Wat Rong Khun

 

Wat Rong Khun

The city of Chiang Rai in northernmost Thailand is one of the remaining areas where  traditional Thai art and culture flourish.  Located near the city of Chiang Rai, about 5 kilometers to the south, is the beautiful Wat Rong Khun or White Temple.  The White Temple of Northern Thailand has become a national landmark and, as one of the most recognizable temples in the country, attracts an increasingly large number of visitors every year.

This trip is not my first time visiting the White Temple but its striking white radiance always brings an overwhelming feeling to me once I arrive and step out of the vehicle.

Wat Rong Khun is unique from other temples in that it has been constructed entirely in a radiant white color with sparking reflections from mirrored glass mosaics embedded in the white plaster. The temple is the idea of Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat, one of Thailand’s most renowned artists, who wanted to build a temple all in white to signify the purity of Lord Buddha. The artist continues to puts his religious belief and desire to enrich Buddhism in Thailand into his contemporary art design. The construction of the White Temple is Khun Chalemchai’s master work, which he refers to as an offering to Lord Buddha and his beloved country.

Wat Rong Khun-Human-liked Giant on the Bridge to Main Chapel
Wat Rong Khun - Human-liked Giant on the Bridge to Main Chapel
Wat Rong Khun - Pleading Hands Rise Up from Hell
Wat Rong Khun - Pleading Hands Rise Up from Hell

To approach the main entrance to the main chapel, I assume must signify a kind of passage to enlightenment because this is how I feel approaching the temple.  The passage is flanked by two tremendous man-like giants who somehow frighten me until I have to lower my eyes. But this doesn’t help me at all, as those grasping hands near the floor shake my nerves again. The hands are in assorted array, outstretched and seem to be pleading.  I realize that this piece of art must symbolize hell and how people in hell will suffer from their bad karma.

While climbing the bridge to the main hall, I notice that I am surrounded by a huge pond containing white fishes and fountains that spout up every now and then. The pond, to me, perhaps signifies the river – Si Tarndon – that divides the mundane world from heaven. As I get closer to the main building I think that this must be a representation of heaven.

Wat Rong Khun - Sculture of Buddhist Saint Sitting on Lotus
Wat Rong Khun - Sculture of Buddhist Saint Sitting on Lotus
Wat Rong Khun - Buddha Altar Inside of the Chapel
Wat Rong Khun - Buddha Altar Inside of the Chapel

Before the main chapel and at the end of the bridge there are several sculptures of meditating Buddha sitting in a lotus circled by spirits of the world.  The outer-decoration of the temple hall is all white color representing purity and wisdom of Lord Buddha, however, a dramatic contrast of color is found when arriving inside the main hall. I feel a sense of serenity when looking at a several Buddha altars set inside golden flame.

What surprises me the most is how the walls are painted with a colorful larger than life story related to Buddhist and teaching in a very modern and contemporary style. The artist uses icons from modern culture and through space ships, super man, and even Neo from the Matrix movie he tells of the story of Buddha in this very unique display.

Wat Rong Khun - Golden Toilet
Wat Rong Khun - Golden Toilet

On the left of the temple’s compound is a golden toilet which Chalermchai seems to also use to transfer some hidden message to visitors.   It is as though he is saying, “I want this golden toilet to be a symbol of the human response to imagery.”  I am one of the many who paused to consider what may be the artist’s message. Perhaps the message is also that there is beauty in all things, just like this golden toilet which impresses people by its beauty rather than the fact that it is just a toilet.

Chalermchai wishes Wat Rong Khun to become a learning and meditation centre for people to practice dharma and gain benefit from the teachings of Lord Buddha.

Wat Rong Khun is still a work in progress and will be for years to come.  It is planned to comprise nine buildings including the ubosot (chapel), pagoda, hermitage, crematorium, monastery hall, preaching hall, museum, pavilion, and rest room facilities which will be built on an area of 7 rai (about 3 acres).

แก้ไขล่าสุด (วันเสาร์ที่ 04 ธันวาคม 2010 เวลา 11:03 น.)