Wat Rong Khun:The White Temple of Thailand

Architectural design representing the creativity and vision of one gifted Thai artist.Wat Rong Khun is a unique temple that stands out through the white color and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster, sparkling in the sun. The white color signifies the purity of the Buddha, while the glass symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and the Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings.

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The White Temple is the creation of Thai artist, Chalermchai Khositpipat who was born in 1951 in the village of Rong Khun in Chiang Rai province. The project is an act of faith by the internationally acclaimed artist who has invested large amounts of his own money to create the temple.  Work began on the new Wat Rong Khun temple in 1997, but the artist knows that there are still many years to go before the project is completed and he has made plans for work to continue in the event of his death.

bosri-740x490The paintings on the walls inside represent a mix of traditional Thai Buddhist art and contemporary scenes like a plane crashing into the twin towers, the war for Oil, many movie/comics characters like Neo, Batman, Superman and Star Wars droids.

1115413243_7hrwE-X2Next to the white temple, on the other side of the pond, is also a the “Gharavasa” (the layman quarters) where an Art gallery, a preaching hall and a “golden public restroom” are located.

tour_img-842201-145To enter the temple, you must walk over a bridge and pool of reaching arms (symbolising desire), where inside, instead of the traditional Buddha life depictions, the artist has painted contemporary scenes representing samsara (the realm of rebirth and delusion). Images such as a plane smashing into the Twin Towers and, oddly enough, Keanu Reeves as Neo from The Matrix (not to mention Elvis, Hello Kitty and Superman, among others).

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The artist rose to prominence in the late 1980s, with commissions that included a Thai temple in London. His work, which blended traditional Buddhist decorative motifs with contemporary images, was controversial, especially in Thailand where rigid conformity to perceived ‘tradition’ is expected. However, over time his work became more accepted and he has even received commissions from the king. The temple suffered minor damage in an earthquake in 2014.

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The monks at the temple can spare a word or two if you are keen to interact and when you wish to experience the worldly things at the temple premise, head to the restrooms, painted in Gold. And as you will be returning after this most unique and amazing experience, the White Temple that is symbolic to the teachings of Buddhism, and achieving the state of Nirvana will be etched in your memories forever.

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This temple-like building is supposed to represent the Body (as opposed to the white temple that represents the Mind). Charlemchai built the two bots (white and gold) in hope to teach people to let go and not cling to substance or money, and not to perceive the physical body as an assumed identity.

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Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park, 5 km west of town, has lovely two lakes, a barge and several large Shan-style small ponds. There is interesting Haw Kam Golden Temple with two Shan halls containing accoutrements collected by Princess Maha Chakri and examples of Lanna craftsmanship: seven-armed candelabra, Buddha images, wooden alters, embroidered cloth for wrapping Buddhist scriptures, carved wood screens, swords, and monks’ fans.

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