Location: Chiang Rai, May 2nd
So, yesterday I went to Wat Rong Khung or, as most of the world calls it, the White Temple.
And one thing is for sure, the architect Chalwermchai Kositpipat has A LOT to say. So much, in fact, that along the lines of Gaudi’s church in Barcelona, his temple - an actual building that acts as his own personal narrative is estimated to be finished late into this Century.
Let’s have a little history lesson, shall we? Again, so I can remember it. Do it for me!
The White Temple: How It Began
So, this was a temple originally built many years ago. But, at the end of the 20th Century, it was in horrible shape and no one had any money to fix it up. There were a few renovation projects that ended up stalling, due to lack of funds.
So Kositpipat steps in. “I will do it!” he says. “I will take on this temple…. If you let me resdesign it in any manner I like, so it reflects my Buddhist beliefs and my many modern analogies that embody the teachings of Buddha. I will EVEN fund these changes with my own money! It will take countless of years and you will still be building it long after I am dead, for I target the completion date to be 2070. But, it will be worth it because what I build will be so shocking that it will make headlines and most of all, tourists come! They will come in droves to this Northernmost city in Thailand! Chinese tourists in double decker busses will come and be led by guides wearing crocs and holding pink parasols with scarves tied to them. But most importantly, you will be able to entice everyone to buy postcards of my masterpiece in order to make small amounts of money that will fund the temple's construction. And, let's not forget, you will be able to sell these sweating tourists overpriced water. Everyone needs water. Oh, right, I am also going to build an adjacent center for Buddhist meditation which I think will give me, along with the rest of this project, immortal life. Good day.” (Please note, this is not a direct quote. More of an Ashley interpretation and general creative writing project)
The entire situation, frankly, was a deal with Rumplestiltskin. And, whoever was in charge shook Rumps’ hand.
The White Temple Today
It reopened to visitors in 1997. In 2015, visitors are treated to what critics say are his “surreal visions of Buddhist teachings," which are still being built, as 2070 is still, a ways away.
I couldn't go inside the temple, because there is construction going on. But, per Lindsay, who was here just about a year ago, inside there are a bunch of crazy caricatures of Sponge Bob, George Bush, Superman. "Crazy shit, like a comic book." Scenes of which are again, designed to be a modern interpretation of Buddhist teachings.
To his credit, the artist does not entertain any deals with big donors, because he does not want his art to be influenced. This entire thing is funded by donation + people buying those charming little postcards.
It was one of the more awesome things I have ever seen and you have got to give the man props - Kositpipat - whatever his deal is – has a vision and a lengthy narrative at that. Perhaps we are not so different, Kositpipat and I. :)
I have this blog. He has a temple which represents a modern narrative on what Buddhism is. He is examining life, death and the afterlife. Millions go there. On a good day, 150 people read my banter. I talk about sweating, most of the time.
Hmm. Maybe there are some differences afterall, when you get into the fine print.