Wat Sri Suphan, the Silver Temple and the wisdom of Lanna’s crafts
Wat Sri Suphan or Srisuphan Temple or well-known in general is the “Silver Temple” locates on Wua Lai Road, Muaeng district, Chiang Mai. The holy site has a long background which tracks back for more than 500 years in the age of Phra Chao Muaeng Kaew, the king of the ancient Chiang Mai. The king and Queen Siriyosavadi, his mother, assigned the court official named “Chao Muen Luang Ja Kham” construct the temple with the title “Wat Sri Suphan Aram” that later called in short as “Wat Sri Suphan”. Within the monastery complex is the world’s first silver ordination hall which created by the faith of the native villagers to inherit the silver craftsmanship of “Wau Lai” village where is a significant silver handicraft community of Chiang Mai.
About Sri Suphan Temple
Wat Sri Suphan nestled among the handicraft’s families of silversmith and lacquerware on Wau Lai street. Therefore, the temple initiated to carry on the native wisdom by gathering the people within the community and organised the group “Lanna Handicraft” at Wat Sri Suphan. The so-called learning centre of the community which teaches the people about the traditional Thai art “Sib Moo Lanna Thai Smiths” at the temple.
And in 2004, the temple had an idea to build “the first silver Ubosot” (the silver ordination hall) in the world to be the remarkable worshipped edifice of the Buddhist. The mission proceeds under the commitment that is “the art on the Land of Lanna which devoting to the Buddhism and honour to King Rama IX”. Consequently, a magnificent and delicate Buddhist architecture which appeals either Buddhist and tourists both domestic and abroad to come to witness the beauty of the silver temple day by day.
Background of Wat Sri Suphan
Wat Sri Suphan is an ancient monastery which situates in Chiang Mai. The temple established in 1500 AD by King of Chiang Mai, Phra Chao Philok Panaddathiraj or Phra Maung Kaew and his mother that commanded the court official to construct the temple and named “Wat Sri Suphan Aram” or called shortly as “Wat Sri Suphan” after that.
“Srisuphan Aram” became the learning centre of art, culture, knowledge, folk wisdom of Lanna about the craftsmanship – sculpture, silversmith, lacquerware since the past. Presently, there’s still the remaining of the glory in culture and art – religious objects, religious place, the way of life of Buddhist, folk wisdom of the Buddha image craft, silverware, lacquerware of Wua Lai street. Anyhow, those valuable arts have been declining with no any inheritor to carry on those tasks sustainably. Thence, it is a crucial mission of the temple as the primary learning centre of the community to maintain the traditional art.
What to see at the Silver Temple
The Silver Ubosot (Ordination Hall)
The highlight and the most significant structure of the temple. It is a new Ubosot (ordination hall) that restored from the old foundation and monastic boundary of the original building that was in disrepair. The silver ordination hall is in Lanna design which made from silver and tin which created by the skillful local craftsmen in silversmith. The delicate and elegant pieces of silver crafts are decorating in both exterior and interior of the building. Inside where is the house to enshrine the principal Buddha image which renowned among the local people is “Phra Chao Jed Tue” the bronze Buddha statue with 1.5 meters wide of the lap and 2 meters high in the attitude of subduing Mara.
The Story of Silver Ubosot
Stories related to the sacred Buddha image “Phra Chao Jed Tue” has told all along the age of Wat Sri Suphan for more than five centuries. For example, the model presented the miracle by get to bathe in the pool next to the ordination hall, blessing the moralists who come to worship to fulfil their wish especially the ladies, and lots of psychics both Thai and foreigners feel the three pairs of power – Yin – Yang, Hot – Cold, and Silver – Gold from the sacred Buddha. Therefore, lots more believers come to the temple to worship especially the women.
