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.
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 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).