Photographer's Note

Located thirteen kilometers south of the city of Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Khun known outside Thailand as the “White Temple” is an unusual and beautiful mix of traditional Thai architecture and modern-day science fiction memorabilia. It was designed by painter-turned-architect Charlemchai Kositpipat, one of Thailand’s most renowned architects, who set out to create one of the most elegant temples in Chiang Rai. The millionaire artist spent his own money to fund the construction of his vision without ever soliciting contributions from the government or anyone else. His creative thinking and love of Art made him return to his home town and dedicate the rest of his life building the temple as an offering to Buddha and, in the future, turn it into a national art treasure.

The temple is covered with a combination of whitewash and tiny mirror chips that make it shine like porcelain from afar. The white color symbolizes Buddha’s purity; its glittering glass signifies Buddha’s dhamma or teachings. The whole architecture as well as the statues all around have been carefully studied and are imbued with riddles, teachings and Buddhist philosophy.

In this frame, in front of the temple, before crossing the bridge of the “Cycle of Rebirth”, you can see tens of sculpted hands reaching up from “Hell”, symbolizing the way to happiness through overcoming cravings. Beyond the hands is the “Gate of Heaven”, guarded by Rahu (the One who controls men’s fate) on the left and Yama or Death (The One who controls men’s life) on the right.

No less interesting is the inside of the temple, where photography is prohibited. Although still unfinished, the paintings on the walls inside represent a mix of traditional Thai Buddhist art and contemporary scenes like a plane crashing into the twin towers, the war for Oil, images of Batman, of Neo from the Matrix next to Superman, Star Wars droids, and even an alien from Predator telling a modern-day story of Buddha.

Construction on Wat Rong Khun began in 1996 and is expected to finish in 2070, long after Kositpipat lifespan. The temple’s popularity matrix can be gauged by the fact that it has been visited by over 7 million people since the beginning of its construction in 1997.

The dull blue sky is thanks to the famous haze which is an annual feauture in Northern Thailand during March to May, thanks to the slash burning done in the hill regions of Myanmar and Thailand

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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