The Wat Phumin is the most attractive temple in the town of Nan, thanks to its unique architecture and its colorful 19th century murals that show scenes of daily Nan life. The Lanna and Thai Lü style temple was founded in 1596. It was rebuilt from 1867 until 1875, when the viharn/ubosot got its present shape.
The temple complex consists of a combined viharn/ubosot with an unusual cruciform floor plan, a two storey Ho Trai library building and a dome like structure that contains a diorama with scenes from Buddhist hell that leave little to imagination.
Thai Lü style combined viharn and ubosot
The Wat Phumin’s main building serves as both a viharn and ubosot. The Thai Lü style structure has an unusual cruciform floor plan, with an entrance on each of its sides. All four entrances protrude slightly out from the building and are topped with a multi tiered, heavily decorated structure in the shape of a mondop’s roof.
The symmetrical building contains small windows, which is typical for the Thai Lü style. The wooden doors contain several carved motifs including Lanna floral motifs, while the gables are decorated with golden motifs.
The viharn’s three tiered roof is ornamented with Naga finials on the roofs ends; at the center of the roof is a multi tiered spiral ornamental umbrella. Long balustrades lead to the North and South entrance. Large Naga heads are placed at the front, the body of the mythological serpent extending over the balustrades towards the entrance. The stairs to the East and West entrances are much shorter and are guarded by two white lions.
Large pillars inside the viharn support the roof. The black and red lacquer pillars contain gold stencilled flower and elephant motifs. In the center of the structure are four seated Buddha images, sitting back to back, each facing one of the entrances. The images, seated on a high pedestal and surrounded by four intricately decorated teak pillars are in the Bhumisparsha mudra, “Calling the Earth to Witness”. In one of the corners is a Dhamma seat or thammdat, a seat used by monks when teaching from the Buddhist scriptures.
19th century mural paintings
The Wat Phumin is famous for its beautiful and colorful 19th century mural paintings, that cover much of its interior walls. While some of the murals have largely vanished, some of them are in an excellent condition. The murals show scenes of daily life in the 19th century as well as depictions of the previous lives of the Buddha.
Depictions of 19th century daily life show a city and its docks, sailing ships and a steamship, a horse drawn chariot, people smoking and playing musical instruments, Europeans in a boat and several animals like birds and elephants. The most famous depiction is that of a couple, the man with tattoos on arms and chest whispering in the woman’s ear.
The Ho Trai, the temple scripture library
The Ho Trai, a library where the Buddhist scriptures are kept is an elegant, slender two storey structure with a two tiered roof. Its front gable is beautifully decorated with floral motifs in red and gold colors.
Diorama of Buddhist hell
A circular building shaped like a dome contains a life size diorama of scenes from Buddhist hell, which is not very suitable for small children. Rather gruesome depictions of hell and the punishments received by those who go there can be viewed inside, like a man getting hot oil poured over him and people getting cooked in a large cooking pot over a fire. Next to the temple is a large open area with a long boat, used for boat races on the Nan river.
How to get to the Wat Phumin
The Wat Phumin temple is located in the center of Nan town, near the Nan National Museum. The temple is found on Pha Kong road just South of Suriyapong road. From most hotels in downtown Nan, the Wat Phumin can be reached on foot. Alternatively, charter a songthaew to get there.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The temple grounds are open daily from 6 am until 6 pm. Admission is 50 Thai Baht per person.