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Bangkok Street Life – Khun George the Chinese Shrine caretaker and the Vegetarian Festival

Temple caretaker in Bangkok shrine

It’s the time of year again, the ninth Chinese lunar month, where Thailand celebrates Tesagan Gin Je the vegetarian festival. In certain areas of the city, especially Chinatown, Bangkok street life during this festival evolves into a spectacular event that should not be missed by any visitor or local resident.

“Sawadee Krap, my name is Ar and I am a tour guide at Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours. Chow Sue Kong Shrine is one of the highlights that we visit during all of our Bangkok city bicycle tours. A few weeks ago we were lucky to meet the caretaker of this shrine, Khun George, and he kindly spent a few minutes to talk to us about not only about his life but also the life of this beautiful shrine.”

Khun George has been the caretaker of the Chow Sue Kong Shrine for more than 20 years. This old Chinese shrine, tucked away in Talat Noi and fronting the Chao Phraya River, has been the centre of this old Chinese community for over 200 years. In fact this is one of the oldest Chinese communities in Bangkok.

This shrine is dedicated to the deity from which it is named after, the famous Chow Sue Kong or Qingshui, his statue is can be seen at the back of the building and it is the only one in Thailand. Chow Sue Kong was a Chinese monk who lived over 1,000 years ago and it is believed that he had the power to heal, consequently many visitors today pray to him for good health and protection. This shrine has been restored several times but the original timber structure still stands as it did during the Qing Dynasty and has many beautiful and colourful carvings depicting stories from Chinese literature.

Living and working at the shrine Khun George must be very fortunate to experience all the annual festivals that take place here. The biggest event is the Vegetarian Festival and this year it takes place from October 12 to October 22, this must be extremely hard work for him as the shrine is open 24 hours per day during this period!

The Vegetarian Festival (Tesagan Gin Je) at the Chow Sue Kong Shrine

Although this festival is widely celebrated across Thailand, in Bangkok the main gathering point for the festivities is in Chinatown and the Chow Sue Kong Shrine. At the shrine the festival is celebrated in the Hokkien tradition so every evening between 18:00 to 19:00 you can enjoy a traditional Chinese Opera that is performed as a blessing to the Gods.

Throughout the day during this wonderful festival the shrine becomes a truly a magical place where you can quietly watch people making merit whilst surrounded by burning candles, the smell of vegetarian food and incense smoke, and the colourful hanging lanterns and decorations.

If you would like to experience the fantastic atmosphere of this festival then why not join us on one of our Bangkok Bicycle Tours! For the perfect time to hit Chinatown during this festival we would recommend our Siam Ratree night tour.

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