Wat Pan Tao

Wat Pan Tao, temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Pan Tao, the most beautiful teakwood vihara of Lanna

Talking about the Lanna architecture, one of the most outstanding characters is the structure that made of premium teak wood. And at Wat Pan Tao there is a magnificent vihara that considered as the perfect and most beautiful in the historical city “Chiang Mai“. The vihara or sermon hall at Wat Pan Tao is teakwood for the whole structure in traditional Chiang Saen design.

Formerly, the building was a gilded house or the royal residence of King Mahotaraprathet (the 5th ruler of ancient Lanna) and later in the age of King Inthavitchayananda (the 7th King of Chiang Mai) ordered to remove the building and donated to be the sermon hall at Wat Pan Tao. Furthermore, there is the pulpit platform in the classic art with over hundred years old, and the rear of the vihara is a bell-shaped pagoda on the octagon shaped base which is the main chedi of the monastery surrounded by the satellite pagodas beautifully. 

Importance of Wat Pan Tao

Another attractive thing of the temple is during the Loy Krathong Festival which well-known among the local as “Yi Peng Festival” the vast numbers of Lanna style lanterns and candles of which placed on the clay tray called “Phang Pratheep” are decorated all around the area of the compound.

When the time to process the religious rite the parade of monks and novices step nice and orderly along the way which is surrounded with various size of the candles making the drizzling beautiful picture. Unsurprisingly, year by year lots of tourists both domestic and abroad come to Ching Mai to experience this memorable event at Wat Pan Tao, continuously.

Becoming the Temple “Wat Pan Tao” 

One who visits Wat Chedi Luang may spot a small Buddhist temple that situates in the north of the famous temple in Chiang Mai. The temple titled “Wat Pan Tao”.

Wat Pan Tao stands on Phra Pokklao Road, Phra Singh district in the city town of Chiang Mai. The temple was created in about the 21st Buddhist Century which referring to the legend believed that it was established in the same period of Wat Chedi Lung or so-called about last 500 years ago.    

Legend of the temple

Becoming the Temple "Wat Pan Tao"

The mythology of the establishment of the ancient city Chiang Mai noted that “Once upon the time, there’s a wealthy man lived in the center of the city named “Pan Tao” and he built his residence as the ruler “Chao Rasi” gave permission to him in the city downtown.” Accordingly, it assumed that Wat Pan Tao is former the house of that wealthy man and later King Saen Muang Ma name the temple as “Wat Pan Tao” which is native Lanna language means thousand times which is “Making merit just once and you will gain thousand times of virtue. However, it was slightly distorted to be “Pan Tao” which refers to “thousand stoves” over time.    

While there’s another story about the background of this monastery that has been told by the Buddhist monk titled “Phra Khru Suwansarnpisit”, the principal at Wat Sri Boontochangkong”. The abbot said that “Formerly, the temple used to be the venue of a thousand tripod stoves to cast the Uttharot Buddha image to be enshrined in the grand pagoda at Wat Chedi Lung. And once the creation of the Buddha statue completed, then the villagers constructed a temple over the land and named “Wat Pan Tao” which means a thousand stoves.

The Ancient Remains and Antiques at Wat Pan Tao

Vihara of Wat Pan Tao

Vihara of Wat Pan Tao

Originally, the building is former the royal court of King Mahotaraprathet, the 5th sovereign ruler of Chiang Mai Nakorn Ping. If you look up to see the door frame, it is elegantly furnished with the carved wood art of peacock figure which is the symbolic animal to the royalty of north Thailand.  

The Ancient Pulpit, the wood bound of the palm leaf manuscript, and portraits of the rulers and members of the royal family of Lanna in the past.

Sala (the pavilion) of Wat Pan Tao

Somdet Phra Phutthachan

Inside is a statue of “Somdet Phra Phutthachan (To Phrommarangsi)” one of the most famous Buddhist monks of the Rattanakosin era. Also, a holy water pond allowing the people to bring home to revere. The ceiling at the center of the pavilion is decorated with the engraved wood pattern of the signs of the zodiac.    

From the Royal Court to the Gold Teakwood Sanctuary

The teak wood vihara: Vihara Luang

The teak wood vihara: Vihara Luang

The highlight of Wat Pan Tao which appeals numerous of visitors to the temple is “Vihara Laung” or the Royal Sanctuary of the temple that the whole structure made from gold teakwood with the delicate and magnificent carved craftsmanship. The building said that used to be the royal residence or in north call “Ho Kham” that is the only one that is utterly perfect in its condition and one of the most beautiful Lanna architecture in this city.

Used to be the royal residence in 1847

In the late days, the temple is former the royal court where the place that King Mahotaraprathet, the fifth king of Chiang Mai (1847-1854) lived. The royal residence called “Phra Tumnak Wieng Kaew” which currently is the area slanting to the northwest of the old City Hall all through Chiangmai Technical College. Mentioned by the mythology regarding this royal court that “A chef councilor “Mahawongse” built the building to devote for Buddha in 1847 since he was promoted his rank of nobility and position from the chief councilor to be the governor of Chiang Mai. Thence, the nobleman constructed this royal court to house the Buddha image in which the precious thing inside his residence together with the celebration after completion of the building. 

