In 900, a year of the dog, the King first had the earth piled up at the Chi Chiang Sai Monastery in the sixth month, and founded the Lord Buddha image and the holy monument there …

Phra Mongkhon Bophit, or the Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence, was sculpted in 1538 CE in the reign of King Chairacha (1534-1547 CE) at Wat Chi Chiang Sai. 1538 CE is the year generally accepted that artisans built the image, based on the Luang Prasoet version of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (Most of the other versions put its construction at 880 Chulasakkarat or somehow 20 years earlier). [1]

At the beginning of the reign of King Songtham (1610/1611-1628 CE), Wat Chi Chiang lay in ruins, hit by lightning. The king had the large bronze cast Buddha image moved westwards and had a mandapa (mondop or square roofed structure) built over the image to house it. [2]

The timing of the move of the Buddha image Phra Mongkhon Bophit though can be discussed. The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mentions the date of the statue's move as 1603 CE (965 CS - a year of the hare), but this date falls in the reign of King Naresuan. [2]

Jeremias Van Vliet, a Dutch merchant, writes in his "The short history of the Kings of Siam" in 1640 CE: “A few months ago, the ruling king demolished the temple to its very base and had a large copper heathen image which was located there pulled back several rods so that another temple like the last could be built over the image.” [3]

Taking all the versions into account, the most plausible is the one of Van Vliet. The move of the Buddha image must have been around 1637 CE.

Later the open place in front of the mandapa (the vicinity of present Wihan Klaep) was levelled and reserved for royal cremation ceremonies, called Sanam Na Chakkrawat. (The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention as date of the reservation 1606 CE (968 CS - a year of the horse), but here also the date falls in the reign of King Naresuan). [3]

During the reign of King Sua (1703-1709 CE), lightning struck the spire of the mondop. The building caught fire, and the burned roof came down on the Buddha image. The neck of the image broke and the head came down. King Sua had the mandapa demolished and ordered the construction of a new tall preaching hall. It took the Siamese artisans two years to build the vihara. A three-day-long festival followed the finalisation of its construction. (The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention 1700 CE (1062 CS) as the year of the fire incident, which is in fact, during the reign of King Petracha). [4]

The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya also mention that in the reign of King Borommakot (1733-1758 CE) in 1742 CE, another restoration took place. [5]

Although when looking closely at the texts of the Royal Chronicles, it seems they describe the same incident that occurred during King Sua, i.e. the restoration of the Buddha’s head and the construction of a vihara instead of a mandapa. Two times the same incident within 40 years let this writer believe that only one restoration took place, the latter in the reign of King Borommakot.

The vihara and the image were badly destroyed by fire during the fall of Ayutthaya in April 1767 CE. The roof of the vihara was damaged, and the head and the right arm of the image were broken.

"…Now they lit fires in every vicinity and burned down buildings, houses, hermitages and the Holy Royal Palace Enclosure, including the palaces and royal domicile. The light of the conflagration was as bright as the middle of the day…"

The night the Burmese entered the city of Ayutthaya in 1767 CE, the last ruler of Ayutthaya, King Ekathat (reign 1758-1767 CE), was smuggled out of the Grand Palace by his royal pages, put into a small boat and brought to Chik Village near the Sangkhawat Monastery. There the pages, afraid to fall in the hands of the Burmese, left him alone. After the retreat of the Burmese army, the rear guard discovered him in the village. King Ekathat was out of food for more than ten days. The Burmese brought him to the fortification at Pho Sam Ton, where he died shortly after. Suki, the Mon General in charge of the Burmese rear guard, ordered the king's body buried at a mound in the Royal cremation grounds in front of Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. [6]

Six months later, after chasing out the Burmese from the Pho Sam Ton fortification, General Taksin ordered the exhumation of the remains of King Ekhathat and organised a funeral with all possible ceremonies. [7]

Restoration of the Buddha image of Phra Mongkhon Bophit - in which Phraya Boran Rachathanin repaired the broken head and right arm - took place in 1920 CE (reign of King Rama VI). In 1931 CE, another restoration took place with the financial support of Khunying Amares Sombat. [8]

During restoration works on the statue in 1955 CE, artisans found several small Buddha images in the left shoulder of Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum displays these images.

The Prime Minister of Burma, on an official visit to Ayutthaya in 1956 CE, donated to the restoration of the vihara. The vihara was finalised in 1957 CE, but not with the same beautiful craftsmanship as the former one.

The statue of Phra Mongkhon Bophit was covered with gold leaf in 1992 CE by the Mongkhon Bophit Foundation to celebrate the 60th birthday of H.M. Queen Sirikit.

Phra Mongkhon Bophit is one of the most significant bronze Buddha images in Thailand, with its measures of (approx) 9.5 metres across the lap and a height of 12.5 metres (without the pedestal). The Buddha image is seated in the position of Subduing Mara.

Wihan Mongkhon Bophit stands on the city island within the Ayutthaya Historical Park, south of Wat Phra Si Sanphet and the Grand Palace in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 17.76" N, 100° 33' 28.20" E.


[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 20 / Source: Luang Prasoet, Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph.

[2] Van Vliet's Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van Der Kraan & David K. Wyatt (2005) - page 244.

[3] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - 209 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph.

[4] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 381 - 382 / Source: British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat & Royal Autograph.

[5] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 435 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat & Royal Autograph.

[6] Our Wars with the Burmese. - Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (1917) - page 357.

[7] A History of Siam - William Wood (1924) - page 253. [8] Ayutthaya, a world heritage (2000) - page 120.