The Original Wat Phra Kaew

Wat phra kaew

If you ask anyone about the temple Wat Phra Kaew (otherwise known in English as The Temple of the Emerald Buddha), they will surely tell you that they have been there. Wat Phra Kaew is definately on the Top 5 sites to visit in Bangkok along with the Grand Palace. However, not so many people know about another Wat Phra Kaew which is regarded as the original. You can find this Lanna style temple in the relatively sleepy town of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. I was there recently and I want to tell you about the beautiful Emerald Buddha image and the temple where it was found. Over the years the Buddha image has travelled far but the story started here in Chiang Rai.

Wat Phra Kaew

The Emerald Buddha (it is actually made of jade) was believed to have been hidden in the chedi of Wat Pa Yia (Bamboo Forest Temple) by King Mahabhrom in 1392 A.D. In the year 1434 A.D., a lightning bolt hit the chedi revealing the image. The people called this Buddha image Phra Kaew Morakot and the temple name was consequently changed to Wat Phra Kaew. The Emerald Buddha stayed in pride of place here for 45 years before being taken to Chiang Mai. However, the elephant refused to go all the way and the image was enshrined in a temple in Lampang for 32 years. Then in 1468, it finally moved to Chiang Mai where it stayed for 85 years at Wat Chedi Luang. In 1553, it was captured and taken to Laos where it remained for 225 years.  The Thais, under King Taksin, retrieved the sacred image and brought it to the capital in Thonburi and then finally to its present location in Bangkok in 1778. A replica of the Emerald Buddha was made and can now be seen in Chiang Rai.

Wat Phra Kaew

2 responses to “The Original Wat Phra Kaew

  1. Hello Richard,
    I am new to this web site(since May 2006), but already I am beginning to recognize that your name is synonymous with very good, thoughtful writing. Thank you for your insights, and for your compassion in describing what you see.
    There are so many people that want to run down the Thai culture at every opportunity, because it dose not measure up to their standard. I am so tired of reading about the Thai food, that some Farang can not stand to smell, let along eat. The driving conditions, or that they could not get the space on the public transportation, that they wanted, or the Tuk-Tuk driver charged them too much, and the petty thing that they want to talk about goes on and on.
    Your views of Thailand are a breath of fresh air. But i will not hold my breath until they see that their cup is half full, rather than half empty.