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Wat Rong Khun: The Majestic “White Temple” of Chiang Rai

If one man alone can make a difference in this world, the Chiang Rai-born visual artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, could be the better example about one man’s initiative in making a change that is set to last for more than his lifetime.

As the sole person responsible for the design and construction of the now-iconic architecture, the Wat Rong Khun, Kositpipat has gained worldwide prominence. Not only is his own creation in itself regarded a masterpiece, the credit also goes to him for solely funding its making which, to date, had costed him around 40 million Thai baht.

What is Wat Rong Khun?

Of all the temples that were erected in the land of the smiles, Wat Rong Khun makes a name for itself as among the youngest. With its construction having had only started in the year 1997, this majestic infrastructure also known as the “White Temple” is many centuries short than the rest of Thailand’s wats (temples).

But, despite its relatively fresh existence and an almost abandonment due to the aftermath of the 2014 earthquake in Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Khun still makes for an enduring project that did not cease to exist. Rather, it continues to develop foreseen to be longer than its creator’s lifespan.

What is there to see at Wat Rong Khun?

From the outset, the White Temple is a stray from the usual temples you shall see dotting Thailand’s soil. When most of the Thai wats take pride for being monumental, glistening with gold, or exuding golden hue, the Wat Rong Khun is not shy for embodying the color white.  

But while this structure lacks in height, it overcompensates with design that is dumbfounding for most tourist yet amazing to look at. Simply, no temple at anywhere else in Thailand is as highly-ornate, deeply religious, and philosophical from the exterior as the Wat Rong Khun.

While its aesthetics is one thing, the meaning behind the artist’s depiction of the temple’s facade is also another.

From the entrance, visitors are enchanted by the artist’s portrayal of the journey across the sea of suffering as depicted by ghastly hands embodying human desires. This experience, according to the wat’s creator, is meant to symbolize the need to overcome hell before reaching the heaven.

Although that was just a very short walk towards the supposed “nirvana,” which is the very temple itself, but it’s also a very bizarre experience indeed given the grotesque imagery portrayed.

Braving your way through the metaphorical sea of suffering is, to a point, may be heart stopping. But, reaching the inside hall of the temple, on the other, is a major shocker for most audiences.

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