WAT WANG CHAI (วัดวังชัย)
Wat Wang Chai or the “Chai Palace Monastery” as it is translated by Cushman [1] is
located on the city island in the northwestern area in Pratu Chai sub-district.
The restored ruin lies on the edge of the
Somdet Phra Sri Nakharin Park and is part of
the
Ayutthaya Historical Park.

Wat Wang Chai was situated on the west bank of a small canal which had its mouth at
the
Chao Phraya River. This canal was just opposite the mouth of Khlong Takhian at the
other side of the river. The monastery was situated just behind one of the
many fortresses surrounding the ancient city and guarding the entry of the water gates.
The temple was situated west of
Wat Luang Chi Krut, which was constructed on the
opposite side of the canal and is accessible via U-Thong road.

Prince Thianracha, before ascending the throne as King Chakkraphat (r. 1548-1569),
had his residence in this area. On ascending the throne and having the
Grand Palace as
his new living place, he ordered his former estate to be transferred into a recitation hall
and had additional an ordination hall built. The temple as such was given the name Wat
Wang Chai, which I would rather translate as the “Monastery of the Palace of Victory”.

The abbot of this temple was given the name Reverend Nikrom. King Chakkraphat gave
the Pa Than, Pa Thon and Pa Chomphu areas in the city as the places where the monks
of this temple could roam for alms, as he went for alms there during his stay at
Wat
Racha Praditsathan prior to his Kingship; and these areas where on his tax roll. It must
have been quite an early morning walking exercise for the monks as these areas where
located at the other side of the city. As thus the temple must have been established in
1549 AD or 2092 BE (1). [1]

"Then His Majesty the King had the walls of the Capital, which were ruined and
dilapidated, repaired and made strong and durable all the way around. Then he
had established what had been his original palace as a holy recitation hall, built a
holy preaching hall and gardens for a monastery, and bestowed on it the name of
Chai Palace Monastery. To its abbot he gave the title of Reverend Nikrom. Then
the King said, “When we were in the monkhood, we went gathering alms up to
Thon Forest and Than Forest, and up as far as Chomphu Forest. I would
have the monks and novices of
Chai Palace Monastery, for their food and rice,
go to beg for the revenues from these areas which are entered on the royal tax
rolls as belonging to the King.”

The area in which this temple ruin is located was before important, as most of the palace
officials and important persons were living on both sides of the Chao Phraya River
between
Wat Phutthai Sawan and Wat Chai Watthanaram. There was an important ferry
(Tha Wang Chai) near the monastery linking the city island with the landing at the mouth
of the Takhian canal. [2]

The monastery has been restored many times. Excavations indicated that the ordination
hall has been redone at least three times. New brick building techniques has been used
on the main chedi. The Fine Arts Department overhauled the site completely. The sema
stones found here where identical as the boundary stones of
Wat Racha Burana and Wat
Maha That, only differing in size, the sema’s here being smaller. [2]

In situ is a large ordination hall with a chedi on its west side in the classical East-West
axis. On its north side stands a vihara with satellite chedis and some other monastic
structures. The whole is surrounded by an outer wall called Kamphaeng Kaeo or Crystal
wall.

The remnants of the main chedi rests on a square platform, while its base is triple
octagonal representing the three worlds or the Trai Phum. The three worlds are: the
sensual worlds, the form world, and the formless world, together forming the Buddhist
cosmology. The octagonal shape of the base stands for the four cardinal and the four
inter-cardinal directions.

The whole monastic area was surrounded by three canals and a connecting moat on the
west, isolating the monastery from the lay world. Two canals ran north and south of the
monastery, while the fourth canal has already been mentioned above.

The road in front of Wat Wang Chai, was called Victory Palace Road and was known
for its smiths making brass bowls. There was also a fresh market in the area called
Victory Palace Market (Talat Wang Chai). [3]

Wat Wang Chai is indicated on a
mid-19th century map in the same position as Phraya
Boran Rachathanin does on his
1926 map (วัดวังไชย), but is here denominated as
Khlang Wang Chai (คลังวังไชย).

Footnotes:

(1) I give here the Buddhist Era as Reference [2] put the monastery’s construction at
2073 BE. The different versions of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention its
establishment in the year 911 of the Chula Sakarat Era, the Burmese Calendar in use at
that time. Anno Domini (AD) can be calculated by adding 638 years.

References:

[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 28 /
Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra
Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - Elephants, Construction, and Rituals, 1549-
1550.
[2] Ayutthaya Historical Park - Fine Arts Department (2003) - page 66.
[3] Markets and Production in the City of Ayutthaya before 1767: Translation and
Analysis of Part of the Description of Ayutthaya - Chris Baker - Journal of the Siam
Society, Vol. 99, 2011 - page 66.
Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - September 2009
Map & review April 2011, March 2013
(View from U-Thong Rd)
(Complementary monastic structures)
(The principal chedi from the south)
(View of the ordination hall from the east )
(View of the ordination hall from the east )
(Khlang Wang Chai on a mid-19th century map)