Wat rong khun, The Exotic Beauty of the Buddhist Art at the White Temple
Chiang Rai the region that rich in its natural attraction and the home of the famous artists of the country that produce lots of splendid pieces of art that many of them are the magnet to attract many people from all directions to have a trip to visit this wonderful province in the north of Thailand. And the top in mind landmark that anyone must not miss to check-in for the trip to Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Khun or better known among the foreign tourists “the White Temple” designed and created by the celebrated artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, Thai national artist in visual arts (painting) who dedicates his life to build this temple at his hometown. The White Temple features the magnificent architecture in Thai contemporary that noticeably cover up the Buddhist doctrine in the design and decoration in every single piece of art within the complex. Chalermchai and his followers have created this temple to be the most exquisite temple that now it becomes more than a tourist attraction but it is also the symbol to show the most esteem as a Buddhist who devote to his strong faith in the Buddhist religion that we assure you do not want to miss to visit, indeed.
About the White Temple
Wat Rong Khun situated in Pa O Don Chai sub-district in Mueang district, Chiang Rai. It is considered a significant temple in this region that designed and constructed by the famous art master “Chalermchai Kositpipat,” a local artist of Chiang Rai with lots of world-class pieces of art and accepted to be the National Artist in Visual Arts (Painting) in 2011. Chalermchai, initially create the White Temple with his strong faith in Buddhism and would like to dedicate the art of this temple for the religious. He intends to design the temple to represent and project to the Buddhist doctrine about the story of heaven, earth, and inferno is true. The heaven-like architecture of the White Temple is showing that as human-being we can reach heaven even when we still alive on the earth and also after death. The Buddhist dharma that passes on the architectural of the art reinforcing to anyone to pay effort for all kinds of the good deed when one lives.
The stunning and fabulous constructions of the temple, Chalermchai created them to be the heaven on earth. And the highlight of the place is ubosot that he presents it as the dwelling of Lord Buddha. Resulting in the numbers of the visitors who visit the place impress and can understand Buddhist art more.
About the design, Wat Rong Khun modeled to Wat Ming Mueang in Nan. Also, Chalermchai got the inspiration to design the temple from 3 things which are;
- Nation: With the love to his country and art. Therefore, he dreams to create the fabulous and elegant piece of art to be the precious heritage to the country.
- Religion: The religious doctrine influenced Chalermchai’s life. It changed him from hothead to a philosopher. Hence, he set a resolution to dedicate himself to serve the Buddhism.
- Monarch: Chalermchai had appeared before the late King Bhumiphol for many times, resulting in he’s grateful and esteems to the king at most. Whether HM the king’s royal duties and his kindness make Chalermchai to be overwhelming and want to create the art that will be his masterpiece and present to the beloved king, as well.
Therefore, we will see his work here at the White Temple is so magnificent and exotic beauty from other temples illustrated in the mural painting interior the ubosot is one of the great samples.
Background of the White Temple
Back to the time that Chalermchai Kositpipat came back to visit his hometown at Rong Khun Village in Chiang Rai. The celebrated artist foresaw “Wat Rong Khun” a local temple that established since the older generation was severely declined. Thus, he initiated to renovate the temple with a new style of art but suitable to Thailand the land under the royal protection of HM late King Rama IX. Furthermore, he wanted to make the great piece of art to be the precious property of the nation at his hometown, too. Thence, Chalermchai began his work since 1997 with his intention to devote himself to create this splendid and majestic artistic work as his last masterpiece with his saving fund that he had collected from more than two decades of his work life.
Insight Wat Rong Khun
Inside the complex consists of marvelous 9 buildings in diverse design presenting the heavenly realm. The art deco that accepted in its charismatic beauty has attracted lots of visitors in both domestic and worldwide to come and appreciate to the exquisite and splendid Buddhist art at the White Temple. Undoubtedly, the tourists will indulge in the delicate detail of the construction and decoration in every corner within the monastery. Also, those of the fantastic works of Chalermchai and his team interpolate the dharma and teaching of Buddhism for the people to learn and inspire to do the good deeds, too. The construction of those 9 buildings is expected to be complete approximate 60 – 70 years, and now when you visit the place you will see the building still on progress, continually. So, it could say that each time you go to visit the White Temple, you will see more construction metaphor the pieces of the jigsaw to finish the work of this famous artist.
