World TravelAsiaWat Rong Khun - The White Temple of Thailand

Wat Rong Khun – The White Temple of Thailand


Thailand is a treasure of South-east Asia and well-known among travel buffs as the Land of Smiles. With every visit, this nation will show you its different colours and attractions and provide you with a lifetime experience. Despite everything you begin with the world-class beaches in the south or the mountain towns in the north, Thailand won’t disappoint you. Read more about Thailand. Apart from this, Thailand is also renowned as the nation of the most magnificent temples. One such temple is Wat Rong Khun which stands out the most in Thailand.

Thailand will leave you speechless with charming destinations such as the Grand Palace of Bangkok, lovely landscapes of Pai Canyon, most admired and historic City of Ayutthaya and mesmerizing floating markets.

Let’s discuss the excellence, history and symbolism & Buddhist teachings of Wat Rong Khun temple of Thailand. 

Wat Rong Khun

Wat Rong Khun is popularised as the White Temple among foreigners and it is located in Northern Thailand near Chiang Rai. It is the most recognizable and Instagrammed temple in Thailand. This temple pulls the attention of a large number of visitors, both Thai and foreign, making it one of Chiang Rai’s most visited destinations.

White Temple/ Wat Rong Khun
White Temple/ Wat Rong Khun, Via:

What is so special about Wat Rong Khun?

The bizarre thing about this temple is that it stands out through the white colour and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster which glitter when sunlight falls on the temple. The white colour indicates the purity and simplicity of the Buddha, while the glass signifies the enlightenment of Buddha and the Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings.

History Associated With Wat Rong Khun

Wat Rong Khun’s construction began in 1997, Chalermchai Kositpipat, an artist of Chiang Rai wanted to create an elegant temple to honour Buddha’s purity, but the temple is distinct in both its style and symbolism. The artist built the temple to be a centre of learning and meditation and for people to gain benefit from the Buddhist teachings. Much of the temple is dedicated to portraying samsara, the Buddhist cycle of birth and death due to misconception and fixation on the self.

Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun in moonlight, Via:

Thus, the temple and its grounds are surprisingly modern and up to date, thus concentrating more on fictional elements of our materialistic world. Therefore it depicts the predators which are struggling to free themselves from the ground, aliens, and murals depicting Neo from The Matrix, Superman, and an angry bird flying towards the World Trade Center Towers.

Also Read: Interesting Facts About Acropolis & Parthenon of Athens – Greece

Architectural Brief

Wat Rong Khun’s construction began in 1997 by noted Thai painter turned architect Chalermchai Kositpipat and was completed in 2008. Unlike most Thai temples, the structure is all white as I mentioned above, with glass and mirrors embedded into the outside to make it shimmer in the sunlight. But later Kosipipat designed the White Temple to be viewed in the moonlight as it appears ghostly and spiritual.

Architecture of White Temple, Wat Rong Khun
Architecture of White Temple, Via:

An ornately decorated gold building to the left of the temple houses a public restroom, which is often referred to as the most alluring restroom in Thailand. There are nine buildings, including an ‘ubosot’, a hall to preserve the Buddhist relics, a meditation hall, the monks living quarters and an art gallery.

Symbolism in the Wat Rong Khun

Every detail of the white temple carries meaning and encourages the visitor to reflect on the Buddhist teachings that show the way to escape from the temptations, desires, greed and fascinations of the world desires and helps you in focusing on the mind instead. Whenever you will visit the Wat Rong Khun you will understand the meaning of symbolism & Buddhist teachings. Let’s begin—

The Ubosot

The most important building of the Wat Rong Khun, the ubosot or ordination hall is an all-white building with fragments of reflective glass in the plaster. The adorned ubosot shows some design elements of classic Northern Thai temples like the three-tiered roof and stylized Naga serpents.

Wat Rong Khun
The Ubosot, Via:

Whereas the murals of many old temples depict scenes from Buddhist stories, the walls of the white temple contain colourful murals that depict modern representations of good and evil, contemporary figures like Batman, Spiderman and Elvis, villains and superheroes from movies and comics and even spaceships.

The Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth, Wat Rong Khun

The ubosot, the main building of the white temple, is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake. In front of the bridge is a circular area with hundreds of reaching hands that symbolize desire. This area represents human suffering and hell. The bridge towards the ubosot, called the bridge of “the cycle of rebirth” signifies the crossing over from the cycle of death and rebirth into a state free of suffering. It symbolizes the way to happiness by overcoming worldly things as temptations, greed and desire.

The Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth
The Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth, Via:

Next to the lake stand two very elegant Kinnaree, a creature from Buddhist mythology, half-human and half-bird.

The Gate of Heaven

After crossing the bridge you will reach at the Gate of Heaven which is protected by two huge creatures that represent Death and Rahu, who decides over men’s fate.

The Golden Building at Wat Rong Khun

A structure that stands out the most because of its colour is the restrooms building i.e. the golden building of Wat Rong Khun. It is a highly ornamented and decorated structure, where the golden building represents the body, whereas the white ubosot represents the mind.

The Golden Building
The Golden Building, Via:

The gold depicts how people concentrate on fascinations and money of the world. The building symbolises the idea to make merit and to focus on the mind, instead of materialistic things and power.

The Crematorium

Another ornamented structure of the White temple of Thailand is the crematorium. This is where the dead are cremated. In Buddhism death is the transition from this life to the next, a cycle of death and rebirth that can only be ended by reaching enlightenment. The people attending the cremation are reminded of the temporary character of everything on earth, as opposed to the mind that lives forever.

So summing up here, I hope you have understood the symbolism, Buddhist teaching and history of Wat Rong Khun. Share your experiences with us and let us know what you like the most!!

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