Emerald Buddha Temple - history and overview of the temple complex

The Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaew) in Bangkok is the jewel of the Royal Palace and the private temple of the king and royal family. Here all religious services are performed, and only the royal nobility have the right to enter the temple through the front doors.

History and general information

The Thais believe in the power and strength of the Emerald Deity. It is near this statue that the rulers of Thailand, beginning with Rama I, to this day swear allegiance to the people and country. Only the king has the right to touch the statue. Even the dust from the deity and the crown can only be wiped off by the ruler or crown prince.

According to ancient tradition, three times a year the king dressed the Buddha in different golden robes depending on the season. The ritual is meant to promote the prosperity of the state and the power of the king.

The stone statue of the deity sitting in the lotus pose is 66 cm high and 48.3 cm wide. Regarding the material of which it is made, there are different versions: emerald, jade or jadeite. There is also no consensus on the authorship, time and place of manufacture of the statue.

There are three legends about the origin of the statue:

  • The first states the origin of the statue from solid stone, by the personal master of the Indian ruler Ashoka.
  • The second is about the manufacture by an ancient Greek craftsman.
  • And the third legend says that the statue was made in heaven, seven nights and days, which, brought down to Earth by the king of the angels.

The Emerald Buddha was discovered by monks in Chiang Mai back in 1436. Lightning destroyed a Buddhist pagoda (stupa) and among its wreckage was found a sacred relic. For three centuries, the statue traveled with different rulers through the cities and countries of Asia: India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia. Only King Rama I transported the statue to Bangkok in 1779, and the Emerald Buddha became the country's mascot.


▣ Thailand's most precious treasure.

To house the sacred statue, a temple, Wat Phra Keo, was built and opened in 1784.

Temple Attractions

Today, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is an entire complex in the traditional Thai style, surrounded by a wall. It covers an area of 95 hectares.

Schematic map of the temple complex

complex layout

It is also an attractive place to see small lakes covered with lotus flowers. There is a library, a mausoleum of members of the royal family, and a golden stupa where the Buddha's bone is preserved. On the territory there are many statues of various creatures: demons Yakshi, protectors of the temple, the king of monkeys, Garuda and Kinnari - bird people. Here you can also see a scaled-down copy of Angkor Wat from Cambodia.

Wat Phra Kaeo, the main temple complex in Thailand

▣ Wat Phra Kaeo is the main temple complex of Thailand.

The temple's multi-stage carved domes of Phra Keo, inlaid with gold and bronze, will draw your attention. The roofs are decorated with images of snake heads. There are symbols of Buddhism made of glass, wood, and smalt everywhere.

It is also worth paying attention to:

  • Twelve bronze lions guarding the entrance doors of the temple.
  • Door panels made under Rama I depicting episodes from the ancient Thai epic "Ramakiyana," based on the Indian "Ramayana.
  • The inner walls of the temple and the ceiling are painted with famous scenes from the life of the Buddha. You can trace his journey from birth to enlightenment.
  • The figure of Buddha in the sacred room, Ubosote, where he sits on a high wooden throne covered with gold.
  • The two bronze statues of the crowned Buddha, three meters high and inlaid with precious stones, are also of great interest. The deity is depicted standing in a state of complete tranquility.
  • Ten small bronze crowned statues of the Buddha are placed at the base of the throne. They symbolize the main members of the royal families of the first three reigns.

Each ruler of Thailand contributed to the construction of the temple complex. Their efforts are made approximately every 50 years to overhaul and reconstruct the temple.

How to get there

The Emerald Buddha Temple is located on the Rattanakosin Peninsula at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. Nearby is the Great Royal Palace.

Wat Phra Kaew Temple on a map of Bangkok

The easiest and fastest way to get by cab or tuk-tuk. The cab driver will just need to show a map. The approximate cost of the trip is no more than 200 baht.

City bus: 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 25, 43, 44, 47, 53, 60, 82, 91, 123, 501, 508.

By water transport. You need to get to the pier of the Chao Phraya River by BTS. Get off at Saphan Taksin subway station and walk a little towards the river to the pier. Take the Express boat and for 15 baht take a boat to pier #9. The entrance to the Emerald Buddha Temple is 100 meters from the pier.

If you are in the Kaosan Road area or Chinatown, you can get to the palace on foot.

Time and cost of attendance

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is open daily from 8:30 to 16:30. No more tickets are sold after 3:30 pm. The only exceptions may be on days when there are ceremonial private events involving the royal family.

There are two side doors for tourists and Thais.

There are always queues at the ticket office, because this tour is a "must-see" tour. Therefore, it is better to arrive in the morning, by 9:00 - 9:30.

The ticket price is 500 baht, and if you need an audio guide it's another 200 baht. The ticket entitles you to visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Royal Palace, and the Hall of Regalia (a collection of coins and jewels, both local and those brought in by kings from around the world).

The entrance to the Emerald Buddha Temple.

▣ Tourist entrance to the Emerald Buddha Temple.

With a purchased ticket, you can visit Vimanmek Palace for seven days. It is located in the district of Dusit, on Rachawithi Street, in the garden of Suan Phutthan. From the Royal Palace, it is convenient to take a cab or take bus number 80.

Tips for tourists: rules for visiting the temple

  • Be aware that you will not be allowed into the temple with backpacks and large bags. There are no lockers here either.
  • There is a dress code in the temple complex: covered shoulders and arms up to the elbows, closed knees and shoes with closed heels. Restrictions apply to both women and men.
  • If necessary, appropriate clothing can be rented at the entrance to the temple complex by leaving a cash deposit of 250 baht. Keep in mind that during rush hour the rental shop may be empty. If this is the case you should go to the left corner of the complex (when looking from the entrance) where the stalls are located. Here you will be offered everything you need to buy or rent.
  • When you enter the temple you will need to remove your shoes. Please note! You must step over the threshold and not stand on it!
  • As in other temples, women are forbidden to mingle with monks here.
  • It is forbidden to take pictures in the temple itself. But it is worth taking a camera with you. First, you can take pictures of the Buddha from a distance, through the open doors. Secondly, there are enough interesting places in the temple complex that it is worth remembering.

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