Wat Ong Teu was built in the early 16th century by King Setthathirath, but destroyed when the Siamese razed the city in 1827-1828.
It was then rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries and now holds an important position as the national centre of Buddhist studies.
The temple is quite colourful, with bright yellow and red accents. Enter the sim and the Phra Ongteu, its namesake large bronze Buddha, dominates in a serenely seated bhumisparsa mudra “earth witness” posture, signifying the moment just before he attained enlightenment. Though the temple is not the most spectacular, its central downtown location makes it a convenient place to go for a meditative stroll.
The wat is home to Sangha College, which was first established in 1929 by Prince Phetsarath and Somdet Phra Loukeo Outhen Sakda, head of the Lao sangha and Governor of Vientiane. After independence, the school was moved to Wat Ong Teu in 1953 and it has remained there since. Monks and novices from across Laos can enter Buddhist religious studies in a four-year degree (equivalent to a Bachelor degree) under the Faculty of Education or Faculty of Arts.
The wat is also known for its monthly organised “monk chat”, giving resident monks a chance to practise their English with tourists while tourists can learn more about life in Laos and the monastery.
When we visited in 2015, we weren’t able confirm if the formal sessions (held on the first Sunday of the month, from 15:00 till 17:00) were still taking place and our email to their contact info (email@example.com) was unanswered. We nevertheless recommend visiting Wat Ong Teu in the afternoon and chances are you will come across a student in the courtyard interested in a chat.
By Cindy Fan.
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