In the 12th year of the construction of the temple (2009), Chalermchai is approaching 54 and Wat Rong Khun has been visited by over five million people, 200,000 of which are foreigners. The temple has become Chiang Rai's top tourist destination.
With the courage to think and act boldly, he has revolutionized the repetitive and mundane style of Thai art and turned it into a new and up-to-date one. The internal administration of the temple has also been reformed to comply with international standards, with emphasis on beauty, order, cleanliness and simplicity. Chalermchai does not want to use propaganda to solicit money from Buddhist tourists through the sale of merit, sacredness, amulets, or from the allotment of spaces in the temple to be rented as stalls to sell merchandises.
The interior of Wat Rong Khun is divided into three zones. The Buddhavasa, or the Abode of the Buddha, is on the right with posts sparsely placed as boundary. It comprises the bot, the building where the Buddha's relics are kept, and the Bridge of Bliss. The Sanghavasa, or the living quarters of the Buddhist monks, is on the left opposite the Bridge of Bliss. It comprises monk cells and a big contemplation hall (to be constructed). As for the Gharavasa, or the layman quarters, it comprises an art gallery, a golden toilet, and a big preaching hall which is divided into three storeys. The ground floor serves as an all-purpose hall for performing meritorious ceremonies, holding meetings, and giving lectures on basic dhamma on Saturdays and Sundays. The second storey is a dhamma library where the Buddhist doctrine is taught in Pali. The third storey is for meditation. Next to the preaching hall is the crematorium, built especially for the cremation of the faithful followers of Wat Rong Khun, the deceased with no relatives, the artist's disciples, and Chalermchai himself.
Besides the division of different architectural styles, the meaning reflected in each work of art Chalermchai has created is also interesting. All the decorative sculptures or paintings are imbued with dhamma riddles, Buddhist philosophy, and the teachings of the Buddha that the artist has industriously studied and practiced for more than 2-5 years.
He uses the white color of the architecture to represent the Buddha's purity, the glittering mirrors to symbolize the Buddha's dhamma that teaches man to observe his own mind and reflect loving kindness towards humankind.
The Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth in front of the bot represents human sorrow and happiness, showing that the way to reach Buddha or happiness and total annihilation must pass through Hell, meaning cravings. When cravings have been eliminated, one can proceed to the Gate of Heaven guarded by Rahu (Mara) on the left and Death on the right. Rahu is the controller of man's fate and Death is the controller of man's life. To grasp dhamma, one must understand both Rahu and Death and get rid of greed, anger, infatuation, fear, and confusion, concentrating on the practice of controlling one's mind to eliminate cravings and then step up to Mount Sumeru, which represents happiness. There are six levels of heaven on the Sithandon Ocean, with the number 8 representing the Noble Path in the pond below. Walking down one reaches the 16 levels of the Realm of Brahmas, represented by 16 celestial lotus flowers around the middle ubosot. The largest four lotuses on both sides of the entrance of the ubosot represent the niches housing the four noble types of monks consisting of ones who have attained the first, second, third, and fourth stages of holiness. Three more steps, signifying impermanence, suffering and non-self, lead up to the four levels of the Realm of the Formless Brahmas, represented by four illuminated celestial lotuses. The triangular main glass pane represents emptiness (the extinction of all defilements and sufferings).
Wat Rong Khun is different from any other temple in Thailand, as its ubosot (Pali: uposatha; consecrated assembly hall) is designed in white color with some use of white glass. The white color stands for Lord Buddha’s purity; the white glass stands for Lord Buddha’s wisdom that "shines brightly all over the Earth and the Universe."
The bridge leading to the temple represents the crossing over from the cycle of rebirth to the Abode of Buddha. The small semicircle before the bridge stands for the human world. The big circle with fangs is the mouth of Rahu, meaning impurities in the mind, a representation of hell or suffering.
All the paintings inside the ubosot (assembly hall) have golden tones. The four walls, ceiling and floor contain paintings showing an escape from the defilements of temptation to reach a supramundane state. On the roof, there are four kinds of animals representing earth, water, wind and fire. The elephant stands for the earth; the naga stands for water; the swan's wings represent wind; and the lion’s mane represents fire.
In 1977, Chalermchai Kositpipat volunteered his service to carry out the construction of the ubosot at his own expense as an offering to Lord Buddha, but he later altered the plan as he saw fit in such a way that Wat Rong Khun developed into a prominent site attracting both Thai and foreign visitors.
Nowadays, Wat Rong Khun is still being constructed. When completed, the construction project of Wat Rong Khun will consist of nine buildings: the ubosot, the hall containing Lord Buddha’s relics, the hall containing Buddha images, the preaching hall, the contemplation hall, the monk’s cell, the door facade of the Buddhavasa, the art gallery, and the toilets.
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Location: Latitude=19.82413, Longitude=99.76333