Tha Rua Shrine is one of the oldest Chinese shrines in Phuket, found in Thalang District on Thepkasattri Road about 800m south of the Heroines’ Monument. It’s an important site during the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival when thousands of devotees come to hold ceremonies and eat vegetarian food during the event’s 9 days.
Tha Rua Shrine is also an important place for local worshippers to pray for recovery from sickness, as its resident deity “Po Sein” is known for having healing powers. It is a beautifully ornate temple – brightly coloured in red, gold and green with writhing dragon sculptures on its roofs and columns, a giant Taoist god statue, and vivid wall murals.
History of Tha Rua Shrine
Tha Rua Shrine’s origins date back more than 100 years, when a resident man living in Thalang had a statue of the deity Po Sein, the “saviour god”, in his home. The man became ill and was visited by a monk, who became a spirit medium for Po Sein. Through the monk, the god’s ancient healing techniques helped to heal the man.
Word of the man’s recovery spread through the village, and for years thereafter the monk was visited by many who came seeking his healing powers. One time, a wealthy man came to see the monk, who helped cure him of his illness. The monk never asked for anything in return for the treatment, but to honour the “saviour god” the wealthy man donated money that was used to build a shrine to house the Po Sein statue. A small temple was built, and over the years it expanded as it gained more followers.
In 2000, the airport road that runs in front of the shrine was expanded and took over some of the shrine’s land. With the help of donations, more land behind the temple grounds was purchased and the shrine was extensively renovated and expanded. Confucius sculptures were brought in from Nanjing, China. One eye-catching addition is the shrine’s huge Taoist god statue, with a fierce-looking red face, dressed in an elaborate golden and green uniform, and holding a golden sword.
Tha Rua Shrine and the Vegetarian Festival
Tha Rua Shrine is usually not very busy, but during the 9 days of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, usually held in October, it is a lively place with firecrackers, white-clad worshippers, and boisterous ceremonies to honour the festival’s warrior gods. The shrine also has dozens of “ma song”, or spirit mediums, who carry out some extreme activities like fire-walking and cheek-piercing as part of the festival’s purifying rituals.
Tha Rua Shrine first started hosting Vegetarian Festival activities in the late 1960s, when devotees began following the traditions that had been performed at the Kathu Shrine since the 1820s. It was seen as an additional way to bring good health and happiness to the community.
Visiting Tha Rua Shrine
Tha Rua Shrine is open daily, and there’s no fee or restrictions on entry, so anyone can stop by to have a look. Because it’s a sacred place, it’s best to dress modestly and shoes must be removed before entering the shrine buildings. Those visiting during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival should wear all white clothing in accordance with the festival’s traditions. Donations are welcome and could be placed in the boxes set up at the temple.
Tha Rua Shrine is located well north of Phuket Town and there’s not much to see within walking distance, but worth a visit to at least take some photos of the colourful buildings and statues. If you’re in the area, it would be easy to combine a visit to Tha Rua Shrine with a stop at Thalang National Museum, found only a kilometre away just east of the Heroines’ Monument traffic circle.
Tha Rua Shrine Info
Location: Sri Sunthon
Address: 187/7 Soi Lak Mueang 1, Si Sunthon, Thalang District, Phuket 83110
Hours: 8 am – 5 pm
Tha Rua Shrine Map