This compound was built during the zenith of Chiang Mai’s power and is one of the more venerated temples in the city. It is still the focus of many important religious ceremonies, particularly the Songkran Festival. More than 700 monks study here and you will find them especially friendly with tourists.
King Phayu, of Mengrai lineage, built the chedi in 1345, principally to house the cremated remains of King Kamfu, his father. As you enter the grounds, head to the right toward the 14th-century library. Notice the graceful carving and the characteristic roofline with four separate elevations. The sculptural devata figures, in both dancing and meditative poses, are thought to have been made during King Muang Kaeo’s reign in the early 16th century. They decorate a stone base designed to keep the fragile saa (mulberry bark) manuscripts elevated from flooding and vermin.
On the other side of the temple complex is the 200-year-old Lai Kham (Gilded Hall) Viharn, housing the venerated image of the Phra Singh or Lion Buddha, brought to the site by King Muang Ma in 1400. The original Buddha’s head was stolen in 1922, but the reproduction in its place doesn’t diminish the homage paid to this figure during Songkran. Inside are frescoes illustrating the stories of Sang Thong (the Golden Prince of the Conchshell) and Suwannahong. These images convey a great deal about the religious, civil, and military life of 19th-century Chiang Mai during King Mahotraprathet’s reign.