A Brief History of Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok

Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand | © Courtesy of PIVISO/Flickr
Kelly Iverson

Wat Phra Kaew – otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha – is regarded as one of the most important temples in Thailand; that’s pretty notable, considering there are some 40,000 Buddhist temples across the country. Here’s a brief history of Wat Phra Kaew.

Wat Phra Kaew

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is located inside of the Grand Palace in the heart of the Old City district of Bangkok. The palace grounds are split into three sections, otherwise known as courts: the inner, middle and outer court. It is in the outer court where visitors will find Wat Phra Kaew. This temple is one of the main reasons visitors flock to the Grand Palace.

History

Construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782, and it was shortly afterward in 1785 that the construction of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha began. It was during this time that King Rama I (King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke) was in power, and the capital of Thailand was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok, which is why a new palace was needed in the first place. This marked the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty, of which King Rama I was the founder.

Unlike many temples in Thailand that are used mainly as living quarters for monks, the structure of Wat Phra Kaew houses many sacred buildings and objects. The temple is embellished with elaborate carvings, paintings and pagodas throughout, and is aesthetically pleasing. One could spend an entire afternoon exploring and trying to capture every detail that was put into the making of this historic temple.

Wat Phra Kaew Complex

The Emerald Buddha

Inside the main building of the temple, otherwise known as Ubosot or the ordination hall, is where the statue of the Emerald Buddha is housed. The Emerald Buddha, or Phra Kaew Morakot, is decorated with pure gold clothing. The actual statue is not made from emerald, as some believe, but was actually carved from a single block of jade. There are multiple stories and legends about where the Emerald Buddha came from; some believe it was created in India in 43 BC in the ancient city of Pataliputra, while others believe it originated in Sri Lanka.

A statue stands sentinel outside Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand

Its emerald-green exterior sits multiple platforms above the ground, and it can be seen from the doorway to where it sits. No visitors are actually allowed to touch or get close to the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha is only about two feet tall, but don’t let its size fool you – it is one of the most highly regarded and significant buddhas to the Thai people. It is believed that those who worship the Emerald Buddha will obtain good luck in return.

Richly carved statue outside Wat Phra Kaew
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article