WAT RATTANA CHAI





Wat Rattana Chai, or the Monastery of Supreme Victory, is located in the south-eastern part of Ayutthaya’s city island in Ho Rattana Chai Sub-district. The modern monastery stands on the premises of an older temple called Wat Jin, or the Chinese Monastery. Wat Rattana Chai can be easily accessed via the U Thong Road.


The area from Pratu Jin (1) until the harbour (2), where junks cast anchor before in a location called Hua Sarapha, was populated mainly by Chinese migrants and traders in the Ayutthaya era. [1] Chinese dyed and sold indigo cloth at the village outside the wall at the corner by the Sarapha quarter. [2]


The monastery stood at the end of the Three Horses Road. Along this road from the Nai Kai Bridge until Wat Jin, Chinese made jan-op and dried Chinese sweets of various types at their workshops. Chinese artisans made and sold different kinds of wooden barrels with collars of wood or metal. They also made ‘nang loeng’ water jars and various metal articles for sale and beat metal in various shapes. [3]


Near the temple, but outside the city wall, there was a ferry service between the city island and Wat Ko Kaeo on the south side of the mouth of Khao San Canal.


Wat Rattana Chai dates to the Rattanakosin period, and as such, I am not going to dwell on it much longer as it has all the essential monastic buildings on its premises.


Adjacent to the Pa Sak River stands a whitewashed classic Ayutthaya-styled chedi on a high platform with niched entries. The access is to the east and the river.


Historical data about the predecessor Wat Jin and its construction are unknown.


A relief depicting Buddha's great miracles dating back to the first half of the 8th century in the Dvaravati art was excavated in situ. The sandstone relief, 127 cm high by 85 cm wide, is displayed at the Bangkok National Museum.





Maps


Wat Jin cannot be found on Kaempfer’s sketch or draft map. Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716 CE) was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) who surveyed the city of Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE.


On Bellin’s map ‘Plan De La Ville De Siam’, we find a location called ‘Pagodes Chinoises’ (Chinese temples), southwest of Wat Suwan Dararam (formerly called Wat Thong), north of the double bastions of the harbour (defunct) and west of the Constantine College (defunct). Based on the French map, these ‘Pagodes Chinoises’ situates about 200 metres to the west of Wat Rattana Chai. I believe this could be an inaccurate indication of Wat Jin. Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772 CE) was one of the most important cartographers of the 18th century. He was a hydrographer and 'ingénieur hydrographe' at the French 'Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine'. The map ‘Plan De La Ville De Siam’ of the French cartographer Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772 CE), was based on a Jesuit survey in 1687 CE and published as plate No. 4 in volume 9 of the 1752 CE French edition of Abbé Antoine François Prévost's l'Histoire Générale des Voyages.


On a mid-19th century map drafted by an unknown surveyor, Wat Jin stood southeast of Wat Suwan and opposite Wat Ko Keao on the east bank of the Pa Sak River. The site is not indicated with a stupa.


Phraya Boran Rachathanin has Wat Jin on his 1926 CE map. The monastery stands on the southeast corner of Ayutthaya, north of the harbour area (defunct) and northwest of the Ho Racha Khrue Fortress (defunct). Wat Suwan stood northwest and Wat Kaeo opposite the Front city canal (Pa Sak River). The denomination of the monastery as Wat Rattana Chai must have been attributed after the 1920’s CE.


Wat Ratttana Chai is in geographical coordinates: 14° 20' 48.84" N, 100° 34' 49.33" E. Remains of the old temple Wat Jin were excavated by the Fine Arts Department (FAD) in geographical coordinates: 14° 20' 48.15" N, 100° 34' 50.90" E.


Footnotes:


(1) The Chinese Gate, a water gate on the south side of the island at the mouth of the Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak – Pratu Chin Canal, today filled in.

(2) Ayutthaya’s harbour was on the southeast point of the Island opposite Wat Phanan Choeng in between the double bastion Fortress (no particular denomination) and the Ho Racha Khrue Fortress. The harbour took in only seagoing vessels with a shallow draft, such as Chinese junks. Two arched gates in the city wall gave access to the harbour area (next to the gates of the fortresses). One of these arched gates still exists near the premises of the Wat Rattana Chai School.





References:


[1] Baker, Chris (2014). Final Part of the Description of Ayutthaya with Remarks on Defense, Policing, Infrastructure, and Sacred Sites. Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 102.

[2] Baker, Chris (2011). Before Ayutthaya Fell: Economic Life in an Industrious Society. Markets and Production in the City of Ayutthaya before 1767: Translation and Analysis of Part of the Description of Ayutthaya. Journal of the Siam Society. Vol. 99.

[3] Ibid.