Superheroes are coming to the rescue of Thailand’s temples, where monks have commissioned giant statues of comic book icons and toy robots to entertain children while parents donate to their coffers.

Instead of the traditional tranquil Buddhas and mythical beasts, the shimmering Wat Ta Kien temple outside Bangkok is guarded by three towering Transformer robots.

The enormous and intricate sculptures, made from bits of scrap metal and painted bright orange, yellow and blue, “have no spiritual purpose”, explained monk Pra Vichien.

“It’s for children so they won’t get bored when they come to the temple with their parents,” he said.

Other temples are following suit as monasteries compete for visitors and keep donations flowing.

At least four Buddhist temples across Thailand and a meditation centre have bought superhero statues, according to Pairoj Thanomwong, the Thai artist who runs the workshop where the figures are manufactured.


The statues at Ban Hun Lek have no religious purpose. They are purely to entertain. Photo: AFP

Armed with blow torches, heaps of metal bolts and twisted car parts, the artists piece together the elaborate sculptures in a warehouse in central Thailand called Ban Hun Lek, which translates to “House of Iron Robots”.

The largest sculptures – around 7 to 8m high – can be sold for thousands of dollars, he said.

The factory also sells its wares to local restaurants and bars but its biggest customer base lies abroad, especially in Europe, with around 80% of sales made to overseas clients who have seen the statues on social media.


Another temple, Wat Tam Ru in Samut Prakan province outside Bangkok, also has statues of superheroes. This one is of Marvel superhero Iron Man. Photo: EPA

Nearly 90% of the materials are recycled metal, a cost-cutting measure that also means each piece is unique.

Tastes have changed quickly since he went into business, he said.

“Over the past 10 years, people used to like (characters from) Aliens and Predator, but now they like the Transformers.”– AFP Relaxnews