Wat Phra Chao Mengrai, the Hidden Gem

Wat Pha Chao Mengrai, the hidden gem

Wat Phra Chao Mengrai, the third Royal Temple

The Buddhist temple Wat Phra Chao Mengrai is not on tourist itineraries. Notwithstanding that this temple is very much worth visiting. It is very well maintained and has undergone several renovations. You might get the impression it is a new temple but if you look more closely it quickly becomes clear it is very old. The temple is on a very quiet back street in the Old walled city of Chiang Mai. We love the serene, quiet and peaceful location of this lovely temple.

Buddhist templeWat Phra Chao Mengrai
The viharn of the temple

The King Ka King Buddha Image

King Mengrai casted this standing Buddha image in the year 1288 in his first capital of the Lanna Kingdom, Wiang Kum Kam, according to information at the temple. A story goes that the King was on his way to bring the statue in a cart to Wat Chiang Man, the first Royal Temple. One of the wheels of the cart broke down. The King interpreted this incident as an omen and decided to establish a temple at the location of the breakdown. This temple became the Third Royal Temple. According to information on the back of the viharn the foundation year was 1296.

Standing Buddha image in temple Wat Phra Chao Mengrai
Buddha image King Ka King in Wat Phra Chao Mengrai

Renovation of the temple

There have been several renovations of the temple. During one in 1967 they found an inscription on a silver casket under the base of the principal Buddha statue. According to this inscription the temple was known as Wat Kalakot, Wat Khankhot and Wat Srisoithajaeng.

Mural about construction of a temple
Mural depicting the foundation of Chiang Rai by King Mengrai

The main buildings of the temple

The Wat Phra Chao Mengrai has two viharns, an ubosot, a chedi, an ho trai and an ho rakhang. The main viharn, the assembly hall, is probably 400 to 500 years old. The ubosot is certainly from recent date. The sema stones around the ubosot are more than 700 years old. The chedi is in Lanna style. Close to the bell tower stands a statue of Mengrai. A building immediately on the right from the entrance appears to be the latest addition. It contains a statue of Mengrai and beautiful paintings about the life of the great King, made by Apisit Nantapisit and his team. They depict episodes from the life of Mengrai, such as his birth, his studies, the foundation of Chiang Rai, his wars of conquest and the establishment of the Lanna kingdom.

Chedi of a Buddhist temple Wat Phra Chao Mengrai
The chedi of Wat Phra Chao Mengrai

A wonderful video from the Fine Arts Department

Wat Phra Chao Mengrai, one of our favorites

This temple is one of our favorite temples in Chiang Mai because of its importance, the esthetical beauty, the historic Buddha image and the wonderful wall paintings of Apisit Nantapisit and his team. Finally, there is a centuries old Bodhi tree at the back of the compound. It is an important and surprisingly little visited temple.

The Wat Phra Chao Mengrai features in our Chiang Mai Temples tour by samlor

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