The creation of the royal court, the ruler of Chiang Mai involved lots of local craftsmen and Burmese artisans. Later, Lord Mahawongse, the governor of Chiang Mai was promoted to be the sovereign class named “Phra Chao Mahotaraprathet Rachathibodin Napisitaramahanagarathisathan” in 1853. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly afterward, then King Mongkut (Rama IV) of Siam bestowed to appointed Mr. Suriyawongse, son of Phra Chao Boromrachathibodee (Kawila) to be the 6th ruler of Chiang Mai Nagara with the title ” Phra Chao Kawiroros Suriyawongse”. He had ruled Chiang Mai for 16 years and then died in 1870, and the viceroy of Chiang Mai “Chao Inthanon” then ruled over the city for 3 years and founded to be the 7th ruler of Chiang Mai officially in 1873 with the name “Phra Chao Inthanon Phaholthepphakdi”.  

Rebuilt the Vihara instead of the royal villa in 1876

In 1876, Phra Chao Inthavichayanon considered that the royal villa of King Mahotaraprathet supposed to locate in the monastery complex rather than inside the royal court. So, he ordered to dismantle the building and rebuilt it over the space at Wat Pan Tao on Saturday of the 8th day of the waxing moon of the 10 th month. At the same time, Phra Chao Inthavichayanon also under a process of restoring the Library at Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Su Khamin. The construction project of all three temples completed successfully in 1886 with a grand celebration which is considered it is one of the most entertained festivals of Chiang Mai city. Furthermore, to count the age of Hor Kham or the royal villa that relocated to rebuild at Wat Pan Tao is about 142 years old (between 1886-2018. 

Wat Pan Tao is in Chiang Saen in the structure made from teakwood with the angle bead

Structure in traditional Chiang Saen design

Vihara at Wat Pan Tao, therefore, is not just only an old wooden serm on hall with its historical value, but also it is architectural of art that maintains the identity of Lanna art perfectly. The beautiful architecture of the vihara at Wat Pan Tao is in Chiang Saen in the structure made from teakwood with the angle bead. Each pillar and wall are wood in partially the wall that made by unique technique similarly to carved-wooden partition (Fa Pa Gon) of Ayutthaya art, but this one is thicker.

There is three entrance to the hall which is the main gate at the front, side entrance in the north slating to the main gate, and the last one is at the rear in the south of the building. The primary access is the main one at the front which consists of the carved wood archway ornamented with the mosaic art in the various figure of the animals – peacock, Naga serpent, monkey, and swan. The upper part is engraved wood with flowers and leaves pattern, and the door panels are plain hardwood.          

The latest restored vihara in 1975

Vihara of Wat Pan Tao has been repaired for many times, and the latest was in 1975 which restored the foundation and the wall at the back disrepair from rain altogether with the flood. And the inner fence was severely damaged some pieces of wood fell down to the water, and some flew by the water. The renovation was processed by building a concrete wall between the center pillar. And for the old foundation that was wooden structure, it strengthened with the concrete and masonry between the column.  

That is to say, the vihara of Wat Pan Tao is considered to be an example of the renovated building with proper maintenance, although it has passed through time for over a hundred years. The building is elegant and beautiful architecture educating us about the history of Chiang Mai clearly. So, Wat Pan Tao is another should not miss place for any tourists to visit and witness the delicate art of the carved wood vihara that is perfect and most magnificent in Lanna district for once.

Thousands of candles light up in the Yi Peng Festival

Thousands of candles light up in the Yi Peng Festival

During the Loy Krathong Festival which is another highlight event of this historic city. The festive season with “Yi Peng” an old tradition of Lanna that many temples are decorated gorgeously resulting Chiang Mai turns to be the dazzling night with the thousands lanterns and candles. And Wat Pan Tao is one of the remarkable spots that lots of visitors both Thai and international would like to experience the fascinating moment of the Yi Peng festival at the monastery.

Besides, the temple will furnish with a vast number of Lanna style lanterns, the floor is crowded with the candles made from the clay called “Hang Pratheep” or other materials. The candlelight glows among the lovely Lanna ambiance with sweet fresh air that makes the night is so perfect. When the time to make the Buddhist rite comes, numbers of monks and novices parade orderly along the path that surrounded with the various size of candles making the beautiful and exotic scene ever. And this picture has illustrated through worldwide and lures numerous of the tourists to visit the holy place during the famous celebration of Chiang Mai.        

How to go to Wat Pan Tao

How to go to Wat Pan Tao

Wat Pan Tao opens from 6.00am through 6.00pm daily (except during the Yi Peng Festival that the temple opens in the evening to allow public to join the event). And to go to the temple, the tourist can get the red pick-up truck service, and the temple is on Phra Pokklao Road next to Wat Chedi Luang.   


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