White Temple in Chiang Rai

White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand, more commonly known by foreigners as the White Temple, is an unconventional, contemporary Buddhist temple designed by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction began in 1997 but is ongoing, and the sprawling complex is not expected to be completely finished until 2070. Kositpipat, a deeply devout Buddhist, known mainly for his religiously themed paintings, wanted to build a temple that of the outside resembled heaven on earth with the white color of the temple representing the Buddha’s purity.

Greedy Hands Reach Out at the White TempleThere are aspects to Wat Rong Khun that you don’t expect to see at a Buddhist temple. As you cross the central bridge to the main temple, you cross an ocean of grizzled hands, greedily reaching up from the bowels of the earth, symbolizing greed and desire. More unusual still are the murals inside the temple (unfortunately photography not allowed) of Harry Potter, Superman, Angry Birds, Hello Kitty, Neo from “The Matrix” and Batman among others. There is a mural of the Twin Towers with a gas hose snaking around and airplanes crashing into them. There is even a mural depicting George W. Bush gleefully riding around on a nuclear rocket with Osama Bin Laden. Kositpipat believes these depictions of the modern world further the Buddha’s message. I am reminded that all art is contemporary when it is created, and sometimes we need to view it through the prism of time before its true significance can be distilled.

The White Temple is truly one of the most striking places of worship I have ever seen. It seems that around every corner is yet another surprising image. It is one of those places that haunt you long after you have visited. It is too much to take-in in one visit, and I hope to see it again soon.

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Author: Jonathan Look

In 2011 Jonathan Look decided to change his life and pursue adventures instead of comfort and possessions. His goal is to travel the world solo; one country at a time, one year at a time. To accomplish this he got rid of most of his possessions, packed up what little he saw as necessities and headed out. His goal is to spend ten years discovering new places, meeting new people and taking the time to learn about them, their values and their place on this tiny planet. He embraces the philosophy that says a person is the sum of their experiences and rejects the fraud of modern consumerism that makes people into slaves of their consumption. He doesn't intend to be modern day ascetic, just more mindful of his place in the world and to make decisions according to that new standard.

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