King Saen Muang Ma (8th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty) began building the Wat Chedi Luang in 1391 to enshrine the relics of his father but never completed it.
The Chedi was finally completed by King Tilokarat in 1475 who then made it the home of the Emerald Buddha,the most sacred cultural treasure in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha remained at Wat Chedi Luang until it was moved to Wat Phra Kaew (temple of the Emerald Buddha) in Bangkok in 1785 by Rama I.
Wat Chedi Luang’s massive chedi (pagoda) is a distinctive feature of the Chiang Mai skyline, and indeed it was to remain to be the tallest structure in Chiang Mai for over 500 years.
At its peak, the Chedi measured 44 meters (144 feet) wide and 86 meters (282 feet) tall.It was however very badly damaged during an earthquake in 1545 and following several restorations over the next few centuries the Chedi now is around 60 meters high.
Despite its smaller size the structure is still impressive with a naga (water serpent) staircase on each of its faces and wonderful statues ofelephants adorning the base. There is also a special pulley system which allows visitors to leave offerings and prayers atop the Chedi.
To the left of the entrance is a very tall gum tree — legend has it that if this tree ever falls, a great catastrophe will strike Chiang Mai.A small building near the tree enshrines the Spirit of the City (Sao Intakin) that was moved from its original site in 1775.
Wat Phan Tao, also on the grounds, has a wooden Viharn (Spirit House) and bot (central shrine in a Buddhist temple), reclining Buddha, and fine carving on the eaves and door.
After leaving the temple, walk around to the monks’ quarters on the side,taking in the traditional teak northern architecture and delightful landscaping.
The large viharn was built in 1928.Round columns with bell shaped bases and lotus finials support the high red ceiling inside.
How to Get There: The temple is located on Phrapokklao Road which runs roughly through the north-south center line of the old city, from Changpuak Gate to Chaing Mai Gate. The temple is just a short walk south of the intersection with the main east-west Ratchadamnoen Road.