This episode of the series looks at the part faith plays along the Mekong River. With just a short look at Christianity and Islam, which are found sporodically, the programme focuses on Buddhism, which is found in both Tibetan, Theravada and Mahayana forms.
The film opens with Tibetan monks in Yuantong Temple in Yunnan making a mandala, and this work acts as the frame for the programme, being brought to completion and then destroyed again at the end, signifying the impermanence and ever-changing nature of reality.
The film looks at the ordination procedures for young boys in Myanamar, and explains how this constitutes a rite-of-passage, which all boys must go through in order to be counted as a man; and also at the tradition of monks going for alms in the Theravada countries to support themselves.
There is a very interesting section on the collection and preservation of palm-leaf scriptures in Cambodia, which are often locked away and forgotten on the monasteries these days; and also on the revival of traditional arts, like palm-leaf writing itself.
We also see the central role the pagoda plays in people’s lives, being the focus of community life, and watch Chalermchai Kositpipat at work with his apprentices on his White Temple (Wat Rong Khun, which I photographed in 2011) in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Altogether this is a very sympathetic look at the various religious traditions along the river
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