Wat Chedi Luang twilight Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang

In Temples by Chiang Mai On Three Wheels

History of Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang (Thai: วัดเจดีย์หลวง, lit. temple of the big stupa) is a Buddhist temple in the centre of Chiang Mai. We visit the temple during our Chiang Mai Temple Tour. The current temple grounds were originally made up of three temples — Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin. The construction of Wat Chedi Luang started in the 14th century. The seventh monarch of the Mangrai Dynasty was King Saen Muang Ma (1385-1401), a son of King Kue Na (1355-1385). He was named Saen Muang Ma, which means `a hundred thousand cities come’ because he was born during the time of great prosperity in the Lan Na Kingdom.

Construction of Wat Chedi Luang

He constructed the high pagoda of Chedi Luang in the centre of Chiang Mai in 1391 to bury the ashes of his father. Ht didn’t complete the pagoda during his reign. It was his Queen who constructed the upper part of the great pagoda, installed its spire and gave it its finishing touches. Probably due to stability problems it took until the mid-15th century to be finished during the reign of king Tilokaraj (1487-1495). It was then 82 meters high and had a base diameter of 54 meters. At that time it was the largest building in the Lanna kingdom. In 1468 the statue of the Emerald Buddha was installed in the eastern niche. In 1545 however, the upper 30 meters of the structure collapsed after an earthquake. Not long after that disaster, the statue of the Emerald Buddha was moved to Luang Prabang in 1551.

Wat Chedi Luang Chiang Mai on Three Wheels

Peter Blaauw with a samlor driver in front of Wat Chedi Luang. Picture by Don Oppedijk.

Reconstruction of Wat Chedi Luang

In the early 1990s, the Fine Arts Department reconstructed Wat Chedi Luang, at least partially financed by UNESCO and the Japanese government. Not everyone was pleased with the result of the reconstruction.  Quite a few people don’t like the new look of the chedi and prefer how it looked before the rebuilding, overgrown with vegetation, what you call a real ruin.

Chiang Mai Wat Chedi Luang Songkran

For the 600th anniversary of the chedi in 1995, a copy of the Emerald Buddha made from black jade was placed in the reconstructed eastern niche. The icon is named official Phra Phut Chaloem Sirirat but is commonly known as Phra Yok.

City Pillar (Lak Mueang)

Also on the temple grounds is the city pillar (Lak Mueang) of Chiang Mai, which is named Sao Inthakin. It was moved to this location in 1800 by King Chao Kawila. He also planted three dipterocarp trees there, which are supposed to assist the city pillar in protecting the town. A festival in honour of the city pillar is held every year in May and lasts 6–8 days. In a wihan near the entrance to the temple is the Buddha statue named Phra Chao Attarot (Eighteen-cubit Buddha), which was cast in the late 14th century. On the other side of the chedi is another pavilion housing a reclining Buddha statue.