Thursday, February 28, 2008

Extraordinary Temple

Wat Rong Khun
Thailand's most extraordinary modern temple (wat)

This temple is no ordinary Wat.
I was struck by the pure beauty of this temple.
It was nothing I was prepared for.
I nominated this wat as the top "must see" place of Thailand.

Wat Rong Khun is located in Rong Khun village which is about 10 km south of Chiang Rai and only slightly off the super highway. It is designed by the national artist name Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat เฉลิมชัย โฆษิตพิพัตน์. The main temple building or Ubosot is a distinctive white color and decorated with fragments of reflective glass and can be seen from afar. Painting and murals inside the temple are also very beautiful.
The bridge in the front symbolizes transition from the cycle of life to the land of the Buddha. In front of the bridge is a small semicircle, representing the world. The large semicircle with the demon king’s fangs embodies passion and desire. We need to throw our passion and desire away into the mouth of the demon king to clean ourselves before going inside the main building. On each rail of the bridge are 8 monsters, totaling 16 monsters representing 16 types of passion.
The middle of the bridge symbolizes Sumeru Mountain,
which is the habitation of gods.

The temple is like a house of the Buddha with white color representing His purity and white glass representing His wisdom shining all over the earth and the universe.Representation of Hell down below the heaven
The pond below stands for Sithadorn Ocean. Above the 6-layer heaven is the 16-layer Brahma's land, represented by 16 magic lotuses surrounding the main building. The 4 biggest ones located beside the entry to the main building represent the shelters of the 4 great followers of the Buddha - Sodaban, Sakitakami, Anakami and Orahan.
On each pillar on the 4 corners of the main building are the flags representing respect paid to the Buddha according to the belief of the Lanna Region.
The apex on the second level refers to consciousness represented by 2 animals: naga and swan. While the naga’s fangs symbolize evil, the swan symbolizes virtue. With the use of Buddhist Commandments, evil (passion) is killed. When we win over passion, consciousness occurs thus finally leading to wisdom. The top apex symbolizes wisdom represented by swan with garuda’s mouth crouching still. The swan seems not having any kind of passion but nothingness. Behind the top apex are a group of 7 designs representing the 7 Elements of Enlightenment and a group of 8 designs on the foundation of the umbrella representing the 8 Paths of Buddhism. The multi-tier umbrella itself symbolizes Nirvana.The pedestal below the top roof represents the 10 Fetters.
It was an honor for me to meet with A-Jan Chalermchai in person.
He is truly amazing.Meet A-Jan Chalermchai Kositpipat
อ.จ. เฉลิมชัย โฆษิตพิพัฒน์
Many people asked me what inspired me to dedicate all my heart, efforts and even my life to construction of temples. For me, I have 3 things to which I pay a lot more respect than to my humble life. And I hope that all Thais should also feel them at all their breaths.
Nationalism- I was born on the land of Thailand in a small village named “Baan Rong Khun” in Chiang Rai. At the time I was born, there was no electricity in my village, I was born with the help of a midwife. My afterbirth fell on this land. I love my country. When I was young, I wanted to be soldier. But as I was not a good student but very good at drawing and painting. I dreamed that when I grew up, I would create the work of arts to mark our country’s heritage on the land where I was born.

I was a bad boy when I was young. I was impatient, aggressive, light hearted and flirtatious. I used to injure my elder brother with a knife. I had many girlfriends and had venereal disease. After I finished my university education, I was even worse. My ego was high. My material desire was peak. I wanted to be notable and well known. I was jealous and bossy.

Dharma of the Lord Buddha was some thing like a piece of rattan with sharp thorns. It stroke onto my rebellious heart. Sometimes, Dharma was like cool water to cool down the heat in my heart. It was also like warm water to warm up my heart when I was afraid of the facts of life.
Now that I have used Dharma for 20 years to kill my passion. I finally found happiness, peace and wisdom. Not only myself but also my family, relatives and friends feel happy. Around me is smiles and laughings of inner happiness. I could feel the sound of happiness. I could feel the sound of happiness inside. Everybody has bright eyes. We all have high spirit.

Dharma is really great. I was very grateful to it. It changes my life. If helps me understand things. With the rise of wisdom, understanding occurs. Now, I understand the facts of life cycle from birth to living and to death. For this reason, I promise with myself to dedicate all my life to Buddhism. I want to be the patron of Buddhism. I will make Buddhist arts the heritage of Thailand recognized by the people all over the globe.

I will dedicate all my life to this work. Also, I have at least 2 generations to continue it after my death. I estimate that it will take about 60-70 years to complete 9 main buildings.Artwork for the Motherland at Wat Rong Khunfor the Auspicious Offering to the Lord Buddha. I am a professional painter who began to love painting at an early age. Since I intended to paint for a living, I have worked hard to practice and to improve my skills. Therefore, I was able to graduate from the two most distinguished art institutions in Thailand, the School of Fine Arts and Silpakorn University.

