|WAT SUAN LUANG (วัดสวนหลวง)
|Wat Suan Luang or the Monastery of the Royal Garden was situated on the city island
in the western area in Pratu Chai Sub-district. The temple was situated on the east bank of
the Chao Phraya River, opposite Wat Kasatrathirat. Wat Suan Luang is translated in
Cushman's Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya as the Monastery of the Crown Garden. The
monastery was located adjacent to the Monastery of the Corpses of Heaven or Wat Sop
Its status is not clear. It is difficult to assess from the explanations of the Fine Arts
Department (FAD) at the Suriyothai Memorial '…. and it remains today the only part of
Wat Sobsawan in existence.', if we have to consider one monastery or two monasteries.
Phraya Boran Rachathanin although was very clear. He indicated on his map drafted in
1926 two monasteries being Wat Sop Sawan and Wat Suan Luang.
We know from the Chronicles that Suan Luang was the place where King Chakkraphat (r.
1548-1569) ordered the body of his wife, Chief Queen Suriyothai, brought, after she died
on the battle field (1). As the war with the Burmese continued her body was laid to rest at
Suan Luang, waiting royal cremation. After the Burmese finally retreated, King
Chakkraphat ordered the royal funeral rites be held and a temple established on the
cremation ground. He then named the monastery 'Wat Sop Sawan' in memory of his
beloved wife and daughter. 
King Cakkraphat drove his royal elephant in to fight the elephants in the vanguard
of the King of Hongsawadi. The royal elephant made a false move, letting the enemy
get behind it, and could not maintain its position. The King of Prae, getting behind
the enemy in that way, drove his royal elephant in pursuit of the elephant of King
Cakkraphat. Queen Suriyothai, seeing that her royal consort had lost his position and
would not escape the hands of the enemy, manifested her faithfulness and, weeping,
drove her royal male elephant, Song Suriya Kasat, out to rescue him. The royal
elephant of the King of Prae handily got its shoulder into her elephant and lifted it.
The royal elephant of Queen Suriyothai [BDEF: swung its head up and lost its
position. The King of Præ reached down and slashed with his war scythe, struck
Queen Suriyothai on the shoulder and] cut down to about her breast. Prince
Ramesuan and Prince Mahin forced their royal elephants in to intervene and save
their mother but were not in time. As soon as their mother died on the neck of her
elephant, the two brothers [D: , Prince Ramesuan and Prince Mahin,] retreated
[BCEF: to wait] to engage the enemy and were able to protect the entrance of the
corpse of their mother into the Capital. The troops of the Capital were routed by the
enemy and died in great numbers. Then King Maha Cakkraphat had the corpse of
Queen Suriyothai, who had been his Chief Queen, brought to be kept in the
Municipality of Suan Luang. 
Meanwhile, Prince Maha Thammaracha came down for an audience with King
Cakkraphat to report on all aspects of his fight with the Hongsawadi army. After the
army of the King of Hongsawadi departed, King Cakkraphat had the royal
cremation held for Queen Suriyothai, who had been killed on the neck of her
elephant. When it was over, Prince Maha Thammaracha took his leave and went
Archaeological evidence indicates that Suan Luang and Wat Sop Sawan were divided by a
canal, called Khlong Chang Maha Chai. Wat Sop Sawan stood on its north bank, while the
Royal Garden was on its south bank. Question remains at what time this canal had been
dug. If it had been dug after 1550, than it had split the Sop Sawan Monastery in two parts
and FAD has a point. If it was already in existence, we definitely have to consider two
It was more or less customary at that time, that on the location of the funeral pyre of Royals
a monastery was built and a commemoration chedi erected in another important location. It
could have been that, on the funeral pyre of Queen Suriyothai and her daughter, a
monastery (Wat Sop Sawan) was built and that in the Royal Garden, a funeral monument
was constructed to commemorate Queen Suriyothai.
The Thai Army and the FAD restored Phra Chedi Suriyothai and landscaped its
surroundings in 1990. During excavations in the area around the chedi, brick foundations of
a monastic structure (vihara or ubosot) were discovered on the north side of the chedi.
There was a path made of bricks linking the structure and the chedi, while there was also
evidence of a wall around the perimeter. A large chedi, a vihara or ubosot and a wall,
hence Wat Suan Luang.
