Originally called Wat Pa Yia (Bamboo Forest Monastery) in the local dialect, this is the city’s most revered Buddhist temple. The main prayer hall is a medium-sized, well-preserved wooden structure. The octagonal chedi (stupa) behind it dates from the late 14th century and is in typical Lanna style. The adjacent two-storey wooden building is a museum housing various Lanna artefacts.
Legend has it that in 1434 lightning struck the temple’s chedi, which fell apart to reveal the Phra Kaew Morakot, or Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade). After a long journey that included a lengthy stopover in Vientiane, Laos, this national talisman is now ensconced in the temple of the same name in Bangkok.
In 1990, Chiang Rai commissioned a Chinese artist to sculpt a new image from Canadian jade. Named the Phra Yok Chiang Rai (Chiang Rai Jade Buddha), it was intentionally a very close but not exact replica of the Phra Kaew Morakot in Bangkok, with dimensions of 48.3cm across the base and 65.9cm in height, just 0.1cm shorter than the original. The image is housed in the impressive Haw Phra Yoke, the walls of which are decorated with beautiful modern murals, some depicting the journey of the original Phra Kaew Morakot, as well as the elaborate ceremony that saw the current image arrive at its new home in Chiang Rai.