Wat Prah Singh
History of Wat Phra Singh
Located on the western side of the old city, and one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh was constructed in 1345. Also known as the Lion Temple,the temple is named after the Buddha image it acquired in 1367, the Phra Singh (Lion Buddha). During the period from 1578-1774 the Burmese invaded the north of Thailand and as a result, the temple had fallen into a state of disrepair. In the early 1800’s it was restored to its former glory and had several beautiful Lanna style murals painted within its smaller shrine Viharn Lai Kham.
The largest building on the site is Viharn Luang which was rebuilt in 1925 on the site of its original 1300’s predecessor. Inside the Viharn Luang, one can see the magnificent Phra Chao Thong Tip a buddha image cast in gold and copper in 1477.
Inside the smaller assembly hall Viharn Lai Kham is the beautiful Phra Singh or Lion buddha which is a 14th century original except for its head which was stolen in 1922. The walls of the Vihard are covered in murals commissioned by Chao Thammalangka during the restoration in the 1820’s. During the annual water festival of Songkran, the Phra Singh is paraded through the streets of Chiang Mai where the faithful can honor the statue by sprinkling water over it.
The Ubosot, constructed in 1806 houses a smaller image of the Phra Singh, as well as a copy of the famous Emerald Buddha, the original of which can be seen inside the Grand Palace of Bangkok. Inside are also several photographs of the temple and Chiang Mai itself dating from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s that provide a glimpse of life in the city before becoming the modern gateway to the north that we see today.
Also on the Temple Grounds is the Ho Trai Library, built to house sacred Buddhist manuscripts in the late 1400’s. The wooden building of the library is elevated on a large stone base to protect the manuscripts from the frequent flooding during the annual rainy seasons that occur throughout the summer months all across Thailand. Due to the value and fragile nature of the manuscripts held within the library is often locked, but is still a fantastic sight to behold.
The temple complex houses a number of other smaller buildings such as monks living quarters and statues of Buddhist imagery. Throughout the day one can see Buddhist monks going about their daily activities, many are very friendly and will attempt to practice their English with visiting tourists.
Long known as a must see of the several older temples in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh continues to delight thousands of tourists annually. Many come to see the excellent examples of Lanna style art, while others including local Thai’s and Expats alike, visit regularly to sit among its tranquil open spaces and take in the peaceful atmosphere of the temple grounds.
Opening hours, fees, and other information
The temple complex is open from 6am to 8pm and is free except for the main temple which requires a 20-50 baht entry fee depending on the season. As with all Buddhist temples, it is required that you wear respectful clothing and please refrain from speaking in loud voices when in the temple spaces themselves.