Buu Dai Son Pagoda, Da Nang

Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn, pictured here, serves as a useful reminder that the swastika is a religious symbol with a long and honorable history. In Buddhism the swastika symbolizes, among other things, the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. It also is an auspicious sign representing good fortune in Hinduism and other Eurasian religions.

The swastika’s modern history is rather less distinguished. It was co-opted by German Nazis in the 1930s and lives on today as an emblem of neo-Nazi vermin in the United States and elsewhere.

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Ta Phrom Temple, Cambodia

Although some restoration work is underway at the site, Ta Phrom temple remains in a state of disrepair. The quiet grandeur of this eight to nine hundred year old temple complex nonetheless shines through the rundown condition of many of the structures. In fact those conditions may actually enhance the grandeur. I remember being astonished by the soft colors and faded beauty of the Temple of the Sun in Beijing when I first visited in 1987. When I returned 25 years later, the site had been “restored” and looked like a gaudy movie set; it was very disappointing. In fairness, restoration work at the Forbidden City has, in my opinion, done an excellent job retaining the feel the place had before work began. Be that as it may, restoration is needed to preserve sites like Angkor Wat and the Forbidden City and to protect them from the damage the millions of tourists who visit each year can do, whether inadvertently or maliciously. Hopefully the work here will proceed with a sensitivity to retaining the sense of ancient power this place has.

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