Another must-visit landmark of Northern Thailand is Wat Rong Khun, a temple designed and constructed by the famous artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who devoted himself to creating this great temple as an offering to Buddhism as a whole. Wat Rong Khun is a great temple artistically distinctive by its magnificent architecture. But why does everybody want to gaze eyes on Wat Rong Khun at least once? And what inspired Chalermchai to construct this temple? So today, we will take everyone to Wat Rong Khun and tell you the origin of this fascinating temple.
At the end of our online travel guide, you will find a detailed map of the temple grounds, with a legend describing all the buildings.
Wat Rong Khun is situated in Tambon Pa O Don Chai, Mueang Chiang Rai District. It is considered one of the most important religious locations in Chiang Rai. It is a creation designed and constructed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a Thai artist with various paintings. He was honored as a National Artist in the Visual Art field in 2011. Chalermchai devoted himself to constructing this great temple as an offering to Buddhism to create this temple as lovely as an actual paradise that all humans in this world can experience, encouraging them to practice dharma and have good morals.
When he returned to his hometown, Rong Khun Village, Chiang Rai, Chalermchai found that Wat Rong Khun, constructed during his parents’ time, was in a severe state of decay. He then had the inspiration to restore Wat Rong Khun through contemporary art appropriate for Thailand under the royal protection of King Rama IX, as well as to create a great work of art as a legacy for his homeland. He began the construction in 1997 and devoted his entire life to constructing this one final work of his life with the money accumulated from 20 years of selling his artworks.
Additionally, Chalermchai revealed the truth about Wat Rong Khun:
“I intended to create a unique work of Buddhist art to be one of the greatest works of art this world has ever seen to announce the glory of my country to everyone throughout the planet. After I die, my students shall carry on my visions until they are all realized. All my affairs are in order in the event of my death. I created all these Buddhist works solely with my faith in Buddhism. I never wanted any compensation, and I never liked to make merit to show off. This temple never raises money through Kathin ceremonies. This temple was not constructed in a hurry to celebrate any occasion. My only intention is to make it as good and beautiful as possible… to the point that I exhausted both my worldly and dharma knowledge. Death would be the only thing that could stop my creative freedom.”
The most remarkable feature you can see when visiting Wat Rong Khun is the artistically distinctive Ubosot and the magnificent architecture, from the gable apexes and subtle details that made the Ubosot of this temple stand out from others. The Ubosot has a pure white color representing the pureness of the Buddha. The various shining white mirrors represent the wisdom of the Buddha that shines brightly throughout the world of men and the universe itself.
The bridge represents a crossing of the rebirth cycle into Buddhism’s realm. After that comes a small half-cycle bridge that means the human world. The bigger half-circle contains fangs that form the mouth of Death or the deity Rahu, representing how our inner desires are our personal hell. Any person who wishes to have an audience with the Buddha in his realm must concentrate on letting go of their lusts and desires into the mouth of Death to cleanse their souls pure before moving on.
The upper roof of the temple employs the 3 crucial principles of meditation: precepts, concentration, and wisdom; all three eventually lead to blankness, i.e. the cycle is broken.
The first tier of the gable apex represents the precepts, comprising 4 symbols representing earth, water, wind, and fire; the elephant represents earth, the Naga represents water, the swan’s wings represent wind, and the chest means fire. All four act as protectors of Buddhism. Above the gable apex is Phra That, which collectively represents the 5 Precepts, 8 Precepts, 10 Precepts, 227 Precepts, and 84,000 Dhammakans.
The second tier (upper) of the gable apex means concentration, represented by two animals; the Naga and the Swan. The Naga represents the evilness in humankind, while the Sean represents the goodness in humanity and the precepts that will defeat the evilness (desires). When our hearts win over our desires, concentration is created. We have a conscience that will lead to wisdom.
The third tier (top) of the gable apex means wisdom, represented by a Swan with a Garuda’s mouth, sitting still and contented with no desire in its heart, ready for its journey to end the deep-rooted desires within. Behind the third tier of the gable, the apex features a 7-piece pattern, representing the Seven Factors of Awakening, and an 8-piece pattern, representing the Noble Eightfold Path.
