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Wei Tuo (韦驮, อ้วยโท้)

Chinese-Thai. Name for the general-bodhisattva, who according to legend vowed to protect the members of the Sangha when they are disturbed by Mara, and to guard and preserve the teachings of the Buddha. As such, he is regarded the guardian of Mahayana Buddhist monasteries, the one who protects the dharma. He is traditionally placed on the far right of the main temple shrine, while on the left is his counterpart Guan Yu or Kuan U (fig.). Yet, in Taoist temples, his statue is usually placed with his back to that of the Maitreya or Smiling Buddha, who faces towards the entrance, making Wei Tuo facing inward, overlooking the temple's yard and its main buildings. His weapon is a sword-like vajra-staff, on which he either leans when placed vertically on the ground in front of him, or which he holds horizontally over his hands that are in a namaskara (namadsakahn) or wai gesture in front of his chest (fig.). The first pose is said to inform that the monastery offers accommodation to traveling monks and pilgrims, whereas the second pose tells any travelers of the opposite. However, in some temples, Wei Tuo is depicted with his vajra sword in a different pose, i.e. swaying it over his head, holding it vertically at his shoulder (fig.) or letting it rest on it, or placed on the ground in a slant position (fig.). He is also called Wei Tuo Pu Sa (韦驮菩薩), meaning the ‘Bodhisattva Wei Tuo’, and is associated with Skanda, the Hindu god of war (fig.). In Thai, he is known as Phra Wet Photisat (the Veda Bodhisattva) and as Maha Chomphoo, whereas in Thai-Chinese temples he is often referred to by the Tae Chew name Uy Tho. In Vietnam, he is known as Ho Phap Vi Da (fig.).