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
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.
Before the main chapel and at the end of the bridge there are
several sculptures of meditating Buddha sitting in a lotus
circled by spirits of the world. The outer-decoration of the
temple hall is all white color representing purity and wisdom of
Lord Buddha, however, a dramatic contrast of color is found when
arriving inside the main hall. I feel a sense of serenity when
looking at a several Buddha altars set inside golden flame.
What surprises me the most is how the walls are painted with a
colorful larger than life story related to Buddhist and teaching
in a very modern and contemporary style. The artist uses icons
from modern culture and through space ships, super man, and even
Neo from the Matrix movie he tells of the story of Buddha in
this very unique display.
On the left of the temple�s compound is a golden toilet which
Chalermchai seems to also use to transfer some hidden message to
visitors. It is as though he is saying, �I want this golden
toilet to be a symbol of the human response to imagery.� I am
one of the many who paused to consider what may be the artist�s
message. Perhaps the message is also that there is beauty in all
things, just like this golden toilet which impresses people by
its beauty rather than the fact that it is just a toilet.
Chalermchai wishes Wat Rong Khun to become a learning and
meditation centre for people to practice dharma and gain benefit
from the teachings of Lord Buddha.
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).
Meanings of The Main Building
It was my strong intention to build a temple in imitation of
heaven. I wanted it to be a heaven on earth.
I built a main building in the Buddhist monastery. I wanted it
to be like a house of the Buddha with white color representing
His purity and white glass representing His wisdom shining all
over the earth and the universe.
The bridge symbolizes transition from the cycle of life to the
land of the Buddha. In front of the bridge is a small
semicircle, representing the world. The large semicircle with
the demon king�s fangs embodies passion and desire. We need to
throw our passion and desire away into the mouth of the demon
king to clean ourselves before going inside the main building.
On each rail of the bridge are 8 monsters, totaling 16 monsters
representing 16 types of passion. The middle of the bridge
symbolizes Sumeru Mountain, which is the habitation of gods. The
pond below stands for Sithandorn Ocean. Above the 6-layer heaven
is the 16-layer Brahma�s land, represented by 16 magic lotuses
surrounding the main building. The 4 biggest ones located beside
the entry to the main building represent the shelters of the 4
great followers of the Buddha � Sodaban, Sakitakami, Anakami and
The semicircular in front of the stairway to the main building
symbolizes the transcendental world of wisdom. The three steps
of the stairway represent impermanence, sadness and
non-selfness. Next to the stairway is the land of the formless
divine represented by 4 magic lotuses and 4 doors. The last door
contains triangular mirrors, representing emptiness
(nothingness). Next to the door is the threshold to the land of
On the 4-sided walls and the floor inside the main building are
mural paintings in gold color, representing the release from
passion and desire to the world of Dharma.
I use the main apex to symbolize Buddhist Commandments. The apex
comprises 4 animals representing the 4 elements of the earth;
elephant representing land, naga representing water, swan
representing wind and lion representing fire. All these animals
are on their duty; to safeguard Buddhism. Thus, the main apex
comprising the 4 elements of the earth symbolizes the 5
Commandments, the 8 Commandments, the 10 Commandments, the 227
Commandments and 84,000 codes of morality.
The apex on the second level refers to consciousness represented
by 2 animals: naga and swan. While the naga�s fangs symbolize
evil, the swan symbolizes virtue. With the use of Buddhist
Commandments, evil (passion) is killed. When we win over
passion, sonsciousness occurs thus finally leading to wisdom.
The top apex symbolizes wisdom represented by swan with garuda�s
mouth crouching still. The swan seems not having any kind of
passion but nothingness.
Behind the top apex are a group of 7 designs representing the 7
Elements of Enlightenment and a group of 8 designs on the
foundation of the umbrella representing the 8 Paths of Buddhism.
The multi-tier umbrella itself symbolizes Nirvana.The pedestal
below the top roof represents the 10 Fetters.
On each pillar on the 4 corners of the main building are the
flags representing respect paid to the Buddha according to the
belief of the Lanna Region.
Said above is only a short description of the main building. In
fact, there is a lot more information as I plan to build 9 main
buildings in total, each having Buddhist meanings.
I want to create Buddhist arts on our land that are so great and
splendid that the people around the world want to see them. I
will dedicate all my life to this work. Also, I have at least 2
generations to continue it after my death. I estimate that it
will take about 60-70 years to complete 9 main buildings.
Rong Khun Temple is located in Tambon Pa-or Donchai, Mueang District, Chiang Rai
Tel. 0-5367-3579, 0-9951-5842 Fax. 0-5367-3579
Birth : February 15, 1951
Birthplace : Rong Khun Village, Chiang Rai, and upper northern
province of Thailand
Education : He completed the educations from
� Bua Sali School
� Darun Shueksa School
� Phoh Chang School
� B.F.A. ( Thai Painting), The Faculty of Painting Sculpture and
Graphic Arts, Silpakorn University. (the Class1)
After leaving the University, he decided to be a free-lance. He
has continued artist works until he has now been a most famous
artist of Thailand. Every year, he has been invited to
demonstrate his artist works both in Thailand and abroad. He has
still been granted funds by foreign cultural institutes.
Famous Works are:
� The first prize of the 3th Bua Luang Art Exhibition,1977 B.E.
� The wall painting of Wat Buddhapadipa, London, England,
dedicated to the Buddha without any payment for him.
� The illustration drawings in the Mahajanaka story composed by
His Majesty the King.
� The Art for Land Project at Wat Rong Khun, his homevillage.
Accademic and Social Honours
� The Honorary Doctorate Degree of Fine Art Science from the
Ratchaphat Institute, Chiang Rai.
� The Honorary Sign granted by The National Culture Committee
Office in terms of painting.
� The �Petch Siam� Honarary Certificate of Painting grated by
The Chan Kasem Ratchaphat Institute.
� The Department of Fine Art�s Adviser on the wall Paintings of
Phra Phuttha Ratna Sathan in The Royal Grand Palace.
� The National Bank�s Adviser on modeling the Banknotes in
commemoration of the 50th Royal Wedding Anniversary.
� The Working Committee in the National Artists Honouring
Project held by The Ministry of Universites.
� The Education Ministry�s Religions and Cutural Adviser
� The Honorary Adviser to The Education and Culture Commission