Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the fourth in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a restored Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). The first article described the historic City of Ayutthaya; the second, the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram, and the third, Wat Phu Khao Thong. The final post will feature the ruins of temple Wat Mahathat.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, or the “Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory” according to the website History of Ayutthaya, is a restored Buddhist temple located in southeast Ayutthaya. Evidence of a large moat that once existed around the site suggests that it was once an important Khmer-style temple complex in “Ayodhya,” a settlement that pre-dated the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Today it’s a functioning temple with a monastery and restored stupa or chedi (monument). Several smaller chedi ruins dotting the grounds serve as a reminder that the site is historical.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (3)

Records indicate that Ayutthaya King Uthong, or Ramathibodhi I (1350-69), established the monastery to lay to rest two of his children, Chao Kaeo and Chao Thai, who died of cholera. Its first name was Wat Pa Kaeo or the “Monastery of the Crystal Forest.” The temple built on the site later became known as Wat Chao Phya Thai, or the “Monastery of the Supreme Patriarch,” and was home to monks trained in then-Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).

The temple is noteworthy in Ayutthaya’s history for its role as a meeting place for conspirators involved in palace intrigue. Stories suggest that it was once home to a closely-guarded, priceless ruby that represented the wealth of the gods. In his chronicle of the history of Ayutthaya, Jeremias Van Vliet, an employee of the Dutch East India Company, alleged that slaves were groomed to die in mock attempts to steal the ruby as an offering to the gods.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (2)

The current configuration of the temple and chedi took shape during the reign of King Naresuan (1590-1605), who reportedly gave it the name “Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon” to commemorate his victory over the Burmese occupiers he ousted from Ayutthaya in 1592. The temple was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 and restored by the Thais in 1957. The tall chedi that stands an estimated 30 meters (100 feet) is almost as high as the one at Wat Phu Khao Thong; its more slender profile that rises in the middle of urban Ayutthaya obscures its true height.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (4)

The temple is perhaps best known for its seven-meter (23 feet) long reclining Buddha constructed during King Naresuan’s reign. One of the largest outdoor reclining Buddhas in Thailand, it was restored in 1965 and is now a major tourist attraction in Ayutthaya.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (5)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (6)

The large chedi that dominates the temple complex has a square base with smaller chedi on each corner. It rises to a platform with great views of the city. As you ascend the steps, a large Buddha statue greets you at the top with a calm nod. Above the platform rises a bell-shaped tower with an octagonal base that tapers to a point; a chamber on the western side with Buddhist relics serves as a prayer shrine. The temple complex unfolds below in all directions, from the monks’ quarters and ordination hall to the west to a garden with several large Buddhist statues to the east. Manicured lawns with groomed trees and ruined chedi grace the north and south flanks.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (7)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (8)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (9)

During my visit to the temple in August 2012, I was struck by the number and symmetry of the Buddha statues that meditated around the chedi base. Some such as those in the nearby prayer shrine were unique, but most were virtually identical and sat at attention in a tantric state. My wife did an excellent job capturing this impression with photos of them at artistic angles.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (13)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (14)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (15)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (16)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (17)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (18)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (19)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (20)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (21)

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was the last stop on our daytrip to Ayutthaya. We enjoyed watching the encroaching dusk transform the temple from a place that beckoned visitors to one reclaimed by shadows. The site is a great destination to end the day before going for dinner and embarking on an evening tour of the city to see the historic monuments of Ayutthaya at night.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (22)

map-012df5a9558e2

 

More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumb42M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

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Wat Phu Khao Thong in Ayutthaya, Thailand



This is the third in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a restored Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). The first article described the historic City of Ayutthaya; the second, the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Upcoming posts will feature the ruins Wat Mahathat and the Wat Yai Chai Mongkon temple.

Wat Phu Khao Thong, or the “Temple of the Golden Mount” in Ayutthaya, is a large Buddhist complex located about two kilometers (one mile) northwest of the city center. The restored temple was built in 1387 during the reign of King Ramesuan (1339-95) of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. In 1991, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site within Ayutthaya Historical Park. Its famous chedi or stupa (pagoda) that rises more than 30 meters (100 feet) above the Chao Phraya River offers one of the best views in Ayutthaya.

Following his capture of Ayutthaya in 1569 at the end of the first Burmese-Siamese War, Burmese King Bhureng Noung began to construct a large Burmese Mon-style chedi on the site to commemorate his victory. The structure was not completed until 1587, when then-Prince Naresuan of the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1590-1605) finished it as Thai-style chedi to honor Ayutthaya’s independence from Burma in 1584.

The chedi was renovated in 1744 to its current form, a large square Burmese Mon-style base that rises at a moderate angle to a smaller base supporting a Thai-style chedi with a steep point. The entire hybrid structure is considered a single chedi. Four sets of stairs, one on each side, ascend to the second base.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (4)

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (5)

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (7)

A nondescript passageway on the upper base leads to a sacred Buddhist shrine in the heart of the structure.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (14)

The chedi dominates Ayutthaya’s landscape and offers great views of the countryside west of the city.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (9)

A contemporary Buddhist temple built on the ruins of its predecessor lies to the south.

The remains of a canal that once linked the temple to the Chao Phraya River borders it to the east. Now accessible by road, the canal fell into disuse following the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (11)

To the north is a monument dedicated to King Naresuan with a statue of the legendary king mounted on horseback. Large, colorful statues of chickens surround the monument, reportedly paying homage to the king’s fondness for the bird.

