The Emerald Buddha
The Emerald Buddha
The Emerald Buddha is in reality carved from a large piece of green jasper, a type of jade, not emerald. The lap of the Emerald Buddha is 48.3cm. wide and the height, including the base, is 66cm. The image is in the samadhi (meditating) posture, with the right leg resting on the left one. Judging from many iconographic factors, one can conclude that it was carved in Northern Thailand not much earlier than the 15th century AD and belongs to the late Chiang Saen or Chiang Mai school. If this is so, it must has been made not long before its discovery in the chedi in Chiang Rai. On the other hand, the Emerald Buddha, which is in the attitude of meditation, looks much like some of the Buddha images in Southern India and Sri Lanka, especially those in the same attitude. The attitude of meditation has never been popular in Thai images of the Buddha. Thus, one can also assign the origin of the Emerald Buddha to one of the aforementioned countries.
The Costumes of the Emerald Buddha
Hot Season Costume
Rainy Season Costume
Cool Season Costume
After the enshrinement of the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew, King Rama I had two seasonal costumes made for the Emerald Buddha, one for the hot season and one for the rainy season. King Rama III added another one for the cool season. The ceremony of changing the costume of the Emerald Buddha takes place three times a year. In the old days, the king would only spray lustral water on the princes and officials who were attending the ceremony inside the ubosoth. But during the present reign, HM the King also sprays lustral water upon his subjects who are waiting outside the ubosoth. It can be regarded as a new tradition inaugurated in this reign.
An Illustrated History of the Emerald Buddha
Discovery in Chiang Rai
According to a reliable chronicle, lightning struck open this old chedi (left) in the present Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand in 1434 AD and revealed a stucco Buddha image. The image was brought into the abbot's residence. One day, the abbot noticed that the stucco on the nose of the Buddha image had flaked off to reveal a green colour inside. He removed all the stucco and found a jade Buddha image inside, which was the Emerald Buddha. People then flocked to worship this precious Buddha image.
Enshrinement in Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang
At that time the town of Chiang Rai was under the rule of the king of Chiang Mai. The king of Chiang Mai, King Sam Fang Khaen, sent an elephant to bring the jade Buddha image to Chiang Mai, but each time the elephant arrived at the junction with the road to the city of Lampang, it ran to that  town. The king sent an elephant out three times and each time the same incident occurred, so he thought that the spirits guarding the Emerald Buddha wanted to stay in Lampang. Thus the Emerald Buddha remained in Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao in Lampang for 32 years, until 1468 AD, King Tiloka of Chiang Mai had the Emerald Buddha brought to Chiang Mai and installed the image in the eastern niche of a large stupa called Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang (right).
The Emerald Buddha in Laos
In 1551, the king of Chiang Mai died without an heir to the throne. One of his daughters was married to the king of Laos. She had one son named Prince Chaichettha. The ministers of Chiang Mai agreed on inviting the prince, who was fifteen, to become king and he accepted. However, when his father, the king of Laos, passed away. King Chaichettha wanted to go back to his own country, so in 1552, he returned to Luang Prabang, the then capital of Laos, taking the Emerald Buddha with him, and promised the ministers of Chiang Mai to come back. However, he never returned nor did he send back the Emerald Buddha, so the image remained at Luang Prabang for twelve years. In 1564, King Chaichettha could not resist the Burmese army of King Burannaung, thus he moved his capital down to Vientiane and the Emerald Buddha resided in the Wat Phra Kaeo (left) there for 214 years.
Transfer from Thonburi to Bangkok
In 1778, during the Thonburi period, King Rama I of  Bangkok captured Vientiane and brought the Emerald Buddha back to Thailand and enshrined it temporarily in Wat Arun (right) in Thonburi, the then capital of Thailand. With the establishment of Bangkok as the capital, the Emerald Buddha became the palladium of Thailand and has been ever since. The image was moved from Wat Arun to Wat Phra Si Rattana Sadsadaram in Bangkok on 22 March, 1784.
Copyright © 1998, by The Thailand Collection