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Wat Chedi Liam

13th Century temple in Wiang Kum Kam, the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom

Viharn guarded by Chinthe at Wat Chedi Liam temple in Chiang Mai
Viharn guarded by Chinthe
Name
Wat Chedi Liam
Date
1288
Location
Wiang Kum Kam historical park
Chiang Mai

The Wat Chedi Liam is a Buddhist temple in Wiang Kum Kam, an ancient fortified town built by King Mengrai of the Lanna empire. The town was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom for 10 years until 1296, when Chiang Mai (“new city”) was founded a few kilometers North.

Founded in 1288, the Wat Chedi Liam is an active temple with resident monks. Its name translates to “temple of the square chedi”.

The temple, also known as Wat Ku Kham Luang comprises of an ancient chedi and a more recent viharn and ubosot. The only structure remaining from the 13th century temple is its well preserved Mon Dvaravati style chedi.

Mon style stepped pyramid Chedi

The chedi was constructed by King Mengrai in 1288, eight years before the founding of Chiang Mai. It is a copy of the Mon Hariphunchai style Mahabol chedi of the Wat Ku Kut in Lamphun, the old capital of the Hariphunchai Kingdom, which Mengrai had just conquered.

Standing on a square base is a stepped pyramid comprising of five square tiers of diminishing size. In each side of each tier are three niches that enshrine a total of 60 standing images of the Buddha dressed in a yellow robe. Whereas the standing images of the Wat Ku Kut are all the same, the right hand raised in the Abhaya mudra (dispelling fear), those of the Wat Chedi Liam display a few variations.

The arches over the niches in the second and third tier are decorated with the intertwined bodies of mythological Naga serpents, while the arches of the other tiers are adorned with flower motifs, often seen in Lanna style temples.

In 1908 the chedi was restored by a Burmese magnate during which some Burmese style alterations were made to the Mon style original. On each corner of the square base stands a Chinthe, a mythological lion often seen guarding Burmese temples. On the corners of each of its five tiers is a Burmese style spire. The chedi is topped with a golden Burmese style hti, a multi tiered spire in the shape of an ornamental umbrella.

Similar Mon chedis are found at the Wat Ku Kut in Lamphun, the Wat Phaya Wat in Nan and the Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai Historical Park.

The Mon style chedi of the Wat Chedi Liam
Mon style chedi
Ubosot of the Wat Chedi Liam
Ornate ubosot

Viharn

The Wat Chedi Liam’s viharn, a large structure with a two tiered roof, is much more recent; it was built during the early 20th century. Its ornate front gable is decorated in typical Lanna gold and ochre colors. Naga snakes guard the stairways to the building. The viharn enshrines the temple’s principal Buddha image. The walls above the windows are decorated with murals.

Ubosot

Enclosed by its own wall is a small early 20th century ubosot or ordination hall, an elaborately decorated Lanna style building with a three tiered roof, intricately carved wooden barge boards and large chofah finials at the roofs ends. The very ornate front gable is decorated in Lanna gold and ochre colors. Its window frames contain depictions of two disciples in gold on a black background.

How to get to the Wat Chedi Liam

The temple is located in Wiang Kum Kam historical park, a few kilometers South of the town of Chiang Mai near the East bank of the Ping river. Check How to get to Wiang Kum Kam on options of how to get there.

Entrance fee & opening hours

The temple opens daily from 8 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.