Wat Phra Singh was built inside the old city walls at a time when Chiang Mai was the capital of the northern Lanna Kingdom.
The temple was originally built in the 14th century, at that time It may have simply been a Stupa or spiritual monument erected by King Pa Yo(a descendant of the great King Mengrai)to honour his father who’s ashes are interred within the Stupa. The stupa still stands today, but most of the buildings you see on the site are of much more recent times.
Originally called Wat Li Chiang Phra; the name was changed to Wat Phra Singh when the Phra Singh Buddha image was first brought there in 1367.
The Phra Singh image is a cast Buddha of the Chiang Sean Period, a good deal of legend surrounds the possible origins of this image with local belief holding that it is some 1,500 years old and was originally brought to Thailand from Sri Lanka.
This however would seem unlikely since it is sculptured in the early Chiang Saen Style (Lanna) which would date it between 11th and 18th century and is influenced by the styles of the Khmer, Sukhothai, India, Burma and Sri Lanka.
The Phra Singh Buddha has been a significant Buddha image of the Thai Lanna people for many years.
On the day of the Songkran Festival (Thai New Year), the Phra Singh Buddha is respectfully mounted on the royal carriage, and travels in a procession around the city of Chiang Mai, so that Chiang Mai people can pay homage in a traditional manner to the image.
The name Wat Phra Singh is not an unusual name for a Thai temple, Wat means Buddhist temple, Phra is used to refer to a Buddha image or a monk, while Singh is a mythical lion-like animal. The Chiang Mai Wat Phra Singh is probably the most famous of all the Wat Phra Singh temples in Thailand.
There are three main buildings in the grounds of the temple, namely theStupa, Viharn Lai Kam, and Haw Trai. The Viharn Lai Kam(The Gilded Assembly Hall)is the place where the Phra Singh Buddha is housed.
It is an attractive building of Thai Lanna Style, 24 metres wide x 56 metres long. The teak temple is a beautiful example of Lanna or northern Thai architecture, with soaring “wings” on the ends of the eaves and lavish carved wood and stucco decoration throughout.
The walls inside the temple are adorned with paintings depicting Lanna life in the 19th century. The mural paintings on the walls of Wat Phra Singh depict the scenes of Suwannahong and Sang Thong classic literature.
The Haw Trai(temple library) is another magnificent building which contains very old Buddhist scriptures.
It is located on the left of Viharn Lai Kam . It is believed to have been built at the end of 15th century.
This building shows undeniable evidence of the very highly skilled craftsmanship of this period. Worth noting especially are the stucco figures of Thai celestial characters around the walls.
How to Get There: Wat Phra Singh is located on the western side of the medieval walled city of Chiang Mai, at the end of Phra Singh Road whichleads from Ratchadamnoen Road.