Heaven and Hell: Black House in Chiang Rai

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand


The Black House is one of the most unusual, weird and surreal masterpieces in Thailand. If the better-known White Temple gives an image of heaven, the Black House is full of death.


 

Chalermchai Kositpipat, the architect of the world famous White Temple, definitely dares to think boldly. But he isn’t the only Thai artist who doesn’t like to be confined within the framework of the traditional art.

 

Baan Dam, known as the Black House

The Black House is one of the most unusual, weird and surreal masterpieces in Thailand. If the better-known White Temple gives an image of heaven, the Black House is full of death. Both structures are creations of the local artists from Chiang Rai.

The Black House is the White Temple’s counterpart. In contrast to the white Wat Rong Khun, it’s black and dark brown. In Thai, “baan” means house and “dam” means black. Although Baan Dam is referred to as the Black Temple and despite the temple-like appearance of its main building, it doesn’t have a religious significance.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

The Black House is the creation of the local artist from Chiang Rai Thawan Duchanee. Thawan Duchanee hasn’t always been popular. His controversial art shocked the conservative Thai society, and he was accused of disrespect of Buddhism. Although heavily criticised in his early years, Thawan Duchanee has been honoured as a National Artist of Thailand and has received the international recognition.

Thawan Duchanee started the construction of Baan Dam, or the Black House in 1976, and it’s still a work in progress. The artist used Baan Dam as his art studio and home. Now it serves as a museum showcasing his surreal work.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

The Black House is not just one structure but a collection of forty buildings of various shapes and sizes located in a peaceful garden.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

The more you wander around, the more discoveries you make. Every corner brings a new surprise – you never know what you will stumble upon next. Although we spent one afternoon visiting Baan Dam, we could have easily spent the whole day wandering around.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

The Black House complex has many temple-looking buildings and open-air structures.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

There are also circular-shape white buildings and a building in the shape of a whale.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Some buildings are closed to the public such as a whale-looking building, the artist’s former home. But you can peek inside through its windows.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Despite the differences in the style of its buildings, the Black House complex has a unique style with its predominantly black colour and animal remains.

For his creation, Thawan Duchanee combined the elements of traditional Thai architecture with some contemporary ideas in a unique way. The main building, a large wooden structure located by the entrance, resembles a traditional Thai Buddhist temple with its multi-tiered roof in Lanna style, imposing doors, a Buddha statue, and carvings of nagas.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

But once inside, you quickly realise it’s anything but a temple.

A huge wooden table, as coming from the time of the Vikings, attracts your immediate attention. The table, surrounded by massive black chairs with legs made from buffalo horns, is laid with snake and crocodile skins as table-runners.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Wandering on the Black House grounds, you are constantly coming across animal remains. Animal skins, skulls, furs and bones are everywhere. There are also intricate wooden carvings and chairs made from buffalo horns.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

The black colour, sombre interiors, and dead animals create a dark and mysterious atmosphere, and a feeling of evil.

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

Baan Dam (Black House) in Chiang Rai in Thailand

According to some opinions, the Black House with its animal remains represents the sufferings on Earth, sickness, and death. It portrays the darkness of humanity and hell. However, the artist didn’t intend to create a Hell Temple (as the Black House is often referred to) but a place to showcase his artwork.

Weird, bizarre, creative, surreal, provocative, creepy are descriptions easily applied to the Baan Dam, or Black House. You may like it or not, but you cannot deny that Baan Dam is a unique creation left to us by the artist who died in 2014 at the age of 74.

 

Practical Information

Location: The Black House is located 10 km to the north of Chiang Rai city.

Transportation: The Black House can be reached from Chiang Rai by bus from the old bus station, by tuk-tuk, by car or by motorbike (the most convenient option). It’s 20-25 min drive by motorbike from Chiang Rai and about 30 min drive from the White Temple. You can also book a shared tour, which often combines the Black House with a visit to the White Temple.

Cost: free admission.

Additional information: The Black House is closed for lunch from 12 noon to 1pm.
Thawan Duchanee website

LOVED IT? PLEASE SHARE

Written by
Errol & Olga

Written by ANYWAYINAWAY

Olga and Errol are the Swiss-Russian couple behind ANYWAYINAWAY. Passionate about unique culture and traditions, they decided to take career breaks and explore the world with the intention to expand awareness and provide new perspectives to the understanding of ethnic minority people, customs, traditions and culture. They also show the beauty of our planet and try to find something interesting in the ordinary.

Related Posts
More Stories

Hiking in Switzerland to the Mont-Fort Hut in Verbier

Hiking in Switzerland to the Arpitettaz Hut

Dumpling syndrome, or Baba Nyonya food culture

Papua New Guinea Culture & Traditions: Baining Fire Dance

Co-working spaces and cafes for digital nomads in Chiang Mai

Papua New Guinea Sepik River Crocodile Festival

Papua New Guinea: Gulf Mask Festival

Chinese New Year celebration in Chiang Mai

Papua New Guinea: National Mask Festival in East New Britain

Beginining of our project

Bushwalking in PNG: Mt Diamond waterfall

Hiking in Switzerland to the Aiguilles Rouges hut

Bushwalking in PNG: Hombrum Bluff Lookout

Hiking in Switzerland to the Sassal Mason Hut in Graubünden

Water buffalo or “iron buffalo”? Sanpatong market in Chiang Mai

Bushwalking in PNG: surroundings of March Girls resort

Bushwalking in PNG: Taurama Barracks to Malaoro market

Travel to the afterlife, or Hmong funerals in Vietnam

Bushwalking in PNG: Koitaki Country Club

Bushwalking in PNG: Mt Erima lookout

Black and White: White Temple In Chiang Rai

Hiking in Switzerland to the Louvie hut

Bushwalking in PNG: Bisianamu Rubber Plantation

Papua New Guinea Festivals: Enga Show

Hiking in Switzerland in Grindelwald – Bernese Oberland

Hiking in Switzerland to the Schönbiel Hut in Zermatt

Living an Illusion: Art in Paradise gallery in Chiang Mai

Bushwalking in PNG: Varirata National Park

Hiking in Switzerland to the Orny Hut in Wallis

Hiking in Switzerland on top of Grande Dixence Dam to the Dix hut

Hiking in Switzerland to the Aletsch Glacier

Ten kilos of roses please: Pak Khlong Talat Flower market in Bangkok

Bushwalking in PNG: Taurama Barracks to Sero Beach and Pyramid Point

Hiking in Switzerland in Ticino to the Basodino hut

Can Cau Market, or where to sell your buffalo

Bushwalking in PNG: Burns Peak

Papua New Guinea: Bougainville Reeds Festival

Tofu making in Vietnam

Mekong crossing on slowboat: from Thailand to Laos

Chingay ritual, a special ending of the Chinese New Year

Laos without elephants ?

Heaven and Hell: Black House in Chiang Rai

No Comments

Post A Comment


close-link

Please leave this field empty.

close-link

Please leave this field empty.

close-link