The very top of the tier represents nirvana. There are also patterns on the side eaves of the top roof, symbolizing the Ten Fetters. The four pillars at the side of the main building are Tungs (flags), built as an offering to Buddhism per Lanna’s beliefs.
Additionally, there are magnificent murals within the temple building created by Chalermchai himself that should not be missed. The interior of the Ubosot contains gold murals on the four walls, with murals depicting the act of breaking free from the evils of desire and the release from the worldly cycle on the ceiling and floor. The roof of the Ubosot employs the 3 principles of meditation practices, which are precepts, concentration, and wisdom, as inspirations for the artworks.
The temple is still under additional construction until there are a total of 9 buildings as intended by its creator, with each building having a different shape and conjuring the image of an incredible paradise for the people of the world to appreciate the Buddhist arts in this place.
However, even though the construction is not yet completed, the existing beauty in this place is enough to put your mind at peace with the tales of Buddhism and the various delicate decorations and ornamentals in every corner, which are not only artistically beautiful from the outside but also represent profound principles and ideas of Buddhism that encourage visitors to contemplate their meanings as well.
Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
From October 1st, 2016 forward, Wat Rong Khun set an admission fee for foreign tourists at 50 Baht.
There is a majestic gold-colored building on the temple grounds. Many tourist guides call it the Golden Temple, an independent architectural structure symbolizing immortality, wealth, and nirvana.
In fact, this building is a public restroom. Yes, it is beautiful and impressive, as if it were some king’s palace. But… it’s just a toilet.
The points of interest on the map are described in the order in which you will walk around the temple grounds. The only exception is parking lot #22, where you will park your motorcycle or car before walking around the temple.
1 – Main Entrance
2 – Purify Tower
3 – Mouth of Death
4 – White Temple
5 – Buddha Relics Tower
6 – Buddhist Tower
7 – Souvenir Shop
8 – Belfry
9 – Waterfall
10 – Golden Toilet #1
11 – Parsonage
12 – Ganesha Exhibition Hall
13 – Cemetry
14 – Ceremony Hall
15 – Wishing Well
16 – Dhamma Hall
17 – Golden Toilet #2
18 – PR Office
19 – Golden Toilet #3
20 – Souvenir Shop
21 – Art Galery
22 – Parking
If you need a motorbike for a trip to this place from Chiang Mai (because our company, whose website you are now reading this guide on, is located in Chiang Mai), in that case you can rent it by contacting us.
If you want to rent a car in Chiang Mai for a trip, read our article Hints and Tricks of Renting a Car in Chiang Mai, which will help you save significantly on your travel expenses.
On the other hand, no matter where you are, this guide will still help you save money, as we talk about local car rental companies that are present in all cities of Thailand. So, just follow the link and read it.
But if you want to book a guided tour, then we recommend Get Your Guide (you will see the list of tours below), where you can visit several iconic places of Chiang Rai, including the White Temple, in one trip. We like this tour booking system because before booking you can read tourist reviews in advance, and make the best decision when choosing a tour operator.
The temple buildings are made of brick and reinforced concrete and decorated with various finishes, from painting with white paint to inlaying pieces of mirrors. Because of the high humidity in Thailand, the exterior finishes of the white-painted buildings require constant maintenance and cleaning against fungus and mold.
Wat Rong Khun is a Buddhist temple.
According to the temple’s founder, by making Wat Rong Khun as “beautiful as possible”, he wanted to show people the beauty of Buddhist art to glorify Thailand worldwide. Thus, the point of the White Temple is to impress people with the Buddhist culture by showing them its beauty through art.
White Temple is located at 60, Moo 1, Phahonyothin Rd, Pa O Don Chai Village, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai Province, 57000. It is located southwest of the city. For Google Map directions, see this link.
Wat Rong Khun was first opened to the public in 1997. Since then, new buildings and art objects have gradually appeared on the grounds of the White Temple, never ceasing to amaze visitors with their beauty.
Admission is free for Thais. For foreigners the entrance fee is 50 baht.
The founder, designer and architect of the White Temple is the famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.
Want to rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai? Just contact us! If you are traveling in Northern Thailand and are staying in Chiang Mai, our company Cat Motors invites you to rent motorcycles for your travels. Check out our motorcycle rental rates. Don’t forget to read our other Northern Thailand travel guides.
Cat Motors Team
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