Wat Phra Yuen at Lamphun

Wat Phra Yuen, located 1 km. east across the bridge over the Kuang River in front of Wat Phrathat Haripunchai,  is one of oldest temples in Northern Thailand.  Lamphun (formerly Haripunchai) is amongst the oldest cities in Thailand and predates Chiang Mai by several centuries. Northern Thai chronicles suggest that Lamphun was founded by Buddhist monks in 661 AD, but the actual date may have been as late as the mid-ninth century. The chronicles tell how some Buddhist monks wished to establish a city and invited Queen Chamadevi from Lopburi to be the first ruler.

Queen Chamadevi - mural at Wat Phra Yuen

Lamphun was part of the Mon Dvaravati civilization which developed along trade routes from the Gulf of Martaban (an arm of the Andaman Sea in the southern part of Burma) to the Chao Phraya River basin and beyond to the north and east.

Queen Chamadevi’s dynasty lasted until the mid 11th century, when Lamphun may have been temporarily evacuated due to a cholera epidemic. However it remained as the centre of the valley until it was captured by King Mangrai in 1281.  King Mangrai used Lamphun as his capital for four years before founding a new capital. Since the foundation of Chiang Mai in 1296, Lamphun has been dominated by its northern neighbour.

Queen Chamadevi - mural at Wat Phra Yuen

Chedi of Wat Phra Yuen

Located in a grove,  Phra Yuen temple has a chedi (stupa) with a large square base and four tall standing Buddha images in arched niches. Elderly residents have recorded that the original structure at the site of the present chedi was a mondop (the Thai term derived from Sanskrit maṇḍapa meaning a pavilion and denoting a small square temple building used to house minor images or religious) with a pinnacled wooden roof (the mondop in the ubosot or ordinational hall of Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai is believed to be a loose copy of this vanished structure).

The structure had four standing Buddha images twice the height of the present ones. The chedi was rebuilt in a Burmese-style at the beginning of last century. Below is the inscription in front of the old chedi at Wat Phra Yuen. Reference to dates are recorded both in the Buddhist Era (B.E.) and Christian Era (A.D. – B.E. + 543 years).

One of the four Buddha images

This Wat Phra Yuen is believed to be the former Wat Aranyikaram  built by Queen Chamathewi in 1209 B.E. (666 A.D.). Subsequently, in 1606 B.E. (1063 A.D.), King  Arthitayaraj ordered to cast a standing bronze Buddha image to be established at the rear of the viharn together with changing the name of this temple to Wat Phuttharam.  

The old chedi and new temple at Wat Phra Yuen

In 1913 B.E. (1370 A.D.), in the reign of Phaya Kue Na, the King of Chiang Mai invited Phra Sumonthera from Sukhothai  to promote Buddhism in Lanna region and to reside at the temple for two years. During the time, he built a Mondop to cover the old Buddha image and cast three more standing Buddha images to be contained in niches in another three directions which altogether implying four of the Past Buddhas named Kukusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa and Gautama. Afterwards, in about the 22nd Century (the 17th century A.D.), the Wat Phra Yuen community had been deserted because of the Thai – Burmese war, until the year 2443 B.E. (1900 A.D.), Chao  Inthayongyotchot then built a Pagan-style chedi to keep the four ruined Buddha images inside.  According to the words of Phra  Mongkhonyannamuni, the dean monk of  Lamphun Province and the abbot of Wat Phra Yuen at that time, the new chedi was built in the same size of the old one, but the newly built base of the four  cardinal Buddha images height was only at the same level of the old Buddha image’s navel.

Wat Phra Yuen - view through the grove

The excavation of Wat Phra Yuen in 2005 found that the ancient monument was constructed overlapping of two periods. The special features are the line of boundary  parapet and monk’s chamber base of Hariphunchai period, Sukhothai-style chedi base, the vihara and base of the scripture repository of the Lanna period with brick walkway assumed to be the Royal passage of Phaya Kue Na according to the evidence of the inscription on the stone tablet of Wat Phra Yuen inscribed in 1913 B.E. (1370 A.D.) which still stored in the temple until now. In addition, more than 500 pieces of Buddha images and amulets, and terracotta sculptures were found.

Sign in front of the chedi

Wat Phra Yuen - new structure

Typical Tai Styled Naga & Roof Design

Nagas

Ornate entrance to the temple

Inside the main temple

Inside the main temple

Buddha

Wall painting inside the temple

Ornately carved window panel

Temple windows from the outside

Another wall painting inside the temple

Where the monks sit during meditation and teachings

Buddha

Bronze carving inside the temple

Another Buddha image inside the temple

The new temple at Wat Phra Yuen

Guardian dragons outside the temple

Detail of guardian dragon

Temple painting detail

More guardian dragons

Guardian dragon - from behind

The Bell Tower

The temple drum

Temple statue outside the main temple

Remains of old pavement

The path continues

Statues of monks

Fortune sticks

Another Buddha image outside the main temple

Grounds outside the temple

For further information about Thai temple terminology and Lan Na Thai architecture, see the following post on Wat Phrathat Haripunchai

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