WAT WIHAN KLAEP





Wat Wihan Klaep is situated on Ayutthaya's city island in a remote area slightly north of the Somdet Sri Nakharin Park in the Pratu Chai Sub-district. The site is part of the Ayutthaya Historical Park.


The monastery stood on the north bank of Khlong Tha Phra (1) in a swampy area fed by a canal once coming down from Khlong Fang (2). The temple's name could refer to the alternative name of the first-mentioned canal. Wat Lanthom Noi (defunct) was west, Wat Takhe north (defunct), Wat Salak (defunct) and Wat Pi Rai (defunct) east, Wat Sangkha Thae and Wat Sangkha Tha west.


Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716 CE) indicated the island's southwest corner as 'Horti campestres Ar.' (gardens, level fields, trees) on his sketch. Kaempfer was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) who surveyed the city of Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE.


Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772 CE) marked also this area as "Quartier Champêtre", a rural quarter, on the map ‘Plan De La Ville De Siam’ 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.
Today the site is polluted. The land around this monastery is used as a dumping ground and a location to burn garbage. There is a small shrine in this area, consisting of four wooden posts and a tin roof. The structure is a single Buddha image in the "Buddha defying Mara" pose. The Buddha is gold-painted, and the pedestal is in a colourful style. Fragments of an older Buddha image are situated on the shrine's floor. Whether or not it has a relation with Wat Wihan Klaep remains a guess.


Wat Wihan Klaep on the maps


Wat Wihan Klaep is likely mentioned as Wat Jan on a 19th-century map by an unknown surveyor. The map shows Wat Jan (3), located in the middle of Khlong Tha Phra. Wat Sri Racha was north, Wat Salak east, Wat Yi Rai southeast, Wat Sangkha Tha south, Wat Khok Khamin southwest, Wat Lanthom Yai west, and Wat Lanthom Noi northwest. The map indicates the presence of a chedi.


Phraya Boran Rachathanin also shows Wat Wihan Klaep on his 1926 CE map. The monastery stood north of Khlong Tha Phra in a swamp fed by a canal coming from the north and connected to Khlong Chang Maha Chai and Khlong Fang. Wat Yi Rai was east, Wat Sangkha Thae south and Wat Khon southwest.


The Fine Arts Department shows the location of Wat Wihan Klaep on a 1974 CE map, but later maps (1995, 2007 CE) are not revealing its position anymore.


Wat Wihan Klaep must have been situated in approximative geographical coordinates: 14° 20' 52.40" N, 100° 33' 13.47" E.


Footnotes:


(1) Khlong Tha Phra, also known as Khlong Klaep, is a defunct canal situated on Ayutthaya's city island. Some stretches of this old canal still can be seen today on the western side. The canal had its mouth at the old Lopburi River later renamed the Chao Phraya River. Here stood one of the eleven water gates around the island called Pratu Khlong Tha Phra. The canal ended at the confluence with Khlong Chakrai Yai. Beyond this confluence, it continued in an eastern direction as Khlong Pa Mo and joined the Pratu Thep Mi Canal. There is evidence that this canal continued eastwards in a straight line to join Khlong Makham Riang.

(2) Khlong Fang, or the Rice Straw Canal, is a defunct canal situated before in the Pratu Chai Sub-district. The east-west running canal had its mouth at the old Lopburi River near Hua Laem and linked up with Khlong Pak Tho. The canal pierced the fortified city wall at the Khlong Fang Gate, a large water gate between Wat Sing and the Satkop Fortress. The canal was filled up somewhere after the fall of Ayutthaya (1767 CE), and no traces of the waterway are left today, except for a part of the moat of Wat Worachetharam. Khlong Fang extended as a small ditch into the Grand Palace grounds feeding Sra Kaeo (Crystal Pond).

(3) Diospyros decandra is a tropical tree in the ebony and persimmon family. Its flowers are white. It is the provincial tree of Chanthaburi Province. The Thai name is ‘luk jan’ (ลูกจัน). It is a small plant about 5 to 6 m tall. Its leaves are 6 to 8 cm long and 3 to 4 cm wide with a pointed tip. Its fruits are yellow-coloured and are known as "Gold Apple". They're about 3 to 6 cm in diameter and have a strong fragrant smell. The fruits are edible and believed to have medicinal value. The tree was not usually grown in the house compound but found in monasteries and the royal palace compounds.