Eighteen years ago a renowned Thai artist, Ajar Chalermchai Kositpipat, decided to build a temple showcasing modern Thai artistry. His vision, which has become Wat Rong Khun about 15 km south of Chiang Rai, was to create a masterpiece of Thai art like no other, depicting the tradition of centuries in modern form, and no less compelling than Angkor Wat or the Taj Mahal. As far as he is concerned, this is still under construction, far from finished despite having dozens of artists constantly working on it.
Interestingly, the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was a moment that crystallised his intentions about this entire complex. He wanted it to be devoted to peace. The names George Bush and Osama Bin Laden represented forces of hatred and greed, causing great human suffering. He has also represented environmental themes, depicting demons doing violence to the earth in the age of Globalisation.
The grounds are immaculately manicured with reflecting pools scattered throughout. Mirrors are embedded in the white stucco art everywhere, reflecting the wisdom of Dharma. The white color everywhere is a turn toward purity, rather than using gold which is associated with greed and lust.
Visitors can buy a small silver leaf for about $1 which they can hang either on a wall or on a wooden “tree” as a blessing for themselves or their families.
The “tree” depicted here is densely hung with these leaves, which are likely removed every couple of days to make space for new ones.
No photos are permitted inside the sanctuary, whose walls are brilliant original Bosch-like murals (by Ajarn Chalermchai himself) depicting Buddha’s victories over demons in various forms.