Wat Chiang Man: Chiang Mai’s Oldest Temple

Chiang Mai’s Oldest Temple

Wat Chiang Man features two small assembly halls. The larger of these houses a 10 cm-tall Buddha known as Phra Kaew Khamani or Crystal Buddha that once belonged to Chama Thewi of Hariphunchai Queendom; it survived King Mengrai’s attack on Lamphun in 1296 and thus remains visible at Wat Chiang Man.

Temple complex features two viharns that contain historic Buddha images of great significance, which we will now explore further.

The Ubosot

Wat Chiang Man is one of the city’s most significant temple complexes, yet foreign visitors often overlook it due to being outside of the Old Walled Town and having more modest architecture compared to some of Chiang Mai’s grander temples. But that shouldn’t deter visitors – Wat Chiang Man provides an invaluable opportunity to gain more insight into Buddhist culture and history!

The Ubosot is the holiest room at any wat and serves to train monks for life as an ordained monk. No fee is charged to enter, although donations are always appreciated.

Within the Ubosot is typically displayed a large Buddha statue depicted in Maravijaya or meditation position, as well as being home to the temple library; originally used as a raised repository against floodwater, pesticides, and termites.

A chedi, or stupa, is one of the key structures at any wat and was traditionally used to hold sacred Buddhist relics or remains from important individuals who had passed on. Chiang Mai Temple boasts one of the oldest chedis dating back to 15th century – its bell-shaped design can also be found at Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom.

There are multiple small viharns in the Ubosot complex, but the largest one houses the Crystal Buddha statue, believed once belonged to Chama Devi, Queen of Haripunchai Kingdom. Locals pray to this statue on April 1st in hopes that rain may arrive soon!

The Ubosot is surrounded by eight boundary stones called Bai Sema that define its sacred space. Additionally, there is a ninth underground stone known as Luuk Nimit that serves as a marker of its area of influence.

The Ubosot is located in the northern section of Bangkok and is one of the most remarkable structures at Wat Chiang Man. If the heat becomes overwhelming, take some time out in peace here to rest and rejuvenate.

The Library

Wat Chiang Man features a large chedi which houses two ancient Buddha statues – Phra Sila is made from marble and dates back to 1465; Phra Satang Man is made from crystal and believed to possess healing properties; both are considered treasures of Thailand that can be seen inside its ubosot or ordination hall (ubosot).

Wat Chiang Man features an exquisitely decorated ubosot decorated with beautiful ocher colored wood details. In front of this impressive structure is a 1581 CE Stele that serves as evidence of Chiang Mai’s founding date.

Wat Chiang Man also features the temple library (ho trai), a wooden structure placed upon top of an elevated scripture repository. Although less elaborate than its counterpart at Wat Phra Singh, its ho trai still exudes charm and has plenty of meaning behind its construction.

Wat Chiang Man Temple stands out among others in the region because of its various viharns (meditation rooms) as well as its remarkable central pagoda that boasts 15 elephant sculptures on it, restored by Khru Ba Srivichai, a well-known monk during the 1920s and now serving as a major focal point.

Legend holds that the founding of this temple began when an elephant carrying an artifact believed to be from Buddha – possibly his shoulder bone – was sent up a mountain and attached with its tail tied around a sacred spot on which it circled three times before dying, signalling its importance and signifying that a temple would eventually be constructed there.

Wat Chiang Man should be one of your must-see attractions while visiting Chiang Mai’s historic old walled city. Accessible through Chang Puak Gate, it is just a short walk to Ratchaphakhinai Road where its temple stands – open daily from 0600-1800 hours!

The Chedi

Wat Chiang Man is well known for its iconic Chedi. A chedi is a large, golden pagoda which serves as the centerpiece of temple complexes, in this case Chiang Mai’s. Recognizable by a 1581 stele near Ubosot which chronicles its history and confirms it was founded by King Mengrai during construction of Chiang Mai city itself – with exact date (April 12, 1296 at 4am) and donor details listed.

Wat Chiang Man’s Chedi Chang Lom (or Elephant Chedi), which stands out in any temple compound. With its striking square base topped by two levels covered with life-sized brick and stucco elephants and its upper level boasting a bell-shaped relic chamber capped by a golden pinnacle, this structure is instantly recognisable.

A small viharn was present alongside the chedi, decorated with multicolored streamers and animal prints to commemorate Songkran. Additionally, several wooden statues in ochre and gold colors added depth and variety to its simple design.

Wat Chiang Man stands out among other temples in Bangkok by boasting an exceptional ho trai library that holds Buddhist scriptures, books on religion, philosophy and meditation – an unusual feature not frequently found elsewhere across Thailand and something you won’t often encounter anywhere else in this temple. This makes Wat Chiang Man truly stand out.

One of the highlights is Phra Sae Tang Khamani (The Crystal Buddha). Made of clear quartz, the small image of Buddha is said to have belonged to Queen Chamathewi of Lamphun before being transferred by King Mengrai to Chiang Mai for safe keeping by King Mengrai himself. Relic survived Haripunchai city destruction as well and is thought to provide protection from disaster.

Wat Chiang Man can be found within the walls of Old Bangkok and is only 10-12 minutes’ walk away from the Night Bazaar. Entrance fees are waived here but donations are greatly appreciated.

The Viharns

As well as its famous chedi and ordination hall, this temple also contains several viharns or assembly halls. One is more recent and less elaborate than its counterpart but is nonetheless still stunningly beautiful; it houses a Buddha image in Bhumisparsha mudra which represents touching down onto Earth; in front of it are offerings tables as well as wax statues that depict former monks that make for fascinating viewing.

At the back of the complex is another impressive Reclining Buddha statue, made from gold and black materials. Nearby there is also a pavilion featuring another reclining Buddha that is far less elaborate; nevertheless it adds charm to an already spectacular sight.

Near the seated Buddha and two smaller viharns there stands a small chedi with red balconies and white bases; this serves as the scripture library or Ho Trai for Wat Phra Singh and stores all their Buddhist texts. Though its appearance may not match up, its significance remains clear.

Just like its neighboring structure in Ubosot, the main chedi here is a sight to behold. Built over an extended period from 1391-1475 and featuring an exquisite golden roof featuring multiple overlapping layers that is quite distinctive for Thailand chedis.

Chiang Mai’s only chedi with such a unique roof design warrants closer examination, especially as its structure appears slightly asymmetrical due to past damage.

Temple hours of operation are from 6 am to 7 pm with entry being free for visitors. It provides a relaxing place for you to spend some quality time and explore its many impressive structures – it is no surprise this location was recognized as a National Heritage Site!