While not as famous as other historical sites in Ayutthaya, Wat Phu Khao Thong is worth a visit to climb the great chedi and enjoy the view. It’s one of the few places where you can bestride a remnant of ancient Ayutthaya.

map-012df5a9558e

 

More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumb[4]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

The Historic Center of Macau


This is the second in a series of articles about Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. As with the show The House of Dancing Water, we took too many great photos of the Historic Centre of Macao (the Portuguese spelling of Macau) to include all of them in my upcoming list of the Top Ten Things to Savor in Macau. It merits its own post with a full photo collage.

The colonial area of the city with its mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. According to UNESCO, “with its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West.”

Map picture

The Centre stretches over several square kilometers in two zones: one between Barra Hill to the west and Mount Hill in the center, and the other to the east encompassing the Guia Fortress, Guia Chapel, and Guia Lighthouse. The first zone boasts 20 monuments of special significance to the blending of eastern and western influences harkening back to Macau’s days as a Portuguese colony. A complete list is at the end of this article.

During our trip to Macau in April 2012, we visited the monuments near Mount Hill. They’re shown in the map above. Starting at Senado Square (10 on the map), we walked to Mount Fortress (21), the Ruins of St. Paul’s (29), and back to the square. The small area was packed with things to see and made a great daytime walking tour. Unfortunately, time and weather did not permit us to see the other sites in the Centre — perhaps during a future visit.

We started at the Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte in Portuguese). The hilltop fortress was built in 1626 by the Jesuits to defend themselves from attack. The colonial government seized it after Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits’ Order, the Society of Jesus, in 1773, and the Jesuits departed. It served for many years as the residence of the governors of Macau and a military fort. It is now home to the Museum of Macau. You can almost hear echoes of the city’s colonial past near the cannons on the ramparts. The beautiful garden offers panoramic views of the old city.

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (10)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (8)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (9)

The Museum of Macau.

2012_04_17 Macau Museum

A short escalator ride down the hill is the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and College, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Completed in 1602 by the Jesuits, it was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Asia but fell into decline after the Jesuits’ departure. It was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The cathedral’s façade crowning a long flight of stone steps was the only visible remnant of the church. Its baroque features reminded me of the Jesuit Reductions in South America that were built at about the same time.

St Paul (6)

St Paul (7)

St Paul (8)

St Paul

St Paul (2)

Statue depicting the Apostle Paul.

St Paul (4)

The back side of the cathedral’s façade — an interesting contrast from the front.

Next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is the nondescript Na Tcha Temple, a Buddhist and Taoist temple built in 1888 to honor the Taoist deity of protection, Na Tcha. Perhaps just as significant is the red-brown wall behind the temple that’s reportedly one of the last standing sections of the Old Wall of Macau destroyed by the Chinese in 1622.

Na Tcha Temple (2)

Na Tcha Temple and a section of the old Macau wall.

Na Tcha Temple

We walked down the steps of the Ruins of St. Paul’s to the intersection of Rua de Sao Paulo and Rua de Santo Antonio, where the shopping district of the Historic Centre of Macao began. Heading away from St. Paul’s, Rua de Santo Antonio became a cobblestone pedestrian street that headed to Senado Square.

St Paul (10)

At the base of the steps was an interesting statue depicting a Caucasian man and Asian woman that apparently signified the union of eastern and western influences in Macau. In an eternal pose the woman offers the man a lotus flower, and the man accepts with an open hand.

Love Statue

As we made our way through the Centre’s shopping district, we saw a variety of western and Asian storefronts sprouting from colorful Portuguese-style colonial buildings with signs in Chinese, English, and Portuguese. It was an interesting melding of the old and new. Most tourists here were Chinese drawn by the excellent shopping opportunities.

Rua (4)

A side street off Rua de Santo Antonio.

Rua (5)

Rua (6)

An old home.

Rua (2)

Rua (7)

Colonial building near Rua de Santo Antonio.

Rua (3)

Rua (8)

Rua (9)

Rua (11)

Rua (10)

Rua

Near the junction of Rua de Santo Antonio and Rua Sao Domingos, we passed by the beautiful St. Dominic’s Church. Originally built in 1587, the baroque interior is worth a look-see.

St Dominic (3)

St Dominic (4)

St Dominic (5)

Turning a corner, we entered Senado Square, or Senate Square, the heart of historic Macau. The square was paved with a colorful mosaic of cobblestones surrounding a contemporary fountain bedecked with a metallic globe. The Leal Senado, General Post Office, the Santa Casa de Misercordia (Holy House of Mercy), a Portuguese charity, and other colonial buildings bordered the square.

Senado Square (2)

Senado Square (7)

Senado Square (8)

Senado Square (9)

The Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) erected in 1784 was the seat of Macau‘s colonial government. Its name, bestowed in 1810, honors the colony’s continued loyalty to the Portuguese monarchy during the Iberian Union (1580-1640). It has served as the headquarters of the Institute of Civic & Municipal Affairs, which administers local matters, since Macau’s transfer of sovereignty to China in 1999.

Senado Square (11)

The General Post Office.

General Post Office

The monuments described above are only some of the significant ones in the Historic Centre of Macao. Others include (from Wikipedia):

The walking tour from Mount Fortress to Senado Square is accessible by foot and takes about half a day. If you’re planning a trip to Macau, take your time and set aside at least two days to visit the Historic Centre.

Map picture

clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain available from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. They visited Macau in April 2012.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.