Wat Buppharam was founded in 1497 by King Muang Kaeo on the site of a palace owned by his great grandfather King Thokarat. Its history is linked with that of Chiang Mai’s because it is from this temple that the legendary ruler Chao Kawila officially reclaimed the city from Burmese rule after almost 200 years of occupation. A large statue of Chao Kawila can be seen near the gates of a military base that bears his name just outside of Chiang Mai to the north.
Simply by looking at the large multi-pinnacled roof one might assume that this building is much older, however, the building was not completed until 1996 after 10 years of construction. The construction began when the temple’s Abbot decided to replace an aging wooden structure on the same spot. The structure is unique in that it is not constructed in the typical Lanna style of northern Thailand, rather it is in the shape of a mondop, a building shape typically held up by large columns and housing a sacred relic. Within the Dhamma Hall are spectacular murals. The first floor contains a mural depicting people gathering for a ceremony at Wat Chiang Man, and on the second floor, a mural depicting a view of Chiang Mai includes several well-known temples and chedis in Chiang Mai such as those from Wat Suan Dok and Wat Phra Doi Suthep on the mountain. Also on the second floor of the hall are two historical Buddha images. The first is named Phra Buddha Narit was built over 400 years ago and is the largest teak wood Buddha image in Thailand. The second is a Buddha image made of bronze.
The large white Chedi is likely the oldest structure in the temple complex at around 400 years old. It is constructed in the Burmese and Mon styles. The Chedi has a golden spire and is Guarded by 4 Burmese-style lions known as Singha in Thai. Each side of the Chedi contains a buddha image.
The large Viharn is approximately 200 years old and contains large murals depicting one of the previous lives of Buddha. This story, in particular, focuses on the Vessantara Jataka, which is the story of Prince Vessantara, who gave away all his wealth and possessions to demonstrate the virtue of charity, one of the virtues of Bodhisattva. The Buddha image contained within the Viharn is around 500 years old. The doors to the Viharn are much newer, they were carved in 1983 and depict the Himmavanta, the forest that surrounds Mount Meru in Hindu mythology. The smaller Viharn is a Lanna-style Viharn constructed in the 16th century however much of the building is newer as it was renovated in during the early 1800’s. It too contains a Buddha image that is around 300 years old.
Within the temple complex is a well that supplies holy water. It is said that it was from this well that holy water was obtained to ordain the rulers of the Lanna Kingdom. Also on the temple grounds is a small garden near the entrance that contains several figurines of animals as well as a carving of Donald Duck.
The Temple is open from 6am-5pm, and there is no admission fee, however, donations are very much appreciated. As with any Buddhist Temple, it is expected that you dress respectfully and keep your voice low so as not to disturb those who are praying or meditating.