Chiang Rai. The White Temple. Spiderman and Keanu Reeves.

It would have not surprised me at all if that very instant it started raining pickles. I would have not moved a whisker if a UFO flew above me, sending pasta shaped aliens all around me. No muscle would have moved even if the fish jumped out of the water playing the guitar. Wat Rong Khun does not allow you to be surprised by anything. Wat Rong Khun is the only white temple in Thailand. While all the others choose to cover the story of Buddha in gold, Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat prefers to look at it from a different angle – that of heart purity. The temple is white because Buddha’s soul is immaculate.
Thailand pictures White Temple Chiang Rai 1-1
The artist is walking a very fine line between kitsch and sublime. It is not easy to create such an allegory without giving up a little of his seriousness. If you look at the project as a whole you realize he managed to not cross over but to keep it just on the edge.
If you go into details you will notice the resemblance to a theme park. White on the outside, golden on the inside, the walls of the ubosot (the main building) feature scenes from Buddha’s life but also action movie characters such as Predator, Batman or Matrix. I am not joking; you will see Keanu Reeeves on the right, just as you enter.
Thailand pictures White Temple Chiang Rai 4-1
Thailand pictures White Temple Chiang Rai 5-1
At the entrance, there is a natural size stander showing Mr. Kosipipat himself – it is displayed permanently for anyone who wishes so to take a photo of himself with the artist. The White Temple turned the 56 years old artist into a national personality. He once declared in an interview he wished the White Temple would become the preferred worship place for His Majesty, King Bhumibol.
It is not the right place and I am not the best person to explain in all details the whole allegory there. I have to admit I did not understand everything the artist wished to express. Buddhism, in general, works with symbols and rituals which I cannot interpret correctly. Plus, there is a full coverage on the subject on Wikipedia.
Thailand pictures White Temple Chiang Rai 2-1
Thailand pictures White Temple Chiang Rai 6-1
Note: it is forbidden to take photos inside the temple.
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