Ubosot or the Sermon hall of Wat Rong Khun
And among those of marvelous architectures, Wat Rong Khun actually highlighted with the “Ubosot” or the sermon hall that is so fantastic and exotic in beauty. The building ornamented with the shiny silver glass creating the beautiful and exquisite appearance of this significant structure. At the pediment decorated with the figure of Naga and glass mosaic that reflects the sunlight resulting in the glittering reflection like the diamond. The Ubosot stands over the low hill surrounded with the clear water lake. The architectural of the art of the building designed by Chalermchai is meaningful which the following details;
- White: Pureness of the Lord Buddha
- Bridge: Walking across the “Cycle of Life”
- Small Semicircle: Earth
- Large Semicircle with the canine tooth refers to the mouth of the demon and Rahu which the means the lustful desires in mind representing to the inferno or suffering. Anyone who wants to appear before the Lord Buddha in the Buddha’ realm must release all desires into the mouth of the demon as the mind cleansing. Then, one can walk through to meet Rahu at the left and the demon in the right.
- 16 of the merging demons on both sides of the bridge (eight of each) refers to “the 16 causes of sorrow”, and then
- The Middle of the Bridge refers to “Sumeru Mountain” the dwelling of the deities
- Divine Lotus: The large 4 lotus in the center of the ascent at the sides of the ubosot represent to the arch of “the Four Stages of the Enlightenment” are Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami, and Arahant
- The Pond at the side means “the Sithandon Ocean” (the great sea according to the Buddhist’s belief). There are 6 stages of the heaven and after that will be the 16 levels of Brahma which represented with sixteen of the lotuses all around the building.
- The stairways: 3 parts of the stairs means the three characteristics of existence, namely impermanence (anicca), suffering (dhukkha), and non-self (anatta)
- The four lotus and four arch panels that the last gate is the triangle panel represents to the “emptiness” which means “”
- The upper roof designs to refer to “the Threefold Training,” namely Virtue (Sila), Mind (Samathi), and Wisdom (Panya), pursuing this training leads to the abandonment.
Mural Painting inside the Hall
Besides that, the mural painting inside the sermon hall is another magnificent thing that you must not miss, too. All four sides of the wall inside the room are painted with the mural painting in gold regarding the salvation from the evil wish, instead aiming to the nirvana. And the picture of the Buddha at the rear of the main Buddha image is a remarkable delightful image for anyone to satisfy. However, be noted that it is prohibited to take the photo inside the sermon hall.
The most beautiful toilets in the world
Not only the Buddhist art that reflects in the numbers of building and structures within the monastery complex, Wat Rong Khun also features another outstanding construction that anyone who comes to visit this temple has to snap some pictures for keeping sake. “Restroom” at Wat Rong Khun is fabulous and unconventional from what we may see at other temples in general. The exterior features the large size of Thai contemporary style pavilion in gold with fabulous decoration of whole structure included gateway and sink area. So, that is to say, the restroom at the White Temple so-called one of the most beautiful toilets in the world. The restroom separates between men and ladies, the rear part is men, and the ladies’ part is at the front. And it’s free of charge!
Wat Rong Khun opens daily in the monastery compound, art gallery and souvenir shop, and exhibition hall. Monday – Friday between 8.00am – 5.00pm and Saturday – Sunday between 8.00am – 5.30pm. And for your information, since October 1, 2016, the temple charges the admission fee for foreign visitors with THB50 per person, and it’s free to enter for Thai.
Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple is an excellent sample of the ultimate esteem of person who has strong faith in religioun and creates the magnificent work to be the fabulous and notable Buddhist art. This masterpiece of Chalermchai Kositpipat, the local artist of Chiang Rai is not only proving as the exciting tourist attraction that travelers both domestic and international put on top of the dream destination list of the trip in Chiang Rai and even in Thailand. But it also can prove that the architectural of the art here is worthwhile to consider as the valuable property of the country, indeed.
How to go to Wat Rong Khun
On the road route Chiang Rai – Bangkok, if you drive from Bangkok or Chiang Mai you will arrive at the temple before reach Chiang Rai town in about 13 km distance from the city. And do not worry to get lost since there are signs to guide the way to the temple all along the way.
By Public Transport:
The tourist can get the Blue pick-up truck service that drives pass Wat Rong Khun at Chiang Rai Transport Station (Old) and get off at the gangway to the temple and take some walks to the temple.