North Thailand Road Trip (Part 7): The Macabre Black House of Chiang Rai

It seems like the province of Chiang Rai is the weirdness capital of Thailand. This is where I saw the bizarre White Temple and tasted the fried bugs for sale in the night market. I thought that the weirdness stopped at these two travel experiences but I was very wrong because on the third day of our North Thailand road trip, Yam and J brought us to a place where monsters are tied to the ground...

Monster tied to the ground in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

…and houses are as black as a starless night.

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The Black House is one of the structures in the art complex built by the Thai national artist Thawan Duchanee.

Thawan Duchanee uses Thai and Buddhist motif and some of his artworks were considered blasphemous to Buddhism.1 In the Black House, Thawan interprets the human sufferings observed by Buddha in his journey to “enlightenment”.2

Inside the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The Black House is one cavernous house with a very long table in the middle of it. Snake skins serves as table runners. At the head of the table is a chair for an evil overlord.

Evil King's Throne in Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

At the sides are other tables for the evil minions.

Creepy table in Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

And near the corner are posts where they hang the flayed skins of their enemies.

Posts with dried skin in Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

What I mentioned above are silly but that’s what I imagined as I walked inside the Black House. The place made me think of the Devil and other evil spirits not the sufferings seen by Buddha.

Ornate door of the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The Black House is totally made of wood. The posts, the beams, and even the roof are wooden.

The macabre display inside the Black House are little creepy but what really shocked me is this:

Maharlika by Filipino artist Florence Cinco in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand
"Maharlika" by Florence Cinco.

A canvass with the Filipino word “MAHARLIKA” which means “royal”.

I never expected to see a Filipino artwork in this place. In fact, I saw not only one but two artworks created by Filipino artists. The other artwork is “Tatlong Maria” by Salvador Javier Ching:

Tatlong Maria by Salvador Javier Ching in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Our visit was just in time for an international festival that’s why artworks by foreign artists were on display in the Black House.

Aside from artworks made by Pinoys, there were artworks created by artists from USA, Sri Lanka, Korea, Vietnam, and many more.


Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand
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Surrounding the black house are other surreal structures like this big black thing that reminded me of the boar in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

Big black boar in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The big black boar was actually Thawan’s room and it was off limits to visitors. I believe that the room is empty now since Thawan died September last year.3

Big black boar in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The creepiest place in the whole art complex would be the one I dubbed as the “Hall of Evil Things”.

Creepy room in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Hooded men on the chairs and a sacrificial virgin at the center are all it needs to make it more horrifying.

The macabre are everywhere in this art complex. Even the toilet was not spared!

Weird toilet in the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Thai and foreigners can enter the Black House. Admission is free although there are places where access is restricted. The house is open in the morning (9 AM to 12 noon) and afternoon (1 PM to 5 PM).

Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

I was not impressed with what I saw in the Black House. Thawan wanted us to see his interpretation of some Buddhist teaching. What I just saw is a set of a horror film. Don’t take my word on it, however, as people have varying interpretations when it comes to art. Visit the Black House and make your own interpretations and please return to this blog and tell us about your experience.

Carabao skulls at the Black House, Chiang Rai, Thailand

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Travel Notes:

1. The Black House is not for everyone. Some will be offended by Thawan’s work as there are phalluses aside from the macabre display. This place is not advisable for kids.

2. Black Temple, as some people call this place, is incorrect since it is a house and not a wat. So, unlike real Thai temples, removing your shoes and strict dress code is not required when entering the Black House.

3. For more info about the Black House (i.e. commuting by bus), I highly recommend that you read this post in Thaizer.

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Footnotes:

1. "Baan Dam (Black House) Chiang Rai" in Thaizer. Blogger Roy Cavangh mentioned that some of Thawan’s artworks were physically attacked because of its so-called blasphemy against Buddhism.

2. Ibid.

3. "Thawan Duchanee" Dies in Thaizer
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