During the later part of his life King Maha Chakkraphat came to live at Suan Luang after
abdicating in favor of his son, Prince Mahin. The area became afterwards the location of
the Palace to the Rear, the antipode of the Front Palace.
Wat Suan Luang was mentioned in the chronicles as one of Ayutthaya's defense positions
during the siege by the Burmese in 1760. Ex-King Uthumpon (r. 1758) left the monkhood
to assist in the defense of the city. The Chronicles recall him doing an inspection of this
position and others (on the 14th day of the waning moon in the 5th month) and the giving of
specific instructions, after the Burmese fired their canons on the city, damaging buildings
and wounding and killing people. King Suriyamarin ordered to answer the Burmese fire
with the large guns in this position and others, on the opposite banks of the river. That
evening the Burmese withdrew to the banks at the side of Wat Phukhao Thong. 
When it was the fourteenth day of the waning moon in the fifth month, the Burmese
brought up great guns, positioned them at the Monastery of the Royal Gift and at the
Monastery of the Ruler, and fired them [CD: on] into the Capital. His Majesty the
Holy Lord Omnipotent rode the premier bull elephant Defeater of a Hundred
Thousand Troops to look with His [own] holy eyes at, and to give specific
instructions to, the positions at the Monastery of the Crown Garden [D: , the
Monastery] of the Corpses of Heaven and the Fort of Grand Victory.
After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, Suan Luang was deserted. Somewhere in the 19th
century, the Army department settled in the area and the remaining buildings of the palace,
with the exception of the large chedi, were destroyed. 
Phraya Boran Rachathanin surveyed the area on important archaeological sites begin of the
20th century and published a work 'An explanation of the Map of Ayutthaya' in 1908. King
Rama VI (r. 1910 - 1925) realizing the importance of the site, re-established the memorial
of Queen Suriyothai and named the chedi Phra Chedi Sri Suriyothai. 
Previous attempts to preserve the chedi were discovered: boundary stones from other
temples were placed around the chedi; a torso of a Buddha image and a partly destroyed
sandstone Buddha head were placed in the pedestal of the chedi and covered with bricks
and cemented all over. 
On 20 May 1990, during the FAD excavation works, a relic of the Buddha and other
sacred objects were discovered inside the dome. The FAD restored the chedi by removing
the existing plaster and re-plastering using a traditional technique. During the first phase of
restoration, gold leaf was applied at the top of the stupa only. HM Queen Sirikit requested
the construction of a life size Buddha image to be placed inside the stupa. The queen gave
this image the name of Phra Phuttha Suriyothai Sirikitthikhayu Mongkhon. In 1991,
renovation finished, the chedi was covered completely with gold leaf. 
On the premises of Suan Luang next to Chedi Suriyothai, there is a shrine and a small
museum. A visit to the small museum is worthwhile, but there are unfortunately only a few
signs in English. It is a restful place and a good spot to recover from the heat outside.
See also: Queen Suriyothai Monument and Chedi Sri Suriyothai.
The site features on a mid-19th century map, on Phraya Boran Rachathanin's 1926 map
and on maps of the Fine Arts Department (1974, 1993, 2007). The site is situated in
geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 10.48" N, 100° 32' 51.56" E. The mid-19th century
map indicates the existence of a chedi on a crucifix base.
(1) Queen Suriyothai was killed by the Viceroy of Prome, when helping her husband, King
Chakkraphat out, the latter being in a dangerous battle situation. Prince Ramesuan and
Prince Mahin forced their elephants in, but came too late to intervene in the battle of their
mother with the Burmese leader. Queen Suriyothai was deadly wounded by the Viceroy of
Prome. The two brothers retreated and were able to protect the entrance of the corpse of
their mother into the Capital. Also a daughter of King Chakkraphat and Queen Suriyothai,
Princess Boromdilok, died in the battle.
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 34 / Source:
Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong &
Royal Autograph - War With Hongsawadi, 1563-1564.
 Ibid - page 40 / Siamese Post-Mortem.
 The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 482-3 /
Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat - The Burmese Besiege
 Fine Arts Department sign at the Suriyothai Memorial site.
|Text, maps & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg
Updated July 2015
|(Suan Luang or Royal Garden)
|(Chedi Phra Suriyothai)
|(Queen Suriyothai Shrine)
|(Relics found during excavations in 1990)
|(Exhibition at the museum)
|(Exhibition at the museum)
|(Detail of a 19th century map - map is orientated S-N)
|(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
|(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)