Apart from that mythology, it is another story that many visitors both local and from the overseas come to the temple to inspect the bullet mark at the foot of the image. The story begins in the time of World War II that the temple used to be the base of the Japanese army and they set up the Tripitaka Hall (the repository of the Buddhist scriptures) as a command centre. The structure currently perfectly exists and uses as a repository of palm leaves manuscripts. Once the Japanese army was attacked the bullet shot to the foot of the Buddha image and created the mark since then.
Note: Followed to the belief of traditional Lanna, the foundation of the ordination hall and the monastic boundary (within the defensive wall) buries numerous of sacred objects, precious things included incantation and amulets for over 500 years. To avoid any misconduct and/or debase the sanctity of the place, the ladies are forbidden to enter to the silver ordination hall at all events. (The temple arranges the worship pavilion in front of the ordination hall for the ladies to worship).
Lanna Style Vihara (Buddha Image Hall)
Vihara was built in 1799 estimate. The hall was renovated to the contemporary style; however, it still keeps the original character of art. Interior is the mural painting about Phra That (the chedi which enshrined the Buddha’s relics) of the zodiac, the main pagoda that was the city centre of the ancient Chiang Mai, Dharma puzzle. Also, the ornaments of the silver handicraft presenting in the pictures of the biography of the Buddha, 10 incarnations of the Buddha, and the Vessantara Jataka decorated on the wall of the vihara.
And the large subduing Mara Buddha statue enshrines as the main image of the hall. It could say that; the Silver Temple is so-called the superb Buddhist art school of Lanna because the place presents the top-class work of art from 10 kinds of craftsmanship of Lanna at one place.
Phra Borom That Wat Sri Suphan (the Pagoda of the Buddha’s relics)
The pagoda is brick and concrete structure in Lanna style which created by the court craftsmen. The 8-tier octagon bell-shaped chedi on the supine lotus shaped platform located on the squared foundation. It has been restored for many times with its age equivalent to the vihara or may be lesser than that not too much according to the Buddhist belief in Lanna that favours building the Buddha’s relic pagoda at the rear of vihara.
Lanna Craft Wisdom Museum of Wat Sri Suphan
A place is ideal learning centre to transmit and inherit the native wisdom, also promote the job and income among the local to strengthen the community’s economic that the villagers are self-sufficiency and sustainably. The museum is the knowledge hub of the folk wisdom about the silversmith crafts from manufacturing to distribution in the cooperative format.
Besides the Buddha image of the Silver Temple that is respectful among the people, the compound also has numerous statues of the Kanesha in various sizes. Owing to the Kanesha although the Hindu deity but the god is great esteem and worship among the Buddhist in Thailand so much since he the god of art and science and success and he is the first deity to be respected before start any rites.
Thence, the temple created the Kanesha’s statue the symbol of success with 1.25 metres wide of the lap and 1.50 metres high ornamented with Lanna style and set the consecrate ceremony to complete the sculpture within 1 day and 1 night. Then, the statue was invited to enshrine on the platform to be the great master of all craftsmen and devotees.
Resource of Sib moo Lanna Thai Smiths and the Silver Smith and Crafts School
A local school to teach the art of silver and Lanna Thai smiths with the mission to preserve and inherit the folk wisdom of Wua Lai village that appreciate to present to the tourists those interested to experience and learn with free of charge. However, any donation to support the school is welcome.
Wat Sri Suphan “the Silver Temple” is another must-not-miss temple in Chiang Mai for any tourists indeed. Further from the charm of Lanna Thai art in its architecture and pieces of art, the place is also the learning centre of the native wisdom in silversmith and ornament craft of Wua Lai community that is an important string to carry on the valuable knowledge of “Sib Moo Lanna Thai Smith” on the land of Siam continually.
How to get to the Silver Temple
Starts from the ring road of Chiang Mai and gets in Wua Lai Road. Then heads straight about 600 meters, you will spot the temple signage “Wat Sri Suphan” is on the right. And turns right and drives more 50 meters you will arrive at the destination.
By Public transportation:
The tourists can get on the “Red” pick-up car that travels around the city area, and you get off at Wat Sri Suphan.