Wat Phra Singh the temple of the Lion Buddha

Chiang Mai Wat Phra Singh after dark
Wat Phra Singh with monks Chiang Mai
Wat Phra Singh with monks

Wat Phra Singh the temple of the Lion Buddha

Wat Phra Singh is located in the western part of the old city centre of Chiang Mai. The Thai name of the temple is วัดพระสิงห์ which translates as the monastery of the Lion Buddha. In 1367 the temple became the home of a Buddha image called the Phra Singh (Lion Buddha) and was renamed, Wat Phra Singh.

History of the temple

The temple’s full name is Wat Phra Singh Woramahaviharn. King Phayu was the fifth ruler of the Mengrai dynasty of the Lanna kingdom. He ruled from 1336 until 1355. He started the construction of the temple in 1345 to house the ashes of his father, King Khamfu. Initially, the temple was named Wat Lichiang Phra. Several buildings were added a few years later including a wihan. This is a shrine hall that contains the first Buddha images. It is the assembly hall where monks and laypeople congregate. After the arrival of the Lion Buddha, the temple was renamed. It may have been the first monastery to house the Emerald Buddha, which later resided in Wat Chedi Luang. This Buddha image is now enshrined in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.

Chiang Mai Wat Phra Singh chedi
Wat Phra Singh chedi

Restoration of Wat Phra Singh

From 1558 until 1775 Chiang Mai was part of a Burmese kingdom. After the Burmese were ousted, the city was virtually abandoned until 1791. Most temples were in a terrible state. In 1782 King Kawila became the first king of a new dynasty of Chiang Mai and started to restore the temple to its former glory by building an ubosot. This is the ordination hall and the most sacred area of a Buddhist temple. Successors of King Kawila restored the Wihan Lai Kham and the elegant Ho Trai (temple library).

The famous monk Khru Ba Srivichai initiated extensive renovations during the 1920s. Many of the buildings were again restored in 2002. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII), the older brother of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), gave the temple the status of Royal temple of the first grade in 1935. Every year, during the Songkran festival, the Phra Singh image is taken from wihan Lai Kham and carried through the streets of Chiang Mai in a religious procession during which the spectators pay respect to the image by sprinkling water over it.

The temple features in these programs:

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