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Buddhist temples of Northern Thailand

Elaborate Lanna, Burmese Shan, Mon, Sri Lankan & Thai Lü temples of the North

A Shan temple in Northern Thailand
Shan temple in North Thailand

Northern Thailand contains a wealth of Buddhist temples built in various architectural styles including Lanna Thai, Burmese Shan, Mon, Sri Lankan, Thai Lü and Rattanakosin (Bangkok) style.

Many of the regions older temples were built in Lanna Thai style, dating back to the era the Lanna Thai Kingdom existed here, starting at the end of the 13th century. Many magnificent temples of Lanna Thai architecture can be found in Chiang Mai, with the Wat Phra Singh temple being one of the most beautiful.

Before the Lanna Kingdom came to power, the Hariphunchai Kingdom ruled the area of Northern Thailand. The capital city of the Kingdom was Lamphun, South of Chiang Mai. In 1292 the Mon Hariphunchai Kingdom was besieged by Lanna and was incorporated into the Lanna Kingdom.

A good example of Hariphunchai Mon architecture still in existence today are the two chedis at the Wat Ku Kut in Lamphun, dating back to the 12th century. The Cham Thewi chedi is shaped like a stepped pyramid, each story having a number of niches containing Buddha images.

Another very interesting temple in Lamphun is the Wat Phra That Hariphunchai that dates back to the mid 12th century and contains examples of various architectural styles, including Lanna Thai, Mon and Sri Lankan.

In the 19th century people from the Shan State in Myanmar came to Northern Thailand. They brought with them their own style of temple architecture. The Wat Jong Klang in Mae Hong Son is a good example of Burmese Shan style. Another good example of Burmese influence in the North is the Wat Pongsanuk in Lampang.

In the city of Nan you will find a number of temples showing Thai Lü influence. The best examples are the Wat Phra That Chae Haeng and the Wat Phumin. Many of the more recent temples in North Thailand are built in Rattanakosin (Bangkok) style.

Perhaps the most beautiful Buddha image in Thailand is the Phra Chinnarat Buddha. The 7 centuries old image cast in Sukhothai style can be found in the Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat temple in Phitsanulok.