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Thai Temple Rubbings

After Dad had been in Vietnam for around six months, he was eligible for R&R.  He and a buddy chose to go to Bangkok, Thailand.  There they watched Dragon boat races, and visited some of the temples.  At the temples, there were temple rubbings for sale.  Basically, there were centuries old engravings and bas-relief pictures relating the conquests of kings in battle.  At least one side ‘fought like demons’ and were depicted as demons.  Even the horses looked fierce! Others depicted court life, including musicians and dancers.  The colors were vibrant, with brilliant peacock blues and greens, others were flaming red, while more were in yellow and shades of gold and orange.  Dad was very taken with those, and bought several.  He kept them in his hootch in Saigon.  Then, after he returned home, his friend mailed the rubbings to him back home.  Some were given as gifts to my other aunts and uncles.  Mother, however, took one look, found them gaudy, and instantly decided she did NOT want any half naked exotic dancers or musicians decorating HER home.  No!

She did have some reason for her phobia of things Oriental.  For one, Dad had spent three wars in the Orient.  WWII saw him stationed in Karachi, India. (Now Pakistan).  He spent a year in Korea in Kimpo, and then in Saigon during the Vietnam War.  Three separations she knew were necessary, but that didn’t mean she had to like it even one little bit! And there was another reason:  one of her school friends had a husband who had ended up as one of the prisoners in the Bataan Death March.  He survived, but never recovered; he was never again the man he had been when she married him.  Add to that a perfume allergy to the packing material used in that area, and Mother was a lady who wanted nothing to do with things Oriental.

The net result was, none of the temple rubbings ever decorated their home.  Meanwhile, back in Bangkok, the monks and the government realized that all the rubbings made using rice paper and a waxed chalk crayon were slowly putting wear on the engravings and ruining them.  Making any more rubbings is now against the law there.

Which brings us to the present.  In going thru all the things in the house, I found mailing tubes with the temple rubbings.  I knew Dad had brought some of horses- I had been a horse-happy teenager who had no horse- just to please me.  I began to unroll the rice paper rectangles.  Finally, I found the horses! Three of them!  Each was actually just one horse, but copied a few times to make a design grouping.  One in peacock, one flame red, and the third in shades of gold with straw colored and orange highlights.  The red horses actually looked vicious!  And, I’m not that much of a red fan anyway.  So, the two others were selected for framing, and now hang on each side of my fireplace.

The rest of the rubbings do have value, and I couldn’t just waste them by dropping them off at the Goodwill store.  So, I donated them to a local hospital for them to sell at their charity art auction.

Jan Wertz


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