The Wats of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist wats (temple complexes) many of which are the city’s main attractions. As prolific as Orthodox churches and basilicas in Europe and South America, Buddhist wats are different in most every way except for their use of gold. Being neither Catholic, Orthodox nor Buddhist, I am mystified by a lot of what I see in their religious sites, but enjoy visiting for the sake of the architecture, art and history.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Wat Chedi Luang (Temple of the Big Stupa)

 

I loved the row of elephants adorning this ancient stupa or chedi.


 

Elements of the Buddhist Temple

Chedi, also called a Stupa, is the large bell-shaped tower that usually contains relics of a Buddha or Thai King.

Prang is the towering spire of Khmer origin serving the same purpose as the chedi.

Wihaan is the main sanctuary or assembly hall for the temple’s Buddha statuary and where laypeople make offerings.

The wihaan (assembly hall) usually has the three-tiered roofline representing Buddha, the teacher; Dharma, the teaching; and Brotherhood, the followers.

Wat Prah Singh is the most revered temple and it’s wihaan has the Lanna (Northern Thailand) style three tiered roof and carved gables. I discovered the serpents adorning the stair are a common element.

 

Close-up details of the colorful mosaics and mirrors decorating the mythical serpents (“naga”).

 

The temples are crowded with statues. I like the smiling Singha lion in the foreground.

 

Chedi from various wats. Chedi (or stupa) are usually made up of 5 structural elements representing (from bottom to top) earth, water, fire, wind, and void.

 

So many details and styles! Top left: detailed red and gold doors. Top right: ornate peacock detail.

 

The wihaan of Wat Prah Sing has “Lai khram” gold stenciling. The monks are so realistic looking that I was embarrased taking their photo.

A wooden teak temple.

 

Different Buddhas: either the Jade buddha or a green-glass replica, and a reclining buddha. Most English signs I encounter leave me comfused.

Not wanting to be irreverent, but the sanctuaries are chaotically crowded. Let’s play “I Spy.” Find a ball of string, a calendar, a fan, a Fanta Orange can, a animal figurine, and a flower stem.

 

Every Thai male is expected to become a monk for a short time in his life since there is great merit to a family when son takes up the ‘the robe and bowl’.

 

The gold of Wat Prah That Doi Suthep is blinding on top of the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai.

 

Monks at Wat Prah That Doi Suthep

 

The temples have offering boxes everywhere! The wall of “mailboxes” provided many opportunities to donate for specific causes and monks.

  

The unique silver, nickel and aluminum embossed panels of Wat Sisuphan.

Taken while riding on the scooter. There are temples in every neighborhood.

 

Blue lights reflecting on this fanastical-looking temple.

 

I spy (with my little eye) an elephant, mice and an offering box.

 

Mysterious and tropical in black and white.

 

Temple grounds and a peek behind-the-scenes of the monks’ orange laundry. No, this,isn’t Home Depot.

 

Although 95% of the population is Buddhist, Thailand allows freedom of religion. 

“First Church” was founded in 1868 by the Laos Mission. We have seen several Christian churches and attended a Thai-speaking Sunday service.

Chiang Mai has at least 16 mosques identified with Chinese or Chin Haw Muslims as well as Muslims of Bengali, Pathan, and Malay descent.


Two gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) 
serve the city’s Sikh community.

The Hindu temple Devi Mandir serves the Hindu community.

Sunday appears to be just another work day here. Through my open window I hear noise from the construction site across the way. The street sweepers at the Serene Lake condos sweep and rake leaves on the same stretch of road every day! Mem, one of our favorite masseuses says she works from 10:00am  -11:00pm 6 days a week.

Our 30 days are past – and we’re still here! I’ll tell you about it next week when I Meet you in the Morning!

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