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Image adapted from Architecture of Siam by Clarence Aasen. Copyright 1998 .
Wat Arun (18th century onward)
Wat Arun is one of the few Bangkok temples predating the Chakri dynasty, the current rulers of Thailand. When general Phya Taksin crowned himself king in 1769, he moved the capital across the Chao Phraya river to Thonburi. Wat Makok temple fell within the area intended for the king's new palace along the riverbank. The young king designated it the royal temple and changed its name to Wat Jaeng—the Temple of Dawn, a name thought to commemorate the founding of the new dynasty. King Taksin treated the monks badly, expelling them so that he could worship privately in the temple.
Monks were allowed to return during the rule of Rama I, the first King of the Chakri dynasty, who disestablished Wat Jaeng as the royal temple when he moved the capital across the river to what it today downtown Bangkok. His successor, Rama II, renamed it Wat Arun Rajtharam and renovated the temple. He planned to raise the central spire (called a prang) beyond its original 16 meters, but he died before the project was realized. His successor, Rama III, completed the project in the years 1842-1847. The prang was raised to an astonishing 67 meters, making it the highest one in Thailand even today.
The temple is an architectural reproduction of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. The four corner prang, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforce the symbolism.
All images copyright 2000 Professor Yunsheng Huang
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