Chiang Rai’s White Temple

As part of our Golden Triangle tour, we made a stop at the famous White Temple in Chiang Rai. The Thai name is called Wat Rong Khun (or Khan) but most international patrons know this masterpiece as just the White Temple.

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The temple was built by the Thai painter and architect, Chalermchai Kositpipat. He began to construct the Buddhist temple in 1997 but it’s still being worked on today and according to him, it may take his whole lifetime complete.

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Kositpipat wanted to honour modern Thai art while paying tribute to Buddha. His masterpiece depicts the house of Buddha and the path one must take, leaving evil temptations for the realm of eternal peace.

The pits of hell.

The pits of hell.

The path through hell, leading towards nirvana.

The path through hell, leading towards nirvana.

He chose white for his temple to symbolize purity. He felt that other Buddhist temples that used gold were sending the wrong message as gold symbolizes a lust for evil things like greed.

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The little mirrors used throughout the temple are a symbol of the wisdom (Dhama) of Buddha that reflects and shines out into the world.

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According to staff at the temple, Kositpipat currently has around 90 students who study art under his tutelage. When I went inside the main temple (where pictures were not allowed) there was an artist sitting in the corner on a chair, painting a fiery flower of yellow and orange. Although Kositpipat currently lives in Bangkok working on a project for the royal family, he instructs his students on what to do according to the visions he sees. His loyal followers paint as he says to, constantly changing the images inside the main temple room. It’s also interesting to note that he refuses to take commission for his work so that his clients have no influence on the finished product.

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When you enter the main temple passageway, you cannot leave the way you came in, as Kositpipat believes it is a spiritual regression to go back the way you entered. He believes that if you don’t walk forward, symbolizing your ascent into heaven, you will be grabbed by the hands back at the gates of hell. As a result, all patrons of the temple are guided on a one-way path through the temple display.

Guardians at the gates of heaven.

Guardians at the gates of heaven.

These smaller buildings sit behind the main temple structure.

These smaller buildings sit behind the main temple structure.

Once outside the main temple structure itself however, you are free to walk in any direction you choose :) Entrance to the temple is free but donations are welcome. Donations go towards employment of staff at the temple and maintenance of the grounds.

4 thoughts on “Chiang Rai’s White Temple

  1. This is one of the most beautiful temples I have ever seen! Great job, Karli! So much interesting information. I love that the builder is so independent and creative. Such an amazing style of modern and traditional and the white color is stunning.

  2. this place is unreal and I feel like it is a place that I must visit in my life. How surreal was it walking past all those hands in the hell part? I think I would have gotten a bit frightened and light headed. Simply amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. WOW, such intricate detail. Funny, Nanny use to have a “superstition” that one must always leave a home the same way you came in or it was bad luck. I wonder where that came from.
    Good writing Schmengy…Love&kisses xoxo

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