Chalermchai Kositpipat, a well-known Thai artist, designed and built Wat Rong Khun. The temple blends Lanna culture harmoniously with both stucco patterns embellished with mirrors and big wall murals, and was erected with a great determination to create particularly beautiful works of art. The white ordination hall is stunning, with gleaming silver mirrors and distinctive stucco patterns, as well as gorgeous murals that are hypnotic to look at.
Wat Rong Khun story
Around 1887, a small group of peasants settled on farmland near Ban Rong Khun hamlet (the location of Wat Rong Khun at present). The people rely on a small river that feeds into the Mae Lao River and has an opaque appearance, earning them the nickname “Ban Hong Khun” (Rong Khun) because “Khun” means opaque. Later, Khun Udomkitkasemrat (nobleman) brought his family and friends into the community, bringing the total number of homes to around 50. He’d planned to create a monastery within the town to serve as the community’s mental anchor. As a result, Wat Rong Khun was born and has lived until now.
Wat Rong Khun was founded on the western bank of the Lao River, near the Mae Mon River, some 500 meters south of the Rong Khun River. A group of Buddhist believers in the area banded together to construct a pavilion and a cubicle out of wood for religious purposes. The people chose “Thongsuk Bawin,” a monk from Wat San Sai Noi, Moo 13, as the first abbot.
Water eroded the temple as a result, and it was no longer able to preserve the religious site. Later, when Mee Kaewleemsai, the new village head, was promoted, he chose to relocate the temple to his paddy field, which was located on the west side of the road, adjacent to the Rong Khun River. Thongsuk Bawin left the temple soon after, leaving the temple with only three novices. Tar Dewarat, one of the three novices, later retired as a layman. The villagers held Tar Dewarat in high regard. As a result, he was appointed as a village headman, eventually rising to become the headman of Bua Sali Subdistrict (the first headman of Rong Khun Village). Tar Dewarat noticed that the hamlet had grown in size and population, and that the temple was narrow and located near a river, which would cause problems for the locals when the flood season arrived. As a result, the headman and the villagers decided to relocate the temple to its current position. Mrs. Bua Kaew, Tar Dewarat’s wife, donated the 4 rai of land on which the temple stands. Villagers work together to build a new temple and travel to Wat Mung Muang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, to welcome monk “Duangrot Aphakara” to become the next abbot.
During the time of the abbot, “Phra Duangros Apakaro.” Wat Rong Khun was a wealthy temple. There were four monks, ten novices, and two nuns. After many years, Phra Duangros Apakaro has relocated to a new temple. As a result, Wat Rong Khun was once again without monk leaders. As a result, the villagers came to Mueang Chiang Rai District to meet with the monk dean and beg for select monks to become abbots of Wat Rong Khun. The monk dean dispatched Phra Inta to the new abbots, but he only stayed for a year before relocating to another temple.
In the year 1956, the people returned to Wat San Sai Noi to ask and invite Phra Sawai Chakro to become the abbot. In 1964, he constructed the main hall. Later, in 1977, Phra Sawai, headman Peng, and villagers venerated an ancient stone Buddha from Nong Sa Village, Mae Chai District, as the chapel’s principal Buddha image. Wat Rong Khun thrived, with Thai and Chinese religious groups settling in the area and some dispersing to other locations. When they get wealthy, they return to help maintain the temple, as is customary.
There are also many foreign religious groups that trust the abbots and have traveled to give merit and donations, so the temple’s construction was completed. Phra Sawai was promoted to “Phra Kru Chakriyanuyut” in 1994. In 1995, Phra Kru Chakriyanuyut constructed a new pavilion for baking herbs to heal people who were addicted to drugs, which was a major initiative for the temple. However, he was paralyzed, and the project was canceled as a result.
Wat Rong Khun devotees planned to demolish the old chapel, which had been standing for 38 years and had been taken over by a massive swarm of bats. On June 3, 1995, they agreed to build a new chapel and demolish the existing one. On November 26, 1995, a ceremony was organized to lay the foundation stone for the new structure.
The current chapel’s construction began on February 3, 1996, although only the central chapel’s structure was completed. Because of the 1997 economic downturn, temple factors became scarce. The great artist, Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. He was born into the Ban Rong Khun family and has pledged to continue to build a chapel as a Buddhist worship offering, hoping that the temple will become “Art for the Land.” He opted to build the chapel with his own money, with no intention of interfering with the temple or the villagers’ efforts to raise funds to build a temple in the midst of an economic downturn.
Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat has arrived to make renovations, and the temple now impresses both Thais and visitors. Wat Rong Khun has grown from obscurity to become a well-known temple that serves as a showcase for the region and the country. When completed, the temple construction project will include four buildings: a chapel, a castle storing relics, a Rai Museum pavilion, and a pavilion to greet visitors to the temple.
