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The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai

24/03/2020 734 Views
You have surely seen this temple somewhere, with its unique appearance and its dazzling whiteness. The Wat Rong Khun or White Temple in English is one of those unique buildings that you won’t find anywhere else!

History of the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

Originally there was another Wat Rong Khun, but in a very bad condition.

After attempts of restoration, and finally their abandonment in the 1920s, Chalermchai Kositpipat, a Thai artist, proposed to renovate the temple with his own money in 1996.

Wishing to pay tribute to his hometown of Chiang Rai and King Rama IX, Chalermchai Kositpipat undertook a titanic project to create a unique and magnificent building.

The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is actually a temple… not finished!

The project is titanic and the delicacy of the details and the architecture mean that the end of the work is estimated for 2070!

Moreover, after the earthquake of 2014, Chalermchai Kositpipat wanted to tear everything down! Fortunately, experts assured him of the security of the buildings and so to speak, saved the temple from its creator.

The significance of the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

The whole temple is designed to inspire the visitor to get closer to the purity offered by the teachings of Buddhism and to the final stage of illumination.

The creator of the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) chose the white color to express the purity of Buddha and the pieces of mirrors inlaid in the walls serve to enlighten the whiteness of the temple.

But what makes the temple unique is its way of encouraging visitors to liberate themselves from their earthly desires, temptations and attachments and the denounciation of the illusion of our modern societies.

The bridge of the cycle of rebirth

The bridge of the cycle of rebirth serves to reach the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) by crossing a small lake. You will be impressed by this unique bridge, with hundreds of hands pointing to the sky evoking those who could not resist temptation.

The term “rebirth” is recurrent in the different schools of Buddhism.

For example, for the school of Theravada Buddhism (the most widespread), the Anagami is a practitioner who will only be reborn as deva (Hindu divinity) and will thus reach Nirvana. 

As for the Arahanta, he is a practitioner who has definitively achieved his goal and has therefore freed himself from the cycle of rebirth.

The cycle of rebirth may therefore be akin to earthly dissatisfaction which is supposed to be resolved in the next life. However, this cycle of rebirth can also be seen as a cycle that traps us from our earthly pain and suffering, from which it is necessary to be free to reach Nirvana.


The bridge of the cycle of rebirth thus illustrates the need to walk on the right path of happiness to avoid succumbing to the vices of our earthly lives.

The Heaven Gate

After crossing the bridge, you will arrive just before the entrance to the temple, guarded by statues of Death and Rahu.

If you want to know more about Rahu:

Rahu was originally a «basic» asura and thus a demonic deity of the mythology of Hinduism which is opposed to the devas which are the Hindu deities.

One day, he stole the nectar of immortality of the gods, the amrita, but, denounced by the sun and moon, he had his head cut off by Indra, the king of the gods. The head remained immortal since he had already begun to drink the amrita, and became the demon of the eclipse Rahu.

According to the legend, in order to get revenge on the sun and the moon, he pursues them constantly to devour them, which causes the eclipse, but as his body was separated from him, the sun and the moon always manage to escape.

There is the Wat Srisa Thong in Nakhon Pathom, which is one of the few temples dedicated to the worship of Rahu.

The main building, the ubosot

Inside the temple are mixed with the traditional images, modern representations of pop culture, such as Mickael Jackson, Terminator, Harry Potter, Superman or even Hello Kitty.

There are also modern images such as terrorist attacks, nuclear explosions and other representations of the destruction that men inflict on the world.

With this abundance of details and whiteness, each cm2 of the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is a true work of art! If you have the chance to visit it, pay attention to the details and possible meanings of the representations and if you wish to see it finished, rendez-vous in 2070 !

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