31st of January 2019, four days before I leave for Vietnam I revisited Wat Pan On. Wat Pan On is one of the old temples in Old City of Chiang Mai. This temple is considered small compared to other temples in Old City, such as Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Pan Tao that are popular with the tourists. Visiting temples has been one of my activities while doing this research.
I went to Wat Pan On at around nine in the evening. In the day, the area of Wat Pan On is usually filled with merchants. At night, the atmosphere becomes silent. There are only a few merchants left who are packing their goods.
The silence makes it perfect for me to record the sound of bells and gongs in this temple. Wat Pan On, like most temples in Thailand, have large gongs. The diameter reaches more than one metre. The sound of gongs is inseparable with the spiritual life of the Buddhist people in Thailand. Not just in Thailand, the gong has spread throughout the south east asia, but with different shapes, functions, idioms, music, and culture. I will not explain too deep on this matter.
Because of the large diameter, the Wat Pan On gong produces a low frequency sound if hit. If analysed with an equalizer, the spectrum of the sound produced by the gong is below 50 Hz. I recorded this by hitting the gong with one hand while holding the microphone with the other. The vibration resonated through my whole body. it had a beautiful resonation. Just listen to this audio.
While I was recording, an elderly woman, around her 50s, came to me. She started a conversation. Her name was Iris, she was from German. She told me that she had been studying meditation with gongs from Tibet and Thailand. She even gave herself the name Iris Gongrich showing how much she is obsessed with gongs. The sound of gongs has a meditative quality. This unplanned conversation was lots of fun. It was like a refreshing new knowledge. She also told me that the people of Thailand usually rub the backside of the gong. If that person succeeds in making the gong resonate, then that person will receive many luck. This belief has the same principle as the Tibetan Bowl. After telling me this, she tried to make the gong resonate a couple of times, but failed. She said that she has done this before and succeeded. I personally did not try it.
I stress again that the sound of gong is inseparable with the spiritual life of the Buddhist people of Thailand.