The Thais' belief in guardian spirits and shrines will long remain a part of the Thai culture. It is similar to the beliefs of the Chinese, the Balinese or other nations in Asia, differing in only the minor details.
As modern skyscrapers go up along city streets, architects are now designing not only the high-rises, but also the traditions spirit houses (san phra phum), creating sleek, contemporary versions that maintain architectural harmony.
The small shrines, looking much like miniature temples atop a pedestal, are not a Buddhist custom, as many visitors think. They're Brahmin in origin, enthusiastically adopted by the Thais many years ago and now found outside virtually every home and building in the Kingdom. By making the spirit houses more attractive than the home or
building - along with offerings of flowers, incense, food and drink - the owners hope the spirits will live in the spirit house and serve as guardians, rather than move to the main structure.
Most Thai homes have small spirit houses prominently placed on a corner of their land (ideally where they will not be in the shadow of the home), while hotels and other large buildings have bigger, more grandiose versions. Some of the new ones are worth a look, boasting modern designs in glass and granite to match the highrises the spirits watch over.
Despite their modern appearance, traditions are not ignored. Brahmin priests approve the contemporary designs, so long as they don't violate old beliefs. All must have windows and one or more entrances, and be constructed on two levels. On the upper level is an image of the guardian spirit, and below are miniature people and animals representing the spirits followers.
Honoring the Post-Modern Spirit, Sawasdee Thai Magazine, Sepember 1997, P.12
Piraong Gulpisal, "The Spirit House", Kinnare Thai Airways Magazine, January 1987, P. 43-46