I received the First Prize with Gold Medal from the National Arts Contest in 1977. Since then I have quited submitting my works to such contests because I realized that achieving those awards was not the ultimate goal of my life. During the year 1980-1996, in order to get more experience and to disseminate Buddhist arts internationally, I traveled to present my works in several exhibitions in Asia, Europe, and the United States. I spent four years, from 1984-1988, in England doing mural painting for a Thai government’s temple in London called “Buddha Prateep Temple”. I did this job for free, considering it was a way to pay tribute to the Lord Buddha and to my country. I desire to be the one who brings the contemporary Buddhist art of my nation to the eyes of people around the world. I would like those people to feel the beauty of different emotions and philosophies.

I have learned the Doctrine of Lord Buddha for over 20 years. I understand the truth of impermanence, which means emergence, existence and cessation of everything. I practice meditation and insight development to reduce defilement and desire. I adhere to the Buddhist law of moderation, both physically and mentally, which leads me to worldly and spiritually success. For my worldly success, I am famous and well accepted among people around the country. Many domestic and foreign art collectors are searching for my works, making them rare in the art market. After the year 1997, my works are invaluable and unavailable to buy.In 1995, I was honored by the royal grace to contribute several pieces of works to my beloved King.

As for my spiritual success, I have more pleasant mind. I am happy and peaceful. I am no more distraught or striving as I was prior to my understanding of Buddha’s doctrine. Dharma(the doctrine or the teaching of Buddha) made me committed to be the one who contributed to other human beings on earth. I also determined to return my life to my country, my religion, and all people around the world.

I wish to dedicate the most precious time of my life as a painter, by using all my intelligence, skills and imagination, to contribute to the world until the last day of my life.

I stared my mission 3 years prior to my intended schedule. When I was 42, I began establishing Rong-Khun Temple at my hometown with the money accumulated over 20 years from selling my paintings. I wished to create the unique Buddhist art, which would become one of the greatest works of art on earth. I wished that all people around the world would be able to see the greatness of my beloved country. In 1977, I stared with building an ordination hall on the 1.2 Acres of land previously belonged to the Temple. In 2004, or 7 years from the beginning, the temple’s land has been expanded to 4.8 Acres thank to my purchase and to the contribution from Mr. Wanchai Witchayachakorn.

Currently, approximately 60% of the ordination hall are completed. It is expected that the exterior part will be finished by the next 5-6 years. However, the interior part, which will be decorated by mural paintings, will need 8 more years to completion. Within the temple’s area, there will be 9 building with different shapes and characters. I intend to create the replica of the magnificent and resplendent heaven. I may not be able to live to complete the decoration of all 9 buildings. Art is long lasting, but live is too short. However, I expect that the overall architectural structure will be completed within the next 3 years, or by the year 2007.

When I die, the team of my students will carry on my imagination to the completion of the work. I have already managed and prepared everything so that all the work can be continued after my death.

As for those who have visited the Temple, don’t be worried or afraid that I will not be able to succeed just because the great amount of money is required whereas the amount of donation is limited to U.S.$ 250 per donor only. Money is not a big problem for me. To this day, I have paid more than 30 Million Baht, I am confident in myself. I am confident in my heart of a giver. Please don’t be worried. I do not wish to ask for money from anyone, even the government, non-government organizations, or wealthy persons. I do not want my idea to be under other people’s influence. I do not want anybody to cast his power over my imagination. I want freedom for creativity. I believe that, “The great amount of money always comes with the power of donors”.

I have created the work of Buddhist art with my faith only. I do not want anything in return. I do not want, and do not like, making merit for credit or compliment. This Temple has never solicited contributions by robe-offering ceremonies and the like. This Temple is not built in rush to celebrate any occasion. My only desire is to make it the best and the most beautiful. I will dedicate myself until all my worldly and spiritual intelligence is all used up.

Death is the only obstacle to my freedom of imagination.“ I’ve constructed a Thai temple with no intention to raise funds or pass the hat for money from anybody. The money, which offered or donated to the construction, has been from pure faith of Buddhists, who would like to support Buddhism and national cultural arts. I don’t need any donation from the ones who would like to get hidden benefits from their offerings”.

Anybody, who has faith in Buddhism and appreciation in natural cultural arts, would like to donate your money to the fund, please contact :

Phra Kittipong Kalayanoh (Tu Sang) Deputy Abbot (or)
Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat
Wat Rong Khun,
Sub-District Pa Oar Don Chai,
District Muang,
Chiang Rai 57000, THAILAND
Tel. (6653) 673-579
Fax. (6653) 673-579

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Anonymous said...

Dear Amie,

Thank you for the message that you have sent to me. It nice and very interesting.
Pee Sawitree

Anonymous said...


Thank you, Amie, for the pictures.