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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrOn the Youwarat Road bordering the Chinatown, stands one of the most important temples in Thailand: Wat Traimit, or ‘Temple of the Golden Buddha’. Though not as highlighted as Wat Pho or Wat Arun, the temple is still a strong attraction, being visited by thousands of tourists daily. The main attraction of the temple is the immense gold cast Buddha statue at its top, which weighs 5,500 kilos and is five meters tall, making it the largest solid gold statue in the world. What makes it truly unique though is its disassembly feature: it can be taken down to nine separate pieces using a special key found inside its base. The gold purity is 40% in the torso, 80% on the head, and 99% in the hair and scalp.
HistoryThough its origins are mostly shrouded in mystery, the cast of the Buddha and especially the egg-shaped head indicates the Sukhothai Kingdom style predominant in the 13th and 14th century, thought it is possible to have been made later. The Sukhothai style incorporates elements of Hindu art, and in that period many statues were brought from India, which means the Golden Buddha can be of Hindu origin.
It is believed to have been moved to Ayutthaya sometime in 1403 and during the sacking of capital in the Burmese war of 1767, the statue was covered in plaster for its value to be hidden and prevent it from being stolen - a common practice during war times.
In 1801, after Bangkok became the new capital, King Rama I decreed the building of many temples and ordered that Buddha statues from all over the country would be moved and installed inside them, as the Burmese threat still existed.
During the reign of King Rama III, the Golden Buddha's turn also came to be taken to its new temple: Wat Chotanaram. In 1935, the temple fell into disrepair and the statue was moved nearby to its present location, at Wat Traimit, which back then was merely a pagoda and was far from the prestige it has today. The abbot here tried to move the statue to another temple, but due to its size he could not find a location for it. For 20 years, lacking a big enough shelter, it was kept under a simple tin roof. At this time, the true nature and origin of the statue was unknown, as it was still covered in stucco.
In 1954 a Viharn building was finally being erected to house the statue. When moved to the new location, a crane cable broke and the statue collapsed into the mud, an event taken as a bad omen by the workers who abandoned it on the spot. The next day, it was found by a monk who noticed the gold glittering through a crack in the plaster, and thus exposing the true nature of the Buddha. This discovery took place almost exactly 2,500 years after Buddha's death, something which is regarded as a miracle by the Thai people.
ArchitectureThe Golden Buddha sits in the Bhumisparsha Mudra traditional position (touching the earth with the hand in enlightenment). The flame above its head is a Sukhothai element that symbolizes his spiritual energy. The eyebrows, nose, and V-shape of the hair roots are all in accordance to the rules, and the most distinguishable element is no doubt the long ear lobes, which symbolize royal social status. The whole statue is said to be worth no less than 250 million USD in present-day money.
VisitingIn 2010 the temple was completely renovated and four-storied structure was erected to house the Golden Buddha. At the second floor you can visit a museum displaying the history of the Chinese community in Thailand, while at the third floor is the museum about the Golden Buddha itself. Here you can learn about its strange history, its origins, and even pieces of the covering plaster. The top floor pyramid-shaped structure houses the Buddha itself.
Wat Traimit is open every day of the week except Mondays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no entrance fee for the temple and the Buddha, but the museum ticket is ฿40 ($1.24), while the Chinese museum ticket is ฿100 ($3.10) for adults and ฿60 ($1.86) for children.
How to Get ThereThe temple is located on the Traimit road, right by the great Chinese gate which marks the entrance into Chinatown.
The easiest way to reach it by public transport is taking the subway - the terminal station Hua Lamphong is just across the street from the temple. Otherwise, taking a taxi is also a great option, especially if you live far away, as taxi prices are very low in Bangkok.
Other AttractionsBordering Chinatown, it can be easily combined with a tour through the Chinese neighborhood of Bangkok. Furthermore, at less than 3 kilometers away is Wat Suthat and the Dusit Zoo, the most popular zoo park in all of Thailand.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Mar 17, 2015