|WAT RATANA CHAI (วัดร้ตนชัย)
|This active temple is located on the city island along U-Thong Road. It can be easily
found east of the Riverview Hotel. This monastery is more commonly known under the
name of Wat Jin today, because many Teochiu Chinese migrated to this part of the city
in the latest century. Wat Ratana Chai is located near the Pa Sak River, which makes it
prone to seasonal flooding.
As an active monastery, Wat Ratanachai has all the basic architecture structures of a
Buddhist temple: sermon hall, bell tower, monk quarters, crematory furnace, and a
number of chedi. Nearly all of these architectural structures date to the Ratanakosin
period. The highlight of this monastery is its central bell shaped chedi, which has been
painted white. This structure is perched on a large platform with several deep niches in its
side. A single staircase leads to the bell-shaped chedi above. There are also several
small chedi in the vicinity, some in Ayutthaya-period styles, and sections of an ancient
wall are till in situ. Locals have told me that the sermon hall also dates back to the
Ayutthaya Kingdom. A well-preserved pointed vault gate (Pratu Chong Kut) can be
seen next to Wat Ratana Chai. To visit it, you must enter the school west of this temple.
Wat Ratana Chai was located near three fortresses: Pom Phet, Pom Racha Clu, and
Pom Ho Rachakru. This area was very important for foreign trade during the
Ayutthaya period because a major boat dock and many warehouses were nearby. A
large, maritime, Chinese community lived and traded around this temple in ancient times.
Wat Ratana Chai may appear on de La Mare’s 1751 map as a Chinese pagoda, but this
could also be Wat Suwan Dararam as well. The same map shows that a college was
located close to this monastery, which had some connection to the Greek minister
Constantin Phaulcon (Ok Ya Wichayen).
Royal Chronicles mention this site in reference to a battle to claim the throne. The
younger brother of 11-year-old King Yot Fa (who was executed in 1548), Prince Si
Sin, gathered followers together and staged a rebellion. A revered monk provided him
with an auspicious date to attack the Royal Palace, Prince Si Sin then advanced by way
of the Ratana Chai Tower (gate) and moved toward the palace on the back of an
elephant to stage an attack. Caophraya Maha Sena rode out on a white elephant to stop
him, but was killed by Prince Si Sin’s scythe. Prince Si Sin attacked the temple at the
Sao Thong Chai Gate, which is located next to Wat Thammikarat, where he had been
imprisoned earlier by King Chakkraphat. This surprise attack forced the king to flee
the palace. However, Prince Si Sin was eventually killed in battle by gunfire. As a
warning against future rebellions, the prince’s colleagues and some of their wives were
executed and impaled next to the body of Prince Si Sin (see Cushman 41-42).
In 1569, shortly after the death of King Chakkraphat, King Mahin took over the throne
and continued to battle with the Burmese, who had resumed their effort to siege the city.
King Hongsawadi sent troops in to attack the stockade at the edge of the river on
the side of Rattanachai Gate (Cushman 64). The Burmese continued to attack from
the east while trying to build a causeway to the other side. By the end of the year King
Mahin had died and Ayutthaya had become a vassal state to their Burmese conquerors.
|Text & photographs by Ken May - Aug 2009
Maps by Tricky Vandenberg - April 2015
|(The ordination hall of Wat Ratana Chai)
|(The chedi of Wat Ratana Chai)
|(Old brick work at Wat Ratana Chai)
|(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)