Home Buddhist space Sacred Art The Mystifying Art of a Modern Temple, Thailand

The Mystifying Art of a Modern Temple, Thailand



Its mystifying white architecture stands out from the rural backdrop of Chiang Rai but it’s the glow of the reflected mirrors from the temple that invites tourists to visit the white temple.

Wat Rong Khun, or more popularly known as the White Temple to the locals, is the top destination in Chiang Rai, a province of Thailand. The architectural wonder is the only white temple in the province and one of the most recognizable in the whole of Thailand.

Chiang Rai is known as the few remaining places in the country where traditional art and culture continue to flourish. But more than the stunning façade and its enchanting theme, it’s the deeper appreciation of the symbolisms found within the temple that the guests really enjoy.

One of the most surprising things about the temple is that with all its glory and the number of visitors it receives each year, the temple is still under construction. This information prompts guests to discover more things about this national treasure of Thailand.

The temple is now on its 13th year of construction but has already been visited by more than five million local and foreign tourists. But there’s more to the temple than just being painted in pure white.

The man responsible for the temple’s design wanted it to depict human life and condition according to Buddha’s teachings.

Thailand’s foremost and internationally renowned artist Chalermchai Kositpipat is the man behind the construction of the white temple. Chalermchai is an internationally acclaimed contemporary Buddhist artist.

It was the artist’s deep attachment and passion for his home town that made him create the marvelous temple. He also wanted the temple to be an offering to Buddha himself for the numerous achievements he received for his wonderful artworks.

“I am awfully lucky to have been born and able to do the things that I love. My reason for building the temple and creating art work is just for the sake of letting go and not clinging (to material things),” said Chalermchai in one of his books.

The great modern Thai artist initially had a capital of 18 million Baht for the White Temple. But as the years passed, the budget has grown to 300 million Baht today. The project started to evolve and develop into a bigger project.

But one of the things that make the temple pure is that the artist rejects the numerous donations being offered by rich patrons for his masterpiece.

“I want to be the only artist in the world who can create anything with utmost freedom. I do not want anybody’s influence or thought processes. No one in the world can order me to do their bidding, because I do not accept any monetary donations from sources including government officers, politicians, or millionaires,” expressed Chalermchai in his book simply titled “White Temple.”

The artist used white for his temple to symbolize the purity of Buddha. He also wanted to build a unique temple unlike those that are usually golden. Chalermchai believes that gold is suitable for people who lust after evil deeds.

The glare from the small mirrors throughout the building is a symbol of wisdom of Buddha that shines through the universe as the artist said: “I want to build a heavenly garden for humans to stroll in.

I want all visitors of whatever religion to have a feeling of peace, happiness, and at the same time get to understand the meaning of Buddhism that can be seen all over the temple whether it’s in the architecture, the drawings, or the moldings.”


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