Monday, April 22, 2013
HK celebrities popularize Thai Amulet culture
Recently there was an article in Malaysia's New Life Post paper regarding the practice of many famous Hong Kong celebrities wearing Thai amulets to help them in their show biz career. For example, Cecilia Chung is said to wear a Somdej Wat Rakang (more likely to be Somdej Kaiser) and known to keep many Kumantongs at home. She is probably heavily influenced by ex-husband Nicholas Tse and mother in law Deborah, who are both Thai Buddhists and Phra Prom Erawan devotees. It also mentioned Jackie Chan, who was said to be wearing Somdej Than Saem 2517 from LP Pae when he survived falling from a great height during a movie shooting accident in 1986. Later this Somdej was named "Pim Jackie Chan" after him and became extremely popular in HK and Taiwan. Finally it talked about martial arts and action star Donny Yan, who always wear his Khun Paen while shooting dangerous action sequences.
These HK celebrities and their belief in Thai amulets have helped to spread Thai Buddhist culture not only in HK, but Taiwan and today China, covering a large part of East Asia. Especially in China, where waves of Thai amulet shops have mushroomed in many major cities, against an officially atheistic communist culture. We can say the zeal of persecuting organised religion since the days of the Cultural Revolution has not only been totally eaten away by commercialism, but ironically a commercial part of religion at that. In a vast China market, the demand for Thai amulets very often exceeds the supply that those dealers could provide. Which is why we can now see many China citizens prowling Tha Pachan and Pantip Ngam Wong Wan in Bangkok, buying amulets and casings in large numbers. But although the varieties of Thai amulets number into thousands, these guys are only interested in a few types, most notably: Butterfly, 9-tail Fox, KMTs, LP Pae and maybe LP Koon. So much so that the prices for these amulets have shot up many times. A good example mentioned in the article is China rich girl Guo Meimei, who gained some celebrity status flaunting her wealth on the Internet. Having gained some good fortune in the casino after chowing 2 KMTs, she eventually opened a shop in Beijing selling mostly KMTs and other popular amulets. Above we can see her chowing many KMT buchas from AJ Nikom (aka AJ Kom) in Suphanburi. She said that the cheapest KMT in her shop cost 3800 RMB, or more than 18000 Thai baht. This is at least 9x the original price at AJ Kom's Samnak, which is a huge profit for our already rich Ms Guo. The expensive ones cost more than 20000 RMB. She claims that the business at her shop is excellent and so we can only imagine the rich getting richer.
Although it is not a bad thing for China people to soak up Thai amulet culture, I'm afraid they do not know why they work or what is their purpose. And by this I mean the real amulets and not those fake or commercial ones. Like many from other countries who are captivated by them, they only see the superficial aspect of amulets and not its spirit - which is to make merit in the Triple Gems, to keep the 5 precepts, to refrain from all evil and to cultivate all that is good. Without the basic tenets of Buddhism in place, amulets are only empty gadgets, no different from toys. If one day their amulets fail to bring them good luck or protect them from danger, they will only have themselves to blame for being ignorant. I hope that they can slowly be inspired by Thai amulets to learn more about Buddhism and improve their lives spiritually. Only then would the purpose of those guru monks who created them be fulfilled, sadhu.