Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

Temple of kings

More on Chiang Mai

Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, Chedi Luang means “royal chedi” in Thai and this was the official temple of the Lanna kings.

Travelfish says:
Must have been spectacular back in the day. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Must have been spectacular back in the day. Photo: Mark Ord

This royal chedi was the official temple of the Lanna kings, situated adjacent to the former royal palace. Construction began during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma in the 14th century ostensibly to house the ashes of his father, but he died before it was finished and it wasn't till the mid 15th century that it was completed. The pinnacle of the chedi was thought to have reached more than 80 metres high.

In 1468, Thailand’s most revered religious object, the Emerald Buddha, was moved to Chedi Luang from Lampang, remaining on site until 1552 when it was moved to Luang Prabang in Laos. (A replica gifted by Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej is now on display in its place.) By then a large earthquake had substantially damaged the chedi, lopping 20-30 metres off the overall height.

Reclining Buddha all rugged up for cool season. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Reclining Buddha all rugged up for cool season. Photo: Mark Ord

In the 1990s a UNESCO- and Japanese-funded restoration project got underway. This stabilised the site, but they stopped short (thankfully) of tackling the missing summit and spire as no-one is sure what it was supposed to look like.

Today, the partially ruined chedi remains enormous and must have been breathtaking before invaders and earthquakes took their toll. Indeed the main viharn is so big we couldn’t get it all in a photo (at least, without a wide-angle lens). It must be said though that the temple grounds are not as spacious as Wat Phra Singh’s so, as well as it being tricky to get an overall view of, it does lack the latter’s ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 400 words.)

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Reviewed by

Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.

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