The Most Important Buddhist Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang (literally temple of the big stupa) is a Buddhist temple in the old city of Chiang Mai. It is one of Chiang Mai’s most attractive sites as well as one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai.

The current temple grounds were originally made up of three temples - Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin. Now they are all in one - Wat Chedi Luang.

The Great Chedi

The construction of the temple was started by the seventh monarch of the Mangrai Dynasty (1292-1558) -- King Saen Muang Ma, a son of King Kue Na. His name, Saen Muang Ma, which means ‘a hundred thousand cities come’, because he was born during the time of great prosperity in the Lan Na Kingdom. King Saen Muang Ma planned to bury the ashes of his father there.

He constructed the great pagoda in the centre of the city of Chiang Mai in 1391. At this time, he had been in power for 16 years, and was 39 years old. He was not able to complete the construction of the pagoda during his reign. It was the Queen who completed the upper part of the pagoda, installing its spire and giving it its finishing touches.

Wat Chedi Luang was then 82 meters high and had a base diameter of 54 meters. At that time, it was the largest building in Chiang Mai. In 1545 however the upper 30 meters of the structure collapsed after an earthquake. The government partially restored the chedi in the 1990’s.

There are large staircases at four sides decorated by guardian mythical creatures while Buddha images are enshrined in niches at the top of the stairs.


Wat Chedi Luang


Wat Chedi Luang with the Emerald Buddha

In 1468 the statue of the Emerald Buddha was installed in the eastern niche of Wat Chedi Luang. The Emerald Buddha is the most important and respectable Buddha image throughout Thailand. However, not long after that disastrous earthquake, the statue of the Emerald Buddha was moved to Luang Prabang (in current Laos) in 1551.

Nowadays, the Emerald Buddha is worshiped in the Wat Phra Kaew of Bangkok. At 600th anniversary of the chedi, a reproduction of the emerald Buddha was housed in one niche of the chedi.


Emerald Buddha in Wat Chedi Luang


The Sao Inthakin, the City Pillar

Also on the temple grounds is the City Pillar (Lak Mueang) of Chiang Mai, named Sao Inthakin. Upon the establishment of a new city people have to build up a City Pillar. Local people believed that the City Pillar can protect the city. This is an old Thai tradition. King Kawila moved the City Pillar from nearby Wat Sadeu Muang, the original location, to Wat Chedi Luang in 1800. He also planted three dipterocarp trees there, which are supposed to assist the City Pillar to protect the city. A festival in honor of the City Pillar is held every year in May lasting 6–8 days.

The Buddha statue named Phra Chao Attarot is located near the entrance to the temple, which can be traced back to the late 14th century. On the other side of the chedi lies another pavilion enshrining a reclining Buddha statue.


Reclining Buddha in Wat Chedi Luang


How to get to the Wat Chedi Luang

The temple is situated near the center of the old walled part of Chiang Mai. You will find it about half way Ratchadamnoen road crossing the old city from East to West. The main entrance is opposite Phra Pok Klao road, just South of Ratchadamnoen road.

Opening time
The temple premises are open daily from 6 AM until 6 PM.

Entrance fee
Admission is free of charge.