The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Why is my limousine hot pink? Of Thai birthdays, Buddha hand positions, and colors

Written By: herbrunbridge - Feb• 05•11

Reclining Buddha. For those born on Tuesday, to reflect on life after death

Even casual visitors to Thailand have told us here at WoWasis that they’ve noticed a seeming color clash at practically every step.  Here’s a house painted hot pink and yellow.  A Bangkok taxi cab is green and yellow. A shop has red and green walls, but it’s not Christmas.

Somewhat subtler are the sculptures of Buddha. It may take you a while to notice, but the hand positions vary. Like the color variances, they mean something. They are culturally coded to the day of the week that an individual was born.

Every Thai knows the day of the week he or she was born. If a girl was born on Monday, for instance, her color is yellow, and she’ll prefer that color all her life. Yellow has additional significance in that it’s King Rama 9’s color. He’s the longest reigning monarch in the world, and loved by all Thais. Getting back to our girl, when she buys a house, expect all or part of it to be painted yellow. And if she eventually buys a white or black car, she may actually have something visible on the outside of the car stating “this car is yellow.”  Let’s say our Monday girl marries  a fellow born on Wednesday, and they start a taxicab business. Expect those cabs to be painted green and yellow.

Tuesday is pink day, same story for people born on Tuesdays. And like every other color-coded day or the week, on Tuesdays, hotel personnel, servers, and various employees all over Thailand will be wearing pink, born that day or not. The color is associated with the day, and becomes extra-special for the person born on that color day.

The owners of this tuk-tuk were probably born on a Monday and a Friday

Before we discuss Buddha days of the week, here’s a list of the colors associated with the days of the week:

Sunday: Red
Monday: Yellow
Tuesday: Pink
Wednesday:  Green
Thursday: Orange
Friday: Blue
Saturday: Violet

Each day of the week is associated with a different aspect of the hand position of Buddha (and two on Wednesdays). For example, a person born on Wednesday night would spend one’s life trying to be a giving person, forgiving the transgressions of others, and forgetting wrongs when they are no longer relevant.  The aspect of Buddha’s hand would be a constant reminder. As would the color green.

Here are the Buddha hand positions associated in Thailand with specific days and philosophical goals:

Sunday: Palms crossed downward, emphasis on being polite
Monday: Right palm raised, left palm down, on knee, emphasis on avoiding doing bad things
Tuesday: Reclining Buddha, emphasis on life after death
Wednesday (day): Both hands around a bowl, emphasis on ensuring that parents are always fed and cared for
Wednesday (night): Right palm on knee, face up, left palm on knee, face down, emphasis on giving, forgiving, forgetting
Thursday: Both palms up, crossed on lap, emphasis on good thinking, meditation
Friday: Hand crossed above heart, palms toward body, emphasis on love
Saturday: Buddha sits inside of a cobra-like umbrella, palms up, crossed on lap, emphasis on good thinking and support

Now, you’ll know a whole lot more about why things are painted certain colors, and why Thais might emphasize different approaches to situations. When you walk into the home or business of a person born on Friday, therefore, expect to see a lot of blue things, as well as a Buddha image with hands crossed above the heart, palms toward the body. And expect that whatever your transaction with the Thai person is, he or she will make some attempt to love you just a bit more.

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