Buddhist temple inspired by superheroes and Keanu

 Wp-Content Uploads 2011 01 Temple3  Wp-Content Uploads 2011 01 Temple6 Over at FEELGuide, Brent Lambert shows us the magnificent, and magnificently odd, Wat Rong Khun buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Designed by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, it reminds me a bit of a Buddhist Sagrada Família enhanced with images of, er, Superman, Batman, Avatar, Keanu Reeves as Neo, and the Predator. From FEELGuide:
Keanuuuuu 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 represents the human world. The big circle with fangs is the mouth of Rahu is a representation of hell or 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...

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 others line the walls.

"Buddhist Temple Design Inspired By Superman, Spiderman, Batman, And Keanu Reeves"


  1. I’m quite familiar with Thailand (and I’ve been to Chiang Rai), and my girlfriend is Thai and Buddhist and I’ve been to Buddhist temples in Thailand many times – not as a tourist, but with my girlfriend for the various reasons Buddhists go to temples.

    However, I’m a bit taken aback by this! It’s really, really out-there. I don’t know how Thais feel about it, but my feeling is that most would probably consider it as an art installation rather than a temple they’d actually use as a temple.

    That said, the artistry there does seem very Thai to me. I’m no art critic so it’s hard to explain what I mean. And while the pop-culture imagery is odd, the choices – some of which we’d consider “bad” in art/culture terms, like Keanu Reeves – made me laugh, because that’s exactly what I’d imagine they’d use, given the starting condition of taking figures from Western pop culture. These things – crappy as we may think they are in the context of Western culture – take on entirely different meanings in places like Thailand.

  2. A Thai person, living in Bangkok, here.. This somewhat over-the-top design really reflects his over-sized opinions on many things. I heard him being interviewed on TV and he seemed very unconventional and bombastic. However, drawings on temple walls in Thailand tend to reflect the current feeling of the time and normal everyday things. On some early Bangkok period temples, you can find depictions of lives hundreds of years ago. Not always in pious poses, too, but scenes of people going shopping for foods, fornicating, playing cards, women breast-feeding, men going off to war, people drinking, foreigners mingling with the common folks, etc. These paintings as well as various stucco found in temples give us snapshots of what the normal lives of people was like way back then. A couple of nights before, there was a piece of news on the TV about artists incorporating images of Doraemon and Nobita on temple walls.

    Of course, you can also find scenes of people being punished for sinning as well, but that’s to be expected, isn’t.

  3. As a Thai person, I’ll give my personal take on this.

    A “wat”, or temple, is something of a community center. It’s the place where villagers and travelers alike will comingle the most. You’ll also find fairs and carnivals set up on the grounds.

    This temple is very novel. And the novelty is exactly how information about this place has spread. I couldn’t sneak a photo of the interior. But from what I could remember, the interior had a very large panoramic mural trying to depict just about everything in the universe. It’s common for the Buddha to be depicted in the middle of worldly and supernatural chaos. But the scenes are usually based on very ancient legends. This particular temple has made a point to use imagery closer to our time, and a speculative distant future. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the artists have Deviant Art accounts.

    There’s a building next to the temple, where you can see copies of pages from Chalermchai Kositpipat’s sketchbook. He uses an industrial punk aesthetic to depict city life. They sell really elegant prints on T-shirts there.

    He might have been the guy rambling on the PA system. The man was jokingly directing tourists not to gawk and pose in front of a lavishly decorated building, because it was really just the bathrooms!

    I like it. But being a biased BoingBoinger, I like to get blasted with stimulating imagery.

  4. I’ve been here a few times as I live quite close to the temple

    apart from Keanu cs, it also has images of booze, blackberries, kalashnikovs etc. the temptations/goodies/evils (you pick) of modern life

    The construction/decoration is still in progress and the temple is a popular tourist destination, particularly for the Thai

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