Wat Rong Khun- Visiting One of the Most Beautiful Temples in the World
Updated: Jan 15
The creator and founder of the Wat Rong Khun or the White temple is Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. Inspired by art, Kositpipat vowed to construct the most beautiful and pristine temple in the entire world. The project was launched in 1996 and some contended the project will be complete in 2070 with an extraordinary outcome of 9 buildings. Interestedly, Kositpipat funded the entire project for about 40 million Thai Baht ($351,400.02.) Educated at Silpakorn University and at Faculty of Painting Nature and Graphic Arts, Kositpipat successfully won a Gold metal during his 4th year in college. When he moved to Chiang Rai, he produced 200 paintings on a yearly basis.
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On May 5 2014, a great earthquake significantly struck the temple badly damaging it. However, the temple was repaired and expanded. The scenery of the white temple is filled with a myriad of symbolism. Inside the temple, the murals facing the Lord buddha, for instance, is a representation of the Lord buddha coming from the Nirvana (Buddhist’s notion of heaven). Contrastingly, the mural position in front of the Lord Buddha is symbolic of the Lord Buddah’s conflict with the demon. Kositpipat felt that we could find inner peace, enlightenment, and freedom just like the Lord Buddha experienced.
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Kositpipat chose the color white over gold because according to the religion of Buddhism white symbolizes purity and gold represents lust for evil deeds. The Lord Buddha, Kositpipat noted, was pure. Throughout the temple, there were small mirrors representing wisdom (Dharma).
When the bright sun penetrated onto the temple, the shiny glass and structure constantly sparkled from a distance.
Facing the front side of the temple was a green pond filled with varieties of fish.
Next to the pond was a an eerie scenery that involved monsters, three eyed bulls, snakes, tortured looking skeletons, and dragons.
Next, there was a sea of hands (symbolizing desire and suffering souls) desperately coming out of the ground. It was a picture of helplessness as these people who are in hell are metaphorically crying out to be freed from hell. This area represents suffering and hell.
Passed the hands coming out of the ground, you will find a bridge which is a gap that leads from hell, (a place of suffering and death) to a place of heaven (free of suffering). Heaven is the path of enlightenment. Two scary demon looking guards defensively stood between the bridge. The one guard on the left brandished a thick bat behind his back. The guard on the right side, however, brandished a sharp unique sword. Engraved in each of the guard sculptures was demonic like skulls. The two guards decide each others’s fate.
Buddhism teaches when a person dies, he or she can be reborn into a human or an animal. This process of reincarnation is frequently addressed in Buddhist writings. Nevertheless, the reincarnation is based upon a living person’s merit, good and bad deeds.
At the end of the bridge was the gate to heaven which leads to happiness. Inside the temple or ubosot (ordination hall), you will find very unique paintings including a plane crashing into New York’s twin towers emitting bright orange flames, Superman, spaceships, and demons with the faces of George Bush and Osama Bin Ladin. The Thai artist Kositpipat placed blame on George Bush and Osama bin Laden for precipitating war, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Upon exiting the temple, sculptures of two dragons can be observed depicting them defending the temple.
The Golden temple constructed next to the White temple symbolizes someone seeking merit (being a good person for a reward) and focusing on the mind. Inside the gold temple, you will find restrooms. The elaborate gold toilets are considered the prettiest toilets in the world. As stated earlier, gold represents worldly desires. There is an implied conflict between the symbolism of white and gold.
Next to the gold temple were two beautiful glittering and decorated seemingly gold and silver trees. Beneath the trees was a beautiful white design of flowers.
Several feet from the trees was a exquisite white canopy. On each side of the canopy were various kinds of statue like creatures.
Every year an increasingly large number of people visit the Wat Rong Khun temple. This is by far the most beautiful temple I have visited. You will experience a frightening scene of hell and suffering and then in the end you are caught in awe at the spectacular scene and the artwork.
We finished our tour with some delicious durian cookies, mango shakes, and some authentic Thai food.
How to get to the Wat Rong Khun
If you are coming from the city of Chiang Rai, I would recommend taking a grab taxi. We took a grab taxi to the temple for 210 Thai Bhat ($6.48). The trip from the Chiang Rai bus terminal 1 to the White temple was 8.2 miles. The total time was about 17 minutes. The opening hours are from 0800 a.m. to 5 p.m.