Wat Phra Singh
Of the many beautiful and old temples, Wat Phra Singh may well be the most attractive in Chiang Mai.
The temple, also known as The Monastery of the Lion Buddha or The Temple of the Lion Buddha, is a very active temple with hundreds of monks and novices living there.
Wat Phra Singh dates back to the 14th century when Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and is a great example of Lanna style architecture with many highly revered and old Buddha image.
There are many Lanna style buildings at the Wat, the oldest being the main chedi which was built by King Pha Yu in 1345 to enshrine the ashes of his father. Since it’s construction in the 14th century, it has been considerably enlarged. The chedi is circular in shape with a square base. Each side of the chedi is decorated with elephant figures emerging from the chedi.
One of the best examples of Lanna style architecture is the viharn Lai Kham. This viharn was built during the 14th century to house the highly revered Phra Singh Buddha image. This Wat was originally named Wat Li Chiang Phra until the Phra Singh Buddha imaged was brought here in 1367. The exterior of viharn Lai Khon is decorated in typical Lanna gold and ochre colors. The viharn itself is made from teak wood and a 3 tiered roof, the lower edges are decorated with chofahs and an ornamental decoration resembling the shape of a thin bird.
The viharns interior’s beauty equals that of its exterior. At the back you’ll find the Phra Singh Buddha image with the wall covered with Kai Kham, a red lacquer patterned with gold leaf. The other 3 walls have murals painted in the 1920’s showing popular local stories, scenes from the 19tth century and tales about previous lives of the Buddha.
Vihanr Luang is the largest building in the Wat. While the original viharn was built during the 14th century, it was replaced by the current building in 1925. This viharn houses the highly revered Phra Chao Thong Tip Buddha image. Cast of gold and copper in 1477, this Buddha image is seated in the subduing Mara Mudras posture.
Wat Phra Singhs wooden ubosot was built in 1806. The gables of the bot are highly decorated with wood carvings. Here we find a very elaborate Ku which is a mondop like throne with a Buddha image. At the other end of the bot there is a copy of the Emerald Buddha image – the original is now located in Bangkok.
The Ho Trai is another excellent example of Lanna style architecture and is where the temple library and ancient Buddhist scriptures are kept.
The Ho Trai was built during the 15th century and is an elaborate wooden structure built on a stone base to protect its contents from flooding and insects. The base is decorated with Devata figures (sort of guardian angels) and the wooden top is covered with glass mosaics and gilded lacquer works. Large mythical creatures guard the entrance steps. The Wat area has several other chedis, the Kuti (monks living quarters) and a building containing a reclining Buddha image
Wat Phra Singh is located in the old walled city at the end of Ratchadamnoen Road. There is a modest entrance fee at this Wat.