White Temple Wat Rong Khun

White Temple Photo by Eric Bagchus

White Temple Wat Rong Khun is a contemporary unconventional buddhist and Hindu temple, desgned mostly in white colors. The city of Chiang Rai in northernmost Thailand, where the White Temple is located, is one of the remaining areas where traditional Thai art and culture still flourish. That’s why one of Thailand’s most renowned artists Chalermchai Kositpipat decided to build the White Temple there.

Construction began in 1997 and is still going. When completed, Wat Rong Khun will consist of nine buildings: the ubosot, the hall containing Lord Buddha’s relics, the hall containing Buddha images, the contemplation hall, the preaching hall, the monk’s cell, the door facade of the Buddhavasa, the art gallery, and the toilets which will be built on an area of about 3 acres. But even being uncompleted the White Temple has become one of the most recognizable temples in the country and attracts a large number of visitors every year.

White Temple

Photo by Eric Bagchus

Wat Rong Khun is not similar to other temples in Thailand, as its ubosot (consecrated assembly hall) is designed in white color with mirrored glass mosaics embedded in the white plaster. The white color stands for Lord Buddha’s purity and wisdom. All the paintings inside the ubosot have golden tones. The artist used icons from modern culture and through space ships, superman and Neo from the Matrix movie to tell the story of Buddha in a very unique way. On the roof, there are four kinds of animals representing fire, water, earth, wind (4 elements). The lion’s mane represents fire; the naga (snake-like) stands for water; the elephant stands for the earth; and the swan’s wings represent wind.

The bridge leading to the temple represents the crossing over from the cycle of rebirth to the Abode of Buddha. The small semicircle before the bridge stands for the human world. The big circle with fangs is the mouth of Rahu, meaning impurities in the mind, a representation of hell or suffering. The bridge is surrounded with a huge pond containing white fishes and fountains.

On the left of the temple’s compound is a golden toilet which symbolize that there is beauty in all things. This golden toilet impresses people by its beauty rather than the fact that it is just a toilet.

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