Wat Rong Khun, more well-known among foreigners as the White Temple, is an unconventional Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Designed in 1997 by noted Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat, this magnificent temple is a bizarre blend of traditional Thai architecture and the surreal.
The main building is painted white to symbolise Buddha’s purity, and is covered in mosaics of mirrors, sparkling in the sun. All around the complex are intricate sculptures of demons, skulls, severed heads handing from trees and other bizarre objects.
To reach the temple you have to walk over a bridge over a moat filled with innumerable sculptures of out-reaching arms, apparently symbolizing desire. Once inside, you will be greeted not by traditional Buddha life scenarios but by contemporary scenes and icons of popular culture. Instead of paintings of heroes fighting demons, the artist decided to take contemporary manifestations of good and evil and put it into a Buddhist context. Murals of Batman, Superman, Predator and even Keanu Reeves as Neo from The Matrix are seen in the interior. In one unfinished wall dominates image of a plane smashing into the Twin Towers. In another wall there are paintings of spaceships and a scene depicting a cataclysmic event annihilating planet earth.
Amidst this scene of destruction and chaos, with golden flowers surrounding sits a peaceful white Buddha in front of an even larger Buddha who is surrounded by angelic deities floating in some celestial kingdom.
Chalermchai wishes Wat Rong Khun to become a learning and meditation center 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 about 3 acres.