Whiter Wat Arun: Thai govt defends Temple of Dawn’s makeover following social media backlash

The comparison photos of Wat Arun, shown before and after the renovation, have been widely shared online. Photos: I know, I learn/ Facebook
The comparison photos of Wat Arun, shown before and after the renovation, have been widely shared online. Photos: I know, I learn/ Facebook

The Fine Arts Department responded to the social media backlash against the restoration of the famous Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), following comments that Thailand’s top attraction now looks “hideous,” as some netizens wrote, after a four-year-long repair.

The scaffolding surrounding the temple’s stupa was recently removed, but to the disappointment of many Thais, the sacred structure they had been waiting to revisit looks different than the Wat Arun they used to know — it’s much whiter.

Among the most shared comments was one from Associate Prof. Tortrakul Yomnak, president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand, who openly condemned those responsible for the renovation.

“What sort of repair job transformed Wat Arun white? The colorful, valuable, ancient porcelains were removed. Why did you do this?” He said in a public Facebook post that received over a thousand shares.

A photograph of the Temple of Dawn taken in 2006, before the renovation started. Photo: Jeremy Eades/ Flickr.


A recent photograph of the Temple of Dawn taken on Aug. 11, 2017, after the renovation was completed. Photo: Coconuts Media

Another influential figure, Thai film director Prince Chatree Chalerm Yugala, also called the renovation “sloppy,” and accused temple officials of having intent to sell the removed ceramic tiles.

“This sort of hideousness — only countries like Thailand are capable of doing this,” he wrote.

“The Fine Arts Department and Thai artists, is this the best you can do? Sloppy job. You removed the colorful tiles. Someone will probably use them to decorate Buddha images for sale,” he added. 

ความอัปลักษณ์ มีที่ประเทศไทยทำได้ ประเทศเดียว….เห็น FB ของ อจ ต่อตระกูล แล้วจิตใจห่อเหี่ยว เรื่อง การบูรณะ พระปรางค์…

Chulcherm Yugala 发布于 2017年8月14日

Meanwhile, other netizens could only say they preferred how the pagoda looked before the restoration.

However, Fine Arts Department Chief Anandha Chuchoti insisted yesterday that the new look of Wat Arun is not different from what appeared after the previous repairs during the reigns of King Rama IV and V (in the 1800s), Bangkok Post reported.

Meanwhile, the temple’s assistant abbot, Phra Sakkaya Puttiyawong, explained that the stupa now looks whiter simply because the dark-green “stains left by moss” were scrubbed off during the renovation.

“They cleaned moss-tainted stupas and restored the surface,” the assistant abbot said. “This whitened the stupas, returning them to their original beauty.”

Nevertheless, the Fine Arts Department admitted that it had to replace 40 percent of the damaged tiles, or about 120,000 out of 300,000 pieces, in the process or the restoring Bangkok’s landmark.

“We can’t deny some surfaces had to be reworked which may have affected the original patterns,” Anandha said.

Do you prefer Wat Arun before or after the renovation? Let us know in the comments.

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