Yesterday I came across the strangest temple I have ever seen in my entire life. It’s the Wat Rong Khun buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The sanctuary was conceived by acclaimed Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, and is of such staggering complexity that it is estimated the building will need almost 100 more years to complete its construction.
Designed in white with some use of mirrors, the color symbolizes Lord Buddha’s purity, and the mirror 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 embodies the human world. The big circle with fangs is the mouth of Rahu and representats hell, suffering, and the impurities of the human mind (similar to the Christian concept of original sin). All of 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 celestial “all seeing” state. On the roof, there are four kinds of animals representing earth, water, wind and fire. The elephant stands for the earth; the naga (Buddhist grouping of serpent deities) stands for water; the swan’s wings represent wind; and the lion’s mane represents fire.
Undoubtedly the most bizarre element of the design is the presence of contemporary images throughout the interior. Images of the Predator from the Schwarzenegger film franchise, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Avatar, Keanu Reeves’ character in the Matrix, rocket ships, and many others line the walls of the sanctuary. The sea of hands holding skulls rising up towards the bridge to the temple is also very striking.
NOTE TO KEANU REEVES: How amazing would it be if you were to set THIS UPCOMING FILM PROJECT of yours at the Wat Rong Khun temple?! Just a thought.