Wat Rong Khun Temple or “The White Temple” as it’s also known near Chiang Rai in northern Thailand may well hold claim to being the Kingdom’s most unique and one of it’s most elegant Theravada Buddhist temples.
Wat Rong Khun temple was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who is a very famous fine art painter in Thailand .He volunteered his services in 1977 for the construction of the temple, all at his own expense, as his offering to the Lord Buddha.
Construction of the temple complex did not begin until 1997. For 20 years prior to this, Chalermchai Kositpipat collected funds for the project through the sale of his paintings. He had managed to accumulate 30 million baht (US$890k) for the construction of the temple main complex.
The temple is a “dazzling” shade of white and glisten stunningly under the sun. The colour white was chosen as a reference to Buddha’s purity. The millions of small pieces of mirrored glass used to decorate the outside of the temple complex, represents the wisdom of Buddha, which shines “all over both the Earth and the universe”.
A semi-circle, which can be found just in front of the bridge that leads toward the temple, represents the human world. While the bridge itself, represents the crossing over from the cycle or rebirth and into the house of Buddha.
A large fanged circle which can be found near the bridge signifies the mouth of Rahu, which in Hindu faith is a sign of suffering, hell and the impurities of the mind. In Hindu mythology, Rahu is a snake that causes eclipses by swallowing the sun or the moon.
Wat Rong Khun, although open to the public, is technically still underconstruction. The temple complex is designed to include ninebuildings, including the main temple, which in Thai is known as a “Ubosot”. The other facilities will include a hermitage, pagoda, temple, crematorium, museum, monastery hall, pavilion and toilets. The pagoda is being constructed just behind the wat or main temple.
It is estimated that the completion of the Wat Rong Khun complex will take about 60 to 70 years. This is primarily because Chalermchai Kositpipat refuses to solicit contributions for the constructionof the temple complex, as he vowed to complete the temple at his own expense.
Visitors and organizations that want to contribute are only allowed to donate a maximum of 10,000 baht or US$300. Instead of straightforward donations, Chalermchai encourages visitors to buy his art pieces, Buddhist art t-shirts and publications on sale at the museum to help out.
Wat Rong Khun is managed by an abbot, a monk and a committee consisting of 35 people from the local village. The temple does not promise visitors reincarnation or a better life, instead it aims to provide them good feelings while walking around the magnificent grounds.
On a personal note, everytime I have cause to go to Chiang Rai, I always allow an extra hour to just go & slowly walk around this wonderful place. Wat Rong Khun is a great place to just sit & reflect upon life!.
Getting There is easy, the temple is located just 5 kms (3 miles)to the south of Chiang Rai on Highway 1. Travelling time fromChiang Mai is around 3 hours by bus or car.
If you have already been there, and have really great memories of your visit, please share your Wat Rong Khun Temple memories here.