

"Since then, whenever it is my pi chong, I would avoid funerals and pray at the temple. Things gradually became better afterwards," she said.

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