Emerald Buddha at Wat Praa Kaew at the Grand Palace

Canon 5D, 70-300mm F4 IS DO @300mm F5.6 1/15th ISO 200  Handheld


Emerald Buddha History

The Emerald Buddha has a colorful history.  Currently residing in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, the Emerald Buddha has been well traveled throughout the centuries and has called many temples home.

According to the Ratna Phimwong chronicle the Emerald Buddha was sculpted in 235 B.C. by gods as a gift to Nagasen Thera of Patalputra.  Later the sculpted image was moved to Sri Lanka.  Kinda Anurudha of Burma asked that the Tripaka and Emerald Buddha be moved from Sri Lanka to him in Burma.  On the boat voyage a storm struck and the Emerald Buddha was washed ashore in Cambodia.  The image was then moved to Angkor, Sri Ayudhaya, and later Kampaeng Phet.


Throngs of people lined up to see the Emerald Buddha

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @70mm F8, 1/100th ISO 100


Around 1390 A.D. King Mahabhrom of Chiang Rai, fearing invasion, took the Emerald Buddha from Kampaeng Phet and hid it under layers of stucco inside the pagoda of Wat Pa Yiah Chiang Rai.  It remained hidden in this pagoda until 1434 when a bolt of lightening hit the Pagoda revealing the sacred image.  Since, the Emerald Buddha has been moved from Chiang Rai to Lampang to Chiang Mai to Laos, and finally to Bangkok in 1778 where it remains today located on the grounds of the main palace in the Royal Chapel of Wat Phra Kaew.  It is said the Emerald Buddha watches over and protects Thailand.


Main building at the Grand Palace was recently renovated

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @13mm F11, 1/200th, ISO 100


Wat Pa Yiah, Chiang Rai


Wat Pa Yiah Chiang Rai, Emerald Buddha

Front Entrance


My trip to Wat Pa Yiah was over three years ago and much of this is coming from memory, so there might be some inaccuracies.  I was in the Chiang Rai area with my assistant and her grandmother playing the gracious host, driving them from place to place in an order motivated by the grandmother.  The grandmother has lived in the Chiang Rai area her entire life, and during her life had visited and had knowledge of places she considered special.  Only once, when much younger, had she been to Wat Pa Yiah.  Her desire to go once again was strong.  At the time I had no idea what this particular temple was about.

Inside the entrance of the small temple structure you can catch a glimpse of a golden reflection, a mere hint on what can be found inside.  Dutifully I followed along behind my assistant and her grandma, snapping the occasional picture as we walked.


a big golden buddha is inside Wat Pa Yiah

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F8, 1/20th, ISO 800


Once my eyes adjusted I was greeted by the site of this Buddha image.  At first glance the image looks quite ordinary, nothing special at all.  That is until the size registers.


Wat Pi Yiah near Chiang Rai is easily accessible

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm, F8, 1/10th, ISO 800


From this view you still can't tell how the size.  My eyes by now had fully adjusted and I was taken aback by the beauty of the image as the sunlight streamed in the entrance and bathed the image in a sort of enhanced light.


wide angle view of the big golden buddha

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @12mm F11, 1/10th, ISO 400


The front of the temple is deceiving, hiding the cavernous interior within.  Stepping further back I take another image.  My eyes are peering through the viewfinder, then to the LCD screen.  It takes me a few moments to realize the only way to convey the apparent size of this subject is to have something in the frame for scale.  I offer to take my assistants picture with her grandma.  She smiles in appreciation at my thoughtfulness.


Giant golden buddha image gleaming where the sunlight hits

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F11, 10th, ISO 400


NOW we can get a feel for the true size of this giant Buddha image!  Scaling a subject is often vital for perspective.


This is the temple that was covered in cement with the Emerald Buddha hidden underneath

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F11, 1/200th, ISO 200


As we walk around the compound I see a pagoda almost overgrown with trees and shrubs, ordinary in stature I wouldn't have thought much of it until I saw grandma stop and wai the pagoda and then tell us the story.  Long ago the King of Chiang Rai fearing marauders had the sacred Emerald Buddha encased in stucco, and then hidden away inside this very same pagoda.  It wasn't until a lightening strike nearly 50 years later revealed the interior of the pagoda was the Emerald Buddha rediscovered.  50 years back then for the sake of history, was a much longer time than 50 years is today.  Have you ever wondered what's inside all the pagodas and temple structures you see all over Thailand?  Big on the outside, there is no apparent way to enter them.  It's like they've been purposely sealed for all time.  I can't help but wonder what's inside each one I come across.


even the flower beds are highly decorated.  Bangkok Images Thailand

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F8, 1/25th ISO 200


There wasn't much more to this particular temple complex, so we walked around with grandma slowly as she demanded, and took in as much as there was. 


buddha images and shrines

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @70mm  F8, 1/30th ISO 200


Small shrines and Buddha images were numerous, but I've since misplaced my notebook and I don't even want to guess their significance.  I remember this area had a lot of shade and seating, and many people where taking the opportunity to take photographs, eat lunch, and visit.


Temple Monastery 


temple shrine at monastary

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @F11 1/80th ISO 200


This is certainly piss poor journalism, because I've forgotten the names and other details and misplaced my notes.  Years gone by tend to do this.  Near the wat (verified by image exfil data), is this monastery for young monks.  It's really quite beautiful there, but for some reason, probably the great RAID crash of some years back, most of these images are scrambled and unusable.  A few images remain and they were nice enough to share.


monks at the monestary in Thailand

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @73mm F8 1/320th ISO 200


Most of the monks here are young and students.  There were many traditional style classrooms and they taught the regular Thai topics and lessons.


Young Thai monks

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F8 1/20th ISO 200


The younger monks appeared to be of Burmese descent.  It was nice to see them holding classes outdoors under the trees and on benches which seems to be everywhere.  This was a really well equipped monastery.


Several student mnks take a break from classes outdoors

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @78mm F18  1/30th ISO 200


As the boys attended lessons indoors and in the park like setting outdoors, visitors roamed around freely taking pictures.


Young student monks dressed in orange robes

Canon 1ds Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @24mm F11 1/25th ISO 200