The very old Wat Phra Singh, also called "The Temple of the Lion Buddha”is one of the most popular temples within the walled old city of Chiang Mai. The temple was established in the 14th century when Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna Kingdom and now it is one of the most impressive examples of remaining classic Lanna style temple architecture. It is still an active temple with hundreds of monks and novices living in and it houses a number of very old and highly revered Buddha image. The temple features gorgeously decorated building, golden chedi, and some hellish murals.
Viharn Lai Kam
Viharn Lai Kam at Wat Phra Singh built in 1345, is one of the best examples of Lanna style architecture. The viharn or assembly hall houses a very revered Buddha image showcasing the graceful 'lion' style named Phra Singh Buddha (Lion Buddha). The temple is named after the Buddha image. Nobody knows where was the image from but the local believe it originates from Sri Lanka.
During every Songkran festival in April when traditional Thailand new year is celebrated, Chiang Mai locals would invite the Phra Singh image in a ceremonial procession through the streets of the city for bathing ritual which locals can honor the Buddha image by sprinkling water over it.
The viharn made from teak wood and the exterior is decorated in typical Lanna gold and ochre colors. It has wing-shaped roofs with three tiered roof line, the lower edges of which are decorated with chofahs, an ornamental decoration resembling the shape of a very thin bird.
The murals on the walls of the assembly hall are also very interesting. They are describing the way of local life and popular folklore tales.
Viharn Luang is the largest building in the temple which is another main assembly hall originally built at the end of 14th century but was completely rebuilt in 1925. It houses a very highly revered Bhuddha image named Phra Chao Tong Tip which was made of gold and copper.
The ubosot of the Wat Phra Singh built in 1806 is the place where monks get ordained. This ubosot holds a copy of Thailand's most revered Buddha image – the emerald Buddha. The real one is kept in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
Located to the left of Viharn Lai Kam, Ho Trai is a very elaborated wooden building worthy of visiting which is another impressive example of Lanna style architecture. It is in red color featuring beautiful stucco figures. It built on a high stone base in order to protect the manuscripts from flooding and pests as it is the temple library containing many ancient Buddhist scriptures. The base is richly decorated with carvings of Devata figures, a sort of guardian angels. Some mythical creatures guard on the stairs leading to the Ho Trai. On the roof of the building is covered with gilded lacquer works and glass mosaics.
There are several smaller chedis, the living quarters of monks and a small building holding a reclining Buddha image.
How to get to the Wat Phra Singh
The temple complex is open daily: 6:00am-8:00pm
Paying a visit to Wat Phra Singh, you will soak yourself into the Lanna temple art and architecture. Although, the buildings have been renovated for several times, the original Lnana feel have been maintained. If you have some time, the temple is definitely worth visiting.
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