Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple of Chiang Rai is one of the main attraction of the Northern Thailand. Most probably many saw pictures of it. It is a completely white fairy tale looking temple. Wat Rong Khun is very different from any Buddhist temple I have seen before. It reminds me of fairy tales where castles are made of snow and ice. Coming from a country where we have real winters it is a bit strange to see this structure as if made of snow in warm climate of Thailand.
But the temples and statues of this Buddhist complex is not the only peculiar feature. When you see the main chapel from outside you don’t really anticipate what you will see inside and how it will surprise you. I am sure different people have different reactions. I personally thought it was some kind of a joke or mockery.
When you enter the main central wall is adorned with statues of Buddhas and other Buddhist symbols. But the opposite wall will definitely make you raise your brows in surprise when you see burning twin towers, angry birds, Spiderman or characters from Star Wars.
Besides them you will Michael Jackson, Freddy Kruger, Terminator, Neo from Matrix, Transformers, characters from Avatar, Harry Poter, Elvis Presley and even Kungfu Panda. It is weird for a Buddhist temple, isn’t it?
All this looks very unusual and even strange but that was the idea of the Thai Buddhist artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. His idea is to show the good and bad using images from the popular culture of the West and unfortunate events of 9/11. These unusual murals are placed opposite the Buddhas. I believe they are meant to show that people should clean themselves, their minds from bad intentions and wrong ideas, and that all the popular culture with violence, greed, hedonism is the wrong way in life. People should give up all these unnecessary and turn to the path of purification and enlightenment.
I agree that Freddy Kruger or Terminator are not positive characters, but what about Kungfu Panda or Batman? They seem to be good heroes and teach us lessons of fairness by helping and saving others. Probably the only way to learn what exactly the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat meant is to ask him himself.
For now we can see these strange images and make our decisions about what is the message behind them.
What do you think about it? What is the message?
Do you think they are just weird whims of the artist to stand out of the crowd or a skillful new approach to deliver the important message?