The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), Chiang Rai, Thailand
Kinnara in the Temple Grounds
Construction began in 1997, when Chalermchai Kositpipat paid for the building of the Ubosot at his own expense as an offering to Lord Buddha. Eventually Wat Rong Khun will consist of nine buildings: the Ubosot, the Relic Hall, the Image Hall, the Preaching Hall, the Meditation Hall, the Monk’s Cell, the Gateway, the Art Gallery, and the toilets.
Construction began in 1997, when Kositpipat volunteered his service to carry out the construction of the Ubosot at his own expense as an offering to Lord Buddha, eventually Wat Rong Khun will consist of nine buildings: the Ubosot, the hall containing Lord Buddha’s relics, the hall containing Buddha images, the preaching hall, the contemplation hall, the monk’s cell, the door façade, the art gallery, and the toilets.
The main building that has been completed is the Ubosot, which is elaborately designed with white stucco decoration with some use of white glass, which also has Buddhas, disciples, and devas and dragon bargeboards. The building struck me as being traditional in its elements, but very original in its detail. The only other buildings that appeared to be complete was the resplendent golden toilet facility; and the Art Gallery where Kositpipat sells his works to raise funds for the project.
The bridge leading to the temple leaves behind the secular world of samsara and enters into the pure lands of the Buddha. Before the bridge leading into the Ubosot there is a memorable sea of hands and faces, where those in the lower worlds abide, while the semi-circle before the bridge signifies the human realm.
Kositpipat has said about this temple: I want to build a heavenly garden (representing happiness) for humans to stroll in. I want all visitors of whatever religion to have a feeling of peace and happiness, and at the same time get to understand the meaning of Buddhism, which can be seen all over the temple whether it's in the architecture, the paintings or the molding works.
Kositpipat is best known as a painter, and it was he who painted the murals at Wat Buddhapadipa in Wimbledon, London, but when I visited the White Temple (June 2011) it was no longer allowed to take photographs inside the building where Kositpipat's paintings line the walls and ceiling. It appeared that some of them had already been removed and one wall was blank. What the fate of the rest of the paintings will be I do not know.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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