Significant Religious and Cultural Sites Around the Old City of Chiang Mai, and Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist Temples (called "Wat" in Thai). These include:
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, the city's most famous temple, stands on Doi Suthep, a hill to the north-west of the city. This temple dates from 1383. By tradition, its site was chosen by placing a relic of the Lord Buddha on an elephant's back and letting it roam until it trumpeted, then circled, and finally laid down and died. The temple's location provides superb views on a clear day.
Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, dates from the 13th century. King Mengrai lived here during the construction of the city. This temple houses two important and venerated Buddha figures, the marble Phra Sila and the crystal Phra Satang Man.
Wat Phra Singh is located within the city walls, dates from 1345 and offers an example of classic northern Thai style architecture. It houses the Phra Singh Buddha, a highly venerated figure brought here many years ago from Chiang Rai. Visitors can also take part in meditation classes here.
Wat Chedi Luangwas founded in 1401 and is dominated by a large Lanna style chedi which took many years to finish. An earthquake damaged the chedi in the 16th century and only two-thirds of it remains.
Wat Chet Yot is located on the outskirts of the city. Built in 1455, the temple hosted the Eighth World Buddhist Council in 1977.
Wat Umong is a forest and cave wat in the foothills in the west of the city, near Chiang Mai University. Wat U-Mong is known for its fasting Buddha, representing the Buddha at the end of his long and fruitless fasting period before he gained enlightenment. It illustrates a canonical text in which Buddha admonished his monks not to fall into self-torture, since it is a "fruitless" as self-indulgence. Hundreds of Buddhist proverbs in both English and Thai posted on trees throughout the grounds. They were collected by a German monk who lived there in the 1980s. Ironically, only a few of the English language sayings are by the Buddha; the rest are by a Vedanta Hindu saint who inspired the earliest Theosophists!
Wat Ram Poeng (Tapotaram), near Wat U-Mong, is known for its meditation center (Northern Insight Meditation Center). The temple teaches the traditional Vipassana technique and students stay from 10 days to more than a month as they try to meditate at least 10 hours a day. Wat RamPoeng houses the largest collection of Tipitaka, the complete Theravada canon, in several Northern dialects.
Wat Suan Dok is a 14th century temple located just west of the old city-wall. It was built by the king for a revered monk visiting from Sukhothai for the rains retreat. The temple's large sala kan prian (sermon hall) is unusual not only for its size, but also because it is open on the sides instead of enclosed. There are many chedis which contain the ashes of the old rulers of Chiang Mai. The temple is also the site of Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya Buddhist University, where monks pursue their studies.
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