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The Temple of the Dawn was built sometime during the Ayutthaya era. Previously known as both Wat Makok and Wat Chaeng, it was made famous by General Taksin. The new name was given when he came upon the temple at dawn, with his fleet on their way to fight the invading Burmese. He later became king and wanted to make it part of his royal compound in Thonburi, the capital of the country at that time.
Wat Arun housed the highly revered Emerald Buddha for a short stint before King Rama I took it to Wat Phra Kaew, right across the river. In 1779, the figurine was brought from the capital of Laos to what was then the capital of Thailand and stayed in Wat Arun for five years. It was at this time that the capital was switched to Bangkok from Thonburi.
The prang, or tower, that sits at the temple’s core is Khmer in style. Much of the temple also reflects Chinese architecture. The prang stands at some 82 meters tall, but it did not always rise as high over the river as it does today. The prang’s construction began during the reign of King Rama II. He did not manage to live long enough to see it completed, however, King Rama III finished the structure to look as it does today. At first, it only stood a few meters tall.
One of the oldest finds on the temple grounds is the ubosot, or the ordination hall; King Taksin resided in this hall for a short time. It is believed that the Buddha image found inside the hall was designed by King Rama II. The original chapel sits just adjacent to the ordination hall and was built at about the same time.