April 19, 2012

Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple

Nearly 10 years ago, Kong Tith, a senior monk at Wat Dhammararam Cambodian Temple, had a dream, he says, that instructed him to create a statue of the the Buddha.

Not just a statue, but a monument, stretching more than 50 feet long and 12 feet tall, on the otherwise flat and modest temple grounds just off Highway 99.

Kong has since filled the temple garden with 90 more bright and bejeweled sculptures, made mostly out of chicken wire and concrete. Each depicts a scene from Buddhist teaching. Each represents a vision that came to Kong in a dream.

Many in Stockton's Cambodian community came to the United States as refugees, fleeing terror in their home country in the years following the Vietnam War. They built new lives in a new place, and tried to keep hold of the precious traditions of their past - Kong does it through his art.

The temple welcomes guests - including those who, like us, are not Cambodian and are not Buddhist - and there is no charge to enter. (The Stockton Convention and Visitors Bureau has created a helpful little guide to the statues that you can print and take along with you. Otherwise, monks are usually happy to answer questions, but many speak only Khmer).

We took Alice during the recent Cambodian New Year celebration.

I wasn't sure we should: She wasn't going to understand. There wasn't anything for her to do.

But in the end, when it was time to come home, she didn't want to leave.

And I love the opportunity to begin to show her how big the world is.

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