Buddhism and Temples in Chiang Mai
State religion in Thailand, Buddhism is practiced by nearly 95% of the population (the rest being Islamic, Christian, and anecdotally Taoist, Hinduist and Confucianist). It is indeed around the thirteenth century AD that the Theravada Buddhism, also called “Small Vehicle Buddhism” was implemented in the country. Today, nearly 30,000 temples are home to some 450,000 monks (about 10,000 women!) across the country. Want to learn more about Buddhism in Thailand? Follow the guide!
Buddhism in Chiang Mai
It was in the late thirteenth century, the rulers of Chiang Mai and Sukhothai made Theravada Buddhism the state religion of Thailand. Therefore, Chiang Mai became an important center for the spread of religion and missionary enterprise was set up until the fifteenth century or so. Many temples were built then and there are now about forty within the walls of the old city of Chiang Mai.
Theravada Buddhism is often regarded as the purest version of this doctrine. Indeed, more than a religion, Theravada is a school of thought which aims to abolish suffering by human action. The community of followers of Theravada form what is called the Sangha. Religious, members of the Sangha, are isolated in a monastery and lead an ascetic lifestyle in order to achieve nirvana.
From the age of 8 years, Thai kids can become “novices” and be admitted to a monastery. But it’s not until 20 years of age, and only if the novice agrees to the 227 laws of the disciplinary code, that he can be ordained. His life will follow a very monotone rythm : alms from villagers, religious meditation and instruction every day. Even though the vows are not perpetual, Buddhist monks remain so until they die.
The Most Important Temples in Chiang Mai
Wat Prathat Doi Suthep
Located on the hill of Doi Suthep, about fifteen kilometers from the center of Chiang Mai, this temple is certainly the most emblematic of the city. Sacred place for the Thai, the temple is also popular among foreign visitors because it offers a magnificent view of the city and its surroundings.
The unique design of the Wat Umong temple brings the outside world inside, as the entrance is lined by a wall covered with trees. The effect is a tranquil space that helps you escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Wat Phra Singh
Dating from 1345, this temple is characteristic of the classical style of northern Thailand. Built completely of wood, Wat Phra Singh Buddha houses the Pra Singh, a particularly venerated image in the north.
Wat Chedi Luang
Built in 1401, Wat Chedi Luang is easily recognizable by its large stupa. Although it was damaged by an earthquake in the sixteenth century, it is still very impressive.
Wat Chiang Man
Oldest temple in the city, Wat Chiang Man has seen the birth of Chiang Mai. It is particularly appreciated for harboring a marble Buddha and a crystal Buddha.