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Image adapted from Architecture of Siam by Clarence Aasen. Copyright 1998 .
Wat Phra Keow (built 1782 onward)
Wat Phra Keow, commonly called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, was constructed in 1782 to house the Emerald Buddha, the most revered possession of the ruling Chakri dynasty. Just 60 cm tall, the Emerald Buddha is an ancient statue believed to have magical powers. It is said that whoever possesses the statue will rule the entire kingdom. No one knows the origin of the statue, but it first surfaced in the 15th century in the northern town of Chiang Rai. It was carried to Laos in the middle of the 16th century and subsequently moved to Vientiane in eastern Thailand. It was brought to Bangkok in the late 18th century by the future king Rama I, who was then serving as general under Tok Sin, the last ruler of the the previous dynasty. Made of either Jade or nephrite (close inspection is prohibited), the statue shimmers in a glass case high above the heads of tourists. Only the king is permitted to approach the statue. In a solemn ritual held three times a year, the king changes the robes of the statue to ensure blessing for his rule.
Unlike most monasteries, there are no resident monks at Wat Phra Keow. The temple is reserved for the exclusive use of the royal family.
Images copyright 2000 Professor Yunsheng Huang of the University of Virginia, and copyright 2003 Professor Kerk L. Phillips of Brigham Young University, Utah
Aasen, Clarence. Architecture of Siam: A Cultural History and Interpretation
Oxford University Press, 1998. Oxford
Cummings, Joe. Thailand
Lonely Planet Publications, 1990. Singapore
Lassus, Pongkwan (Sukwattana). Architectural Heritage in Thailand
Amarin Printing and Publishing, 2004. Bangkok
Matics, K. I. Introduction to the Thai Temple
White Lotus Co., 1992. Bangkok
Ringis, Rita. Thai Temples and Temple Murals
Oxford University Press, 1990. Kuala Lumpur
Sthapitanonda, Nithi & Mertens, Brian. Architecture of Thailand: A Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Forms
Suksri, Naengnoi. Palaces of Bangkok: Royal Residences of the Chakri Dynasty
Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1996. London
Visit Kerk Phillips' website at www.pomosa.com