WAT SRISUPHAN | Janine Yasovant | Scene4 Magazine Special Issue - July/August 2015   www.scene4.com

Janine Yasovant
 คลิกเพื่ออ่านบทความนี้ เป็นภาษาไทย

It was a great opportunity for me to visit Wat Srisuphan temple in Chiang Mai. This temple has an interesting history and its shrine is covered with silver. It has also preserved the art of silverware by establishing training facilities within the temple area where ordinary people, novices and monks can train and learn how to carve silver plates in order to inherit the precious traditional wisdom of silverware art which is one of the Thai Ten Crafting Arts. It also helps to preserve the local wisdom of handicrafts by villagers who have resided at the Wualai Road community where most Chiang Mai people in the past used to work as silversmiths.




I met with the abbot, Prakru Pithaksuthikhun, who guided me and my team in a walk around the temple. That day I saw exquisite details of the silver shrine as well as novices and monks who were practicing the art of silversmithing under the training of master artisans.




I was informed that this was the collaboration between Wat Srisuphan temple and a center of non-formal and informal education (Golden Jubilee anniversary) which was founded in April 2007 under support of the Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.




Brief History of Wat Srisuphan Temple


According to a summary of an inscription made of sandstone, Wat Srisuphan Aram temple was constructed in 1501 during the reign of the King Phaya Kaew (1495-1526) of the Mengrai Dynasty. At that time, Muen Luang Ja Kham, an officer, was assigned by the king to bring a Buddha image and establish Wat Srisuphan Aram temple. In 1502, an abbot was appointed to look after the temple and a year after that construction of the main Vihara was complete. Around 1505-06 the Chedi (Pagoda) was constructed. In 1509, the shrine precinct was consecrated. Buddha Relics were enshrined in the Chedi and the king donated land to the monastery. The inscription ends with lists of Muen Luang Ja Kham’s expenses for building the monastery and notes that slaves were donated to the temple.


In the past when Thailand was still at war with the Burma, 20 families that were settled to live near the temple formed the community. They grew rice and made handicrafts. In 1860, a huge golden bell was made in this community and was transported to Wat Prathat Doisuthep. A primary school was established in 1923 in the temple.


During World War II, the school in the temple closed down permanently and monks were forced to evacuate because the Japanese soldiers used the temple as a military base. After the war ended, monks moved back to temple and the temple was restored several times.  


From 1994-1998, under the supervision of the present Abbot, Prakru Pithaksuthikhun, and with the cooperation of Mom Thada Kun Suk Mengrai as a head director of the previous restoration, some Thai northern artists who did  mural paintings in many temples such as Chaiyaporn Pongpak, Pornchai Jaima and Songdech Thiptong, created mural paintings of the Vihara. Moreover, some foreign artists from Japan, Australia and America helped this project as well. People in the group of Mom Thada Kun Suk Mengrai also made silverware images of ten previous reincarnations of the Buddha. In 1998, the temple set the extracurricular education outside school using Tripitaka hall as a temporary office.   


The year 2000 was the 500th years anniversary of the temple. The present Abbot and people in the Baan Srisuphan community built a new main Buddha image, and they cooperated with the Chang Lor community to host the festival “Lanna Heritage: Local Wisdom 500 years.”


Apart from the temple and school areas, some spaces were changed to be used as silverware workshops and as study rooms for anyone who was interested in learning and training to make silverware art. This was called “The educational center of ancient Thai art : Salah Sip Moo Lanna by Wat Srisuphan temple." Moreover, the present Wualai community became the economic and cultural area.




In 2007, there was a celebration for the King’s 80-year anniversary. The committee members of the temples agreed to renovate the shrine using silver and metallic materials to commemorate King Bhumibhol Adulyadej and this project was supported by Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.


The royal emblem of the King's 60-year anniversary of reign was brought for decoration over the front entrance of the shrine. The main Buddha image in the shrine is called “Praputthapathiharn Ming Kwan Pra Mueang Kaew Nopburi Sri Chiang Mai” (Formerly called Pra Chao Jed Tue). The age of this golden Buddha image is over 500 years old which is slightly older than the temple. Behind the shrine is the white Chedi of the traditional Lanna style. Next to the Chedi is a Vihara which was built around 200 years ago during the reign of Pra Chao Kawiroros.




Suriyawadee. The group Lanna Buddhism art helped to paint and adjust the composition of the Vihara. Some of the paintings are images of the Buddha, Buddha’s teaching, the Land of Nirvana, and 12 Buddha relics from the zodiac, among others.


The renovation of the shrine is a work in progress. The shrine is offered to Buddhism, to honor the King, Rama the Ninth (Bhumibol Adulyadej).


This year (2015)




Expert lecturer Kriangkrai Muangmool from Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna is coming back to run his project design from 2010 to renovate the silver shrine with Lanna history: the significant places around Northern Thailand were designed to be a model for temple carvers. For examples, the notable tourist attractions from nine northern provinces will be carved to tell the story in the temple.




The day I visited the Abbot and Kriangkrai Muangmool, we walked around the Silver temple, went to see the workshops and they showed me the outline sketch.




Kriangkrai Muangmool told me :

The abbot of Wat Srisuphan used to talk about his dream and Lanna belief in the three worlds (Triphum): Heaven, Human World and Hell. This is an indicator for humans to do good deeds and avoid committing any sin. I tried to use the concept of GPS (Global Positioning System) to present a contemporary story of the three worlds. Doing good or bad things takes some time to show the consequences. Likewise, a traveler should know the coordinates of the places in the journey. This is comparable to the coordinates from birth to death. In other words, it is one's own choice to be a good or bad person        


Surprisingly I saw people come to bring certificates from Trip Adviser to the Abbot. I explained to him how famous the Wat Srisuphan is as a tourist attraction not only for Buddhists but for people who love arts. The Abbot told me that the The Art of Silver decoration needed  to be completed this year.


Please note: The temple accepts donations via its bank account — “Pattana Wat Srisuphan” at Krung Thai Bank, Sii Yaek Sanambin Chiang Mai Branch, Account Number: 554-0-11396-9. 


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คลิกเพื่ออ่านบทความนี้ เป็นภาษาไทย
Scene4 Magazine: Janine Yasovant

Janine Yasovant is a writer in Chiang Mai, Thailand and a Senior Writer for Scene4.
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©2015 Janine Yasovant
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July/August 2015

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