PHRA CHEDI SRI SURIYOTHAI (พระเจดีย์ศรีสุริโยทัย)
Chedi Sri Suriyothai is located on the western part of the city island near the
confluence of the Chao Phraya River and the old
Lopburi River (Khlong Mueang). This
area is known as the Hua Laem District, and it is still an important for the local military
(an old cantonment was based at this site until recent history).

Chedi Queen Suriyothai was situated opposite of
Wat Sop Sawan at the mouth of a
canal. The former was located on the southern side, and the latter was built on the
northern side of the canal. Both sites are clearly marked on
de La Mare’s 1751 map.
The canal has since been filled in and has become a small road. Chedi Si Suriyothai was
built on the premises of the Royal garden of the
Rear Palace (Wang Lang).
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything surviving in situ at the Rear Palace, and Chedi Sri
Suriyothai stands as its last surviving marker.

Chedi Sri Suriyothai consists of a single bell-shaped chedi. Its base is square, and it has
many indented corners. It has been gilded with gold paint from the relic chamber to the
top of its spire. There is an entrance on the northern side, but it is never open to the
public for some reason. A locked courtyard has been constructed around this ruin. To its
east is a small park that was built to commemorate the site.

According to Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, this monument contains the ashes of Queen
Suriyothai. Royal Chronicles describe her as a heroic wife of King Chakkraphat that
died in battle while saving the life of the King. As the story goes, King Chakkraphat and
two of his sons were leading an army into battle against the Burmese. Queen Suriyothai,
fearing for her family’s safety, secretly dressed as a male soldier and rode an elephant
into the fight. While fighting a Burmese general on the back of an elephant, King
Chakkraphat’s elephant stumbled, which put him at risk to his opponent’s blade. Queen
Suriyothai heroically charged in front of the enemy’s weapon, sacrificing her own life in
his place. In her honor, King Chakkraphat had a funeral monument and a preaching hall
constructed on the site of her Royal cremation. When it was finished, the King bestowed
it with the name Sop Sawan Monastery (Cushman 40-41).

This popular story has been questioned recently by modern academics. Michael Wright
believed that the main chedi was actually built sometime after 1765 to enshrine relics
brought by Sri Lankan monks, and that the famous elephant duel was fought instead by a
16-year-old princess named Phra Boromdhilok (Warren 156-157). Wright also points
out that the Chedi Sri Suriyothai has been constructed in a Late Ayutthaya period style
more commonly associated with King Borommakot. Its square base and indented
corners differs from the bell-shaped architecture used for chedi during King
Chakkraphat’s reign (Kasetsiri & Wright 93). Other critics have pointed out that it was
actually King Chulalongkorn who is credited with naming this chedi after the Queen -
centuries after the battle took place.

Despite these contradictions, Queen Suriyothai survives as a nationalistic image to
promote Thai identity. In 2001, a popular movie was released that portrayed the story of
Queen Suriyothai. Chedi Si Suriyothai also influenced architecture in Bangkok during the
Chakri dynasty. “Sri Suriyothai Chedi served as the prototype for the chedi which King
Rama IV constructed at Wat Pho in Bangkok to join the outer three chedi built by the
previous Kings on the Bangkok dynasty” (Kasetsiri & Wright 92).

A number of valuable objects were found while the Chedi Sri Suriyothai was being
restored in 1990. This included a quartz Buddha image, a miniature quartz bell-shaped
chedi, a gilded terracotta cup, beads, gems, and gold leaf. The
Chao Sam Phraya
museum has these items and a 17th century sema stone from Wat Sop Sawan on display.

See also:
Queen Suriyothai Monument and Wat Suan Luang.
Text by Ken May - September 2009
Photographs & maps by Tricky Vandenberg
Updated April 2014
Phra Chedi Suriyothai seen from the Chao Phraya River
Extract of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map
(Extract of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)
(Phra Chedi Suriyothai seen from the Chao Phraya
Phra Chedi Suriyothai seen from the Chao Phraya River
(Phra Chedi Suriyothai seen from the Chao Phraya
Objects found during restoration in the 90's
(Objects found during restoration in the 90's)