Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh - In the centre of the city Wat Phra Singh is located in the western part of the old city centre of Chiang Mai, which is contained within the city walls and moat. The main entrance, which is guarded by Singhs (lions), is situated at the end of the main street (Rachadamnoen road) of Chiang Mai. The road runs east from the temple, via Tapae Gate, to the Ping River. It is probably Chiang Mai's best-known temple, housing the Phra Singh image. Of particular note historically is Wihaan Lai Kham in the back, featuring Lanna-style temple murals and intricate gold patterns on red lacquer behind the altar. The large chedi was built in 1345 by King Pha Yu to house the remains of his father King Kam Fu. A typical scripture repository is located at this temple as well. These repositories were designed to keep and protect the delicate sa or mulberry paper sheets used by monks and scribes to keep records and write down folklore. The high stucco-covered stone base of the repository protected the delicate scriptures from the rain, floods and pests. The walls of the chapel are covered with murals illustrating Lanna customs, dress, and scenes from daily life. The lovely Lai Kam chapel houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Sadly, the head was stolen in 1922, and a reproduction is now seen. This temple was built in the period of Phra Chao Maha Proma (1345-1400), which is home to Phra Buddha Sihing, Chiang Mai’s most important and sacred Buddha image. Construction on Wat Phra Singh began in 1345 when King Phayu, the fifth king of the Mangrai dynasty, had a chedi built to house the ashes of his father King Kham Fu. A wihan and several other buildings were added a few years later and the resulting complex was named Wat Lichiang Phra. When, in 1367, the statue of Phra Buddha Singh was brought to the temple, the temple complex received its present name. During restoration works in 1925, three funerary urns were discovered inside a small chedi. It was assumed that these contained royal ashes. The urns have since been lost. From 1578 to 1774 the Burmese ruled Lanna and in this period the temple was abandoned and came under serious disrepair. It was only when King Kawila assumed the throne as King of Chiang Mai in 1782, that the temple was restored. King Kawila had the ubosot built and the chedi enlarged. Later successors restored the Wihan Lai Kham and the elegant Ho Trai (temple library). The whole temple complex underwent extensive renovations under the famous monk Khru Ba Srivichai during the 1920s. Many of the buildings were again restored in 2002. This is the finest site for classic Lan Na style [ Tai Yuan ] art and architecture. Although the temple fell into disrepair in the 18th century, it was renovated in the early 19th century. Later in 1929 the bot and the ho trai were renovated, and another viharn was constucted. A few years ago, some cosmetic renovation was undertaken on the stucco and gilt work of the buildings. The Viharn Lai Kham is the wat’s major attraction. Constructed in traditional teak it is a beautiful example of Lanna or northern Thai architecture, with its low walls and winged three-tiered roofline. The portico has very finely carved gables.
The most famous building is the Phra Viharn Lai Kham [gold patterned], built in the reign of King San Muang Ma . The external gold patterns and lacquer facade shine brilliantly in the sun and the changing colours of the morning and evening sunsets. It has the usual Naga balustrades, red lacquered pillars, low walls and two tiered tiled roof. Inside the Viharn is the Phra Sihing Buddha [ the original head of which was stolen in 1922 ]. The murals on the wall illustrate contemporary Lan Na life in the period they were painted .
The Viharn is a replacement made in 1920 of the original building constructed between 1385 and 1400.The bronze seated Buddha therein named Phra Chao Thong Thip was given to General Kavila in 1805 by monks in Sip Song Panna in Yunnan, China [ the birth place of the Tai tribes ]. The Ubosot was built in 1806. This is particularly fine. The gilded work above the entrance is intricately carved and gilded and includes animals such as bats and mythical creatures.