Fine Example of a Classic Lanna Temple

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh is regarded by many as the second most revered temple in Chiang Mai just after Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Also known as “The Monastery of the Lion Buddha”, Wat Phra Singh Chiang Mai houses three main structures, the main attraction being the elegantly decorated Lai Kam assembly hall and its restored murals describing the lives of locals many years ago.

Located inside the old city wall, at the western end of Ratchadamnoen Road, the temple’s signature Lanna style roofs and glittering viharn (assembly hall) are really attractive to visitors. The walled-in temple compound is busy with visitors and worshipers all year round and is particularly packed during the Thai New Year festival (Songkran) in mid-April.


Wat Phra Singh


The structures of the Wat Phra Singh

There are a number of classic Lanna style buildings on the temple grounds.

Main Chedi

The main chedi is the most ancient structure of Wat Phra Singh. Each side of the square base of the main chedi features the front half of an elephant emerging from it. After it was built in 1345 to enshrine the ashes of King Pha Yu’s father, the chedi has gone through enlargement for several times.

Viharn Lai Kham

Built in 1345 to accommodate a very respected Buddha, named Phra Singh, and renovated in early 19th Century, the Lai Kam assembly hall at Wat Phra Signh is a wonderful example of Lanna temple architecture. It features soaring wing-shaped roofs as well as lavish wood carvings and stuccoes all over.

The temple complex was previously named wat Li Jiang Phra until the statue of Phra Singh came here in 1367 and renamed Wat Phra Singh accordingly. The origin of the statue of Phra Singh is uncertain while local people believed that the statue came from Sri Lanka. However, according to the style of this image, there are better chances that it was cast locally in Chiang Mai. The head of the statue was believed to be stolen in 1922.

Every Songkran, Chiang Mai locals would invite Phra Singh to a ceremonial procession around the city’s main roads for the bathing ritual. During the traditional Asian New Year celebrations, local people can sprinkle water to show respect to the statue.

Viharn Lai Kham's very gorgeous appearance is decorated with typical color of blue, gold and ochre. Vihahn, made of teak, has three leveled roof. And its lower edge is decorated with chofahs, which is a decorative ornament similar to the shape of a very thin bird.


Phra Singh Buddha at Wat Phra Singh


Interior of the Viharn Lai Kham

As the main attraction of Wat Phra Singh, Viharn Lai Kham's wonderful inside either. It houses Phra Singh (Lion Buddha), the highly respected Buddha image showcasing the graceful ‘Lion’ style, believed to be impacted by Sukhothai and Indian Pala styles.

Other interesting features inside Lai Kam assembly hall include the wall murals depicting scenes from the local way of life and popular folklore tales. The murals are also highly remarkable. The murals on the left show the history of Songthong and on the right the history of Suwanna Hongse. There are also elaborately gilded round columns, windows and wall panel behind Phra Singh.


Wall Murals at Wat Phra Singh


Viharn Luang

In addition to Viharn Lai Kam, the larger main assembly hall (Viharn Luang) houses a 15th-Century Buddha image cast from copper and gold. Viharn Luang is a totally rebuilt structure, situated on the original site. Although magnificent, the interior decorations are much less delicate than those inside Viharn Lai Kam.


Ubosot, built in 1806, has two entrances: a south entrance for monks and a north entrance for nuns. It is as such a song sangha ubosot ('song' referring to 'two' in Thai). The building houses a mondop with the Phrachaotongtip Buddha statue, a smaller version of the Phra Buddha Sihing and it is therefore also known as Phrasingha noi ('noi' referring to 'small' in Thai). The northern end of the building, near the entrance for the nuns, contains a copy of the Emerald Buddha, with the original one housed in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.


Ubosot of Wat Phra Singh


Scripture library Ho Trai

Ho Trai – the temple library of Wat Phra Singh Chiang Mai is among excellent examples of classical Lanna architecture and it is one of the most beautiful temple libraries in Thailand.

This is a temple library which contains important scriptures and is built in a way (on a high stone base) to protect them from humidity and termites. The glass mosaic and gold-plated lacquer covers on the wooden top structure.

The guards, flanking the stairs, consist of lions emerging from the mouths of a Makara, a mythical water creature. This combination is rarely seen elsewhere.


Library of Wat Phra Singh


Other structures

There are several smaller chedis in the temple complex including monk settlements or Kuti, and a small building housing an inclined Buddha statue.


In the 1920s, under the supervision of the famous monk Khru Ba Srivichai, Wat Phra Singh underwent large-scale renovation. He also participated in the renovation of other temples in Chiang Mai.

How to get to the Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh is located in the old town of Chiang Mai, at the intersection between Ratchadamnoen Road, Samlarn Road and Singharat Road. You cannot miss it. You can either walk to it through the old town on foot, with a rented scooter or with the red shared taxis (Songthaews) for 20 baht within the old town of Chiang Mai.

Opening hours
Wat Phra Singh is open to visitors daily from 5.00 A.M. to 8.30 P.M.

Entrance fees
You can visit the temple grounds for free. However, if you want to go to the Wihan Luang with the large golden Buddha statue, an entrance fee of 40 baht per person will occur.