The chapel's significance
White: the purity of the Buddha
Bridge: A walk across from the cycle of birth and death to Buddhism
Mouths of the devil: passion in the heart
The ridge of the bridge: There are eight demons on each side, two on each side, together representing sixteen defilements.
The middle of the bridge : Mount Phra Sumeru, the Divine Lotus : There are 4 large flowers on the side of the chapel representing the arch of the 4 noble monks, namely Phra Sotaban, Sakitagami, Anagami, and Arahant.
Stairs leading up : There are 3 steps instead of Anacchan(impermanent), Duk Khang(subject to suffering), Anatta(non-self).
Wat Rong Khun's structures and symbols
The white temple compound will include nine buildings when finished, including the existing ubosot, a relics hall, a meditation hall, an art gallery, and monks’ housing rooms.
The "cycle of rebirth" bridge
The “cycle of rebirth” bridge: the ubosot, the white temple’s main edifice, is approached by crossing a bridge over a small lake. Hundreds of outstretched hands stand in front of the bridge, symbolizing unbridled yearning. The bridge says that avoiding temptation, greed, and want is the route to happiness. Two exceedingly gorgeous Kinnaree, half-human, half-bird creatures from Buddhist mythology, stand next to the lake.
Wat Rong Khun, Gate of Heaven
The visitor arrives at the “door of heaven” after crossing the bridge, which is guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu, who judges the fate of the dead. Several meditating Buddha pictures stand in front of the ubosot.
Ubosot of Wat Rong Khun
Ubosot: The main structure, the ubosot, is an all-white structure with mirrored glass fragments placed in the façade. The ubosot incorporates ancient Thai architectural aspects such as the three-tiered roof and the extensive usage of Naga serpents.” The decor inside the temple shifts from pure white to flaming and perplexing. Murals feature swirling orange flames and monster faces, with Western icons like Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddy Krueger, and a T-800 series Terminator interwoven. Nuclear weapons, terrorist assaults like the World Trade Center attack, and oil pumps serve as stark reminders of humanity’s devastating impact on the planet. Although the appearance of Harry Potter, Superman, and Hello Kitty muddles the message, the overarching theme is clear: people are evil.”
The golden structure, Wat Rong Khun
The golden structure: “The rest rooms building is a structure that stands out due to its hue. This golden structure, which is ornately adorned, depicts the body, while the white ubosot represents the mind. The gold represents how humans are consumed by materialistic ambitions and money. The white building depicts the idea of earning merit and focusing on the intellect rather than worldly possessions.”
How to travel to Wat Rong Khun
Take the Chiang Rai – Bangkok road, pass through Phayao Province, Mae Chai District, Phayao Province, Phan District, Chiang Rai Province, and drive towards. After leaving Phan District, cross the Mae Lao Bridge (Laos River) and continue driving till you reach Mae Suai Intersection (Separate to Mae Suai District and go to Chiang Mai Province). If you look on the left hand side approximately 10 kilometers before reaching Khun Korn Intersection (the path to Khun Korn Waterfall), you will see about 200 meters. The white temple will draw your attention. Turn left at the fork in the road to Khun Korn Waterfall. Wat Rong Khun will be around 100 meters away, 13 kilometers from Chiang Rai city, on the main km. 816, Phahon Yothin Road (No. 1/A2).
When leaving Chiang Rai city and coming from Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai International Airport, or Chiang Rai city, turn south on the road to Phan District, Chiang Rai Province, or on the way to Phayao Province. Then, at the 2nd bus station, you’ll come to a red light junction. Continue straight until you get to a red light, then turn right at the Khun Korn Intersection (which leads to the Khun Korn Waterfall). Wat Rong Khun is only a few minutes away from Chiang Rai city.
If coming from Chiang Mai Province, take Doi Saket District, enter Wiang Pa Pao District, Chiang Rai Province, continue through Mae Suai District until you reach Mae Suai intersection, turn left to Chiang Rai Province (turn right to Phan District, go Phayao Province) from Mae Suai, and drive for about 10 kilometers until you reach Khun Korn Intersection. Turn left (on the route to Khun Korn Waterfall) into
Wat Rong Khun is open to the public every day of the year. 0 5367 3579, TAT Chiang Rai office Tel. 0 5371 7433, and the Tourism Management Center Chiang Rai Province Tel. 0 5371 5690, or for more information call 0 5367 3579, TAT Chiang Rai office Tel. 0 5371 7433, and the Tourism Management Center Chiang Rai Province Tel. 0 5371 5690. Foreign tourists must pay a 50 baht entrance fee at Wat Rong Khun.