Wat Chiang Man (built 1306 onward)
Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, older even than the city. It was constructed during the reign of King Mengrai, who lived in the temple while overseeing the construction of Chiang Mai, the capital of the Lanna kingdom.
The temple possesses one of the most treasured artifacts in Thailand—a Buddha image called the Phra Sae Tang Kamani (Crystal Buddha). When this image is carved is not known but it was mentioned first mentioned in 1296, when King Mengrai arranged for it to be brought to Chiang Mai. A war was fought over possession of this image. After it was returned, a ceremony has been performed every year since 1380 on April 1st to mark the occasion.
Another famous Buddha held by the temple is called the Phra Sila (stone Buddha) which is thought to have been carved around 900 AD in India. Legend says that whichever city possesses both Buddhas will thrive. However, the blessing only works if the city also posses the Phra Singh image, but it is not known if the Buddha kept in Phra Singh is authentic. The Buddhas are also thought to have the power to produce rain.
One interesting aspect of the temple is its chedi (pagoda) which has 15 lifesize elephant carvings incorporated into its base. The Standing Buddha statue at the temple is the oldest Lanna kingdom statue known. An inscription dates it to 1465.
A stone inscription near the door of the ordination hall (bot) is dated 1581. It includes a history of the town and monastery, as well as a list of donors to the temple. It confirms that the temple was founded by King Mengri and that it was restored in 1471, 1558, 1571, and 1581.
Text by Robert D. Fiala.
Image credits: All images copyright 2008 Timothy M Ciccone. Photographed early March, 2008.
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