|WAT CHI CHIANG SAI
|Wat Chi Chiang Sai is a defunct temple once situated in the Historical Park in Pratu Chai Sub-district. The monastery stood south of Wat Phra Sri
Sanphet and the Grand Palace on a location where now the ruins of Wihan Klaep are situated.
The earliest chronicles (Luang Prasoet) put the monastery's establishment in 1538 (900 Chula Sakarat), while the post-Ayutthayan chronicles
mention its construction in 1518. 
I only found two sources, which talks about this monastic structure: Jeremias Van Vliet's diaries and the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. No maps
featuring the temple seems to be in existence, with exception of the Vingboons painting.
Van Vliet writes that King Chai Racha (r. 1534 - 1547) ordered the construction of Wat Chi Chiang Sai in the 1530's. Likely King Chai Racha
ordered the structure built on the occasion of his throne ascendancy and the building was finalized four year later. The year 1538 mentioned in the
Luang Prasoet Chronicle concurs with that period.
The temple stood in the courtyard of the Grand Palace and was according to Van Vliet, at one time the largest and the highest of the kingdom. The
size of the pillars were more than three fathoms thick (5.5 m). I presume he pointed out the circumference of the pillars, which sets the pillar-diameter
at more than 1,8 m. 
Anyhow time took its toll and the temple decayed. Van Vliet wrote that many monarchs after King Chai Racha undertook its reparation, but had to
"Many of the previous kings have commenced the repair of the temple, but everybody who worked at it died soon. The chiefs, overseers,
and work-masters lost their senses, went mad, blind, and so on, so that after the loss of many persons the work had to be stopped". 
People believed that the temple was cursed and the Brahmins spoke about an old prophecy saying that Wat Chi Chiang Sai could only be rebuilt by
a true heir of King Chai Racha. King Chai Racha belonged to the House of Suphannaphum, a dynasty extinct after the first fall of Ayutthaya in 1569.
When King Prasat Thong (r. 1629-1656) came in power, after nearly having wiped out the complete Sukhothai Dynasty, Wat Chi Chiang Sai was in
a very bad shape. The structure was damaged and knocked down by lightening.
The beginning of the Buddhist millennium (1000 Chula Sakarat) occurred in March 1638 and King Prasat Thong was convinced that some frightful
calamity would come over the Kingdom of Ayutthaya to mark the thousandth year of the Era and he would lose the crown. In order to accumulate
the necessary merit to try to avert the prophesied calamity, he built and repaired many temples. He even tried to alter the name of the millennium year,
as the Year of the Tiger was considered inauspicious; and wanted to turn it into the Year of the Pig. The King of Burma felt little interest and finally
the name change did not happen. 
In 1637, King Prasat Thong wanted to rebuild Wat Chi Chiang Sai, but it was prevented by the dissuasion of the mandarins and the Brahman priests
- who said that it was not a lucky time. 
But the King of the Golden Castle was too eager looking for the great treasures which were said to be buried under this temple. In 1639 - after the
millennium past - he ordered the main copper Buddha image - the present Phra Mongkon Bophit - to be moved a few tens of meters and razed the
Chi Chiang Sai monastery to the ground. The temple was completely demolished and leveled; and its location received a new function as the royal
cremation ground, called "Sanam Na Chakkrawat". 
A new temple was built to cover Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The Brahmans professed that the King would die before its finalization, because "the
rebuilding was not begun out of pure devotion, but out of His Majesty’s hope of finding great treasures in the demolition of the former
temple". Finally the old Kalahom survived Wat Chi Chiang Sai's curse, the new Buddhist millennium and the prophesies of the Brahmins, as he died
of old age in 1656. 
In the Vingboons atlas we find a water colour (1) painting named "Afbeldinge der stadt Iudiad Hooft des Choonincrick Siam". On this painting,
south of Wat Sri Sanphet we find a large circular building. This building is likely the structure King Prasat Thong built to house Phra
Mongkhon Bophit after he raised Wat Chi Chiang Sai.
Regarding the translation of the name of Wat Chi Chiang Sai, I remain in doubt. I do not have the Siamese writing of the name from the Luang
Prasoet chronicle. Nevertheless I want to give it a tentative translation after the Dutch wording. "Chi" could come from the Thai word "ศรี" meaning
"glorious". "Chiang" I tend to translate as "city", while "sai" could have been "ชัย", "victorious". Putting it all together Wat Chi Chiang Sai would be
tentatively translated as the "Monastery of the Glorious City of Victory"; as Van Vliet wrote out "In Judia, in the courtyard of the king's
palace, stands a temple of such extraordinary size and height that a similar cannot be found in the whole country." Wat Chi Chaing Sai
could as thus have been named after the City of Ayutthaya.
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 20 / Source: Luang Prasoet, Phan Canthanumat, British Museum,
Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph.
 Van Vliet's Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van Der Kraan & David K. Wyatt (2005) - page 157.
 A proposed change in the Siamese era Frankfurter Chulasakaraj 1000 (A.D. 1638) - O. Frankfurter.
 A History of Siam - W.A.R. Wood (1924) - page 181.
 Van Vliet's Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van Der Kraan & David K. Wyatt (2005) - page 243.
|Text & photograph by Tricky Vandenberg - March 2011