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Wat Phra Singh (the Monastery of the lion) Chiang Mai

The Viharn Lai Kham At Wat Phra Singh

  • Wat Phra Singh (the Monastery of the lion) in Chiang Mai walled City is the major Temple in the Province of Chiang Mai for Lan Na art and architecture.
  • It was built in1345 by King Pa Yo. The layout and names of the various buildings are in the diagram below. The name comes from Sanskrit ‘’simha ‘’ , and the Pali ‘’ Sihingh ‘’ and Thai word Singh and means lion and refers to the characterization of the gilded bronze of the Buddha. The original was brought from Sri Lanka and is a model style for other images in Lan Na.
  • The library or Ho Trai (1477) is regarded as the jewel of Lan Na architecture. It has excellent stucco with figures and intricate patterns decorating the lower portion with red and gold wood work surmounting it also ornately carved with inlay embellishments.
  • This “Monastery of the Lion” was constructed in 1345 to enshrine the ashes of King Kham Yu, the 6th ruler of Chiang Mai.  In 1367, the Phra Singh Buddha was installed in the Viharn Lai Kham, so the temple was given its present name.
  • This is the finest site for classic Lan Na style (Tai Yuan) art and architecture. Although the temple fell into disrepair in the 18th century, it was renovated in the early 19th century. Later in 1929 the bot and the ho trai were renovated, and another viharn was constucted. A few years ago, some cosmetic renovation was undertaken on the stucco and gilt work of the buildings.
  • The Viharn Lai Kham is the wat’s major attraction.  Constructed in traditional teak it is a beautiful example of Lanna or northern Thai architecture, with its low walls and winged three-tiered roofline. The portico has very finely carved gables.
  • Lai Kham refers to the “gold-patterning” of the highly decorated façade that magically catches the eastern morning light. Inside the viharn, realistically painted murals on the walls document the daily life of the people of Lan Na in the 19th century. Other murals depict fables of the jataka story.

  • The most famous building is the Phra Viharn Lai Kham (gold patterned), built in the reign of King San Muang Ma (1345). The external gold patterns and lacquer facade shine brilliantly in the sun and the changing colours of the morning and evening sunsets. It has the usual Naga balustrades, red lacquered pillars, low walls and two tiered tiled roof. Inside the Viharn is the Phra Sihing Buddha (the original head of which was stolen in 1922).
  • The murals on the wall illustrate contemporary Lan Na life in the period they were painted (1820).
  • The Viharn is a replacement made in 1920 of the original building constructed between 1385 and 1400.The bronze seated Buddha therein named Phra Chao Thong Thip was given to General Kavila in 1805 by monks in Sip Song Panna in Yunnan, China (the birth place of the Tai tribes).
  • The Ubosot was built in 1806. This is particularly fine. The gilded work above the entrance is intricately carved and gilded and includes animals such as bats and mythical creatures.

Gilt Carvings Above Ubosot Doors At Wat Phra Singh