One of Chiang Rai’s oldest temples, the Wat Phra Singh was built in 1385, a little over a century after the city of Chiang Rai was founded by King Mengrai in 1262. The main structures of the Lanna style temple are the ubosot, the viharn, a chapel containing a footprint of the Buddha and the Kuti or monks living quarters.
The oldest original structure still standing today in Buddhist temples of Northern Thailand is usually the chedi or pagoda. The gold plated Sinhalese style chedi of the Wat Phra Singh stands behind the viharn. It consists of a square base with small shrines on its sides that contain Buddha images and a spiral shaped top.
The highly revered Phra Singh image
One of Thailand’s most highly revered Buddha images was once enshrined in this temple. The image named the Phra Singh or Phra Sihing Buddha image in the Bhumisparsha pose is believed to originate from Sri Lanka.
The temple contains several copies of the Phra Singh image, including an ebony and gold one and a purple jade image. The original is now in the Wat Phra Singh temple in Chiang Mai.
Lanna style viharn
The viharn is a typical Lanna style structure with a multi tiered roof and Naga decorated bargeboards. The entrance to the viharn is guarded by white and gold lion figures called Singha in Thai on either side of the stairs.
The panels of the facade as well as the wooden doors are beautifully carved with Lanna flower motifs and Thewada figures, which are a kind of celestial beings. Above both doors to the left and right of the stairs are a couple of peacock figures.
The viharn contains a gold plated copy of the Phra Singh image facing the building’s entrance. This image is much smaller than the original. The walls of the viharn are decorated with murals.
On a circular platform built around the base of a tree is a number of niches that are painted red inside, containing Buddha images in various postures, including a Reclining Buddha. Under another tree on the grounds, a large Bodhi tree, you will find several Buddha images of various sizes in several poses.
The temple grounds also contain a Pali language school. Pali is the language in which the ancient Buddhist scriptures, the Tripitaka are written. The large ornate white entrance gates contain stuccoed Thewada figures and Naga snakes. An information board near the entrance explains some of the temple’s history.
How to get to the Wat Phra Singh
The temple is found in the Western part of the city of Chiang Rai, about 800 meters South of the Mae Kok river. It is located on the intersection of Singhaclai road and Tha Luang road, about 300 meters East of the Wat Phra Kaew temple. From the old town you can get there by samlor (a three wheeled rickshaw) or tuk-tuk, or rent a bicycle and drive there yourself.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The temple grounds are open daily from 6 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.