Ashley / Bangkok

Zebra Crossing Spirit Houses

I managed to accomplish a lot this weekend, including joining this yoga studio, eating dinner here and here and having drinks and listening to somewhat decent live jazz here. On a mini-exploration on Sunday I came across this scene two buildings down from my new yoga studio.

The Thai spirit house is a shrine or altar for the protective spirit of a location. They’re common to see in many businesses and homes around Thailand and Southeast Asia. The location of the shrine is selected by a Brahmin spiritual leader and usually is adorned with fruit and flowers. This house however is adorned with an array of animals, including a plethora of zebras. After running through the various children’s songs that this conjured up in my head, I thought to myself, zebras? in Thailand?

So what’s with the zebras you might ask? Well, I found an answer, from two somewhat legitimate websites and as one says:

“Animals are an important icon in Buddhism to remind people about their relation to the natural world. There is an interesting theory about why the zebra is the chosen statue around some Thai spirit houses. It’s believed that because a pedestrian zebra crossing is technically a ‘safe zone’ on the road, placing the statue at shrines can bring that same sort of protection to an individual. It is alleged that a monk told one truck driver to deploy zebra statues to ensure a safe path to success, and over time, other Thais began placing similar statues.”

Sounds bogus, no? Well, I’ll be asking around school tomorrow to let you know. But until then, Phil arrives in Bangkok tomorrow for a week long holiday. I look forward to exploring the city with him, eating a lot and reporting back to you on our findings, and the zebras too!

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