Religion and Architecture. Exploring contemporary Buddhism in the Wat Rong Khun Temple in Thailand
- Andre Magpantay / stud., University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, PH
Forms of religious architecture such as temples serve as a testament to people’s ability to create and construct meanings related to faith and spirituality. In Buddhism, temples are holy grounds for meditation and spaces where different symbols, icons, and imagery meet. In 1997, the Wat Rong Khun temple in Thailand was opened to visitors. This paper examines the materiality, materialization, and the subsequent perception of the White Temple as art through the analysis of its visual semiotics and of its context. Important perceptions of the Buddhist faith such as the samsara and the trikaya are reviewed and related to the temple structure. The four elements and parts of the architecture are the focus of this study: the golden building, the bridge of the cycle of rebirth, the gates of heaven, and the Ubosot or the principal building. The analysis reveals that the material and its specific image, as well as its materialization are used to reflect religious perspectives, predominantly through the combination of materials with intrinsic meanings such as concrete, wood and glass as well as through the juxtaposition of the two key colors: gold and white. The intermingling of different materials and of symbolism from different religions, folk beliefs, and popular culture connotes the unity of the past and the present. The nature of contemporary Buddhism as eclectic, syncretic and hybrid is observed throughout the “unlimited semiosis” of the temple. Hence, the Wat Rong Khun temple in Thailand serves as a prominent example of architectural experimentation using both material and perception to communicate perspectives of contemporary Buddhism in today’s world.
contemporary Buddhism, eclectic architecture, hybridity, syncretism, Thai Buddhism, unlimited semiosis, iconic power
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