The essence of Thai Buddhist culture, Doi Suthep temple 태국 불교 문화의 정수, 도이 수텝 사원

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Photos by Lee Su Ho

About Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples(called “wat” in Thai) now. Especially, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, the city’s most famous temple, stands on Doi Suthep, a hill to the northwest of the city. The wat can be reached by road from Chiang Mai. From the car park, at the temple base visitors can climb 309 steps for free to reach the pagodas or there is a tram. Entry to the temple on the tram costs 30 Thai baht for foreigners(or 50 baht if you would like a two-way tram ticket included)

Once inside the temple grounds, visitors must take off their shoes. Visitors must be appropriately dressed. The original copper plated chedi is the most holy area of the temple grounds. Within the site are pagodas, statues, bells and shrines. Aspects of the Wat draw from both Buddhism and Hinduism. There is a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh. Views of Chiang Mai can be seen on the other side of the temple.

The temple is located 15 kilometres from the city of Chiang Mai and is a sacred site to many Thai people. From the temple, impressive views of Chiang Mai can be seen and it remains a popular destination for tourists.

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History of Doi Suthep
The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first chedi was built. Over time, the temple has expanded, and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. A road to the temple was first built in 1935.

White Elephant Legend
According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream; in this vision he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and is said to have found a bone, which many claim was Buddha’s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers; it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move itself and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dharmmaraja who ruled the Sukhothai.

The eager Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However, the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic’s authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.

However, King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard of the relic and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The relic apparently split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the relic was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang(Sugar Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

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치앙마이를 대표하는 태국 불교 문화의 진수, 도이 수텝 사원
태국 북부에 위치한 치앙마이는 방콕에 이어 태국을 대표하는 제 2의 도시이자 고대 란나 왕조의 중심지였다. 매년 100만명 이상의 관광객이 트래킹을 즐기기 위해 방문하는 치앙마이에는 옛 왕조의 모습이 여전히 남아 있으며 도시 곳곳에는 역사적 중요한 의미를 지니고 있는 사원이 많이 있다. 그 중에서도 황금의 사원으로 불리며 태국 불교 건축 문화의 정수로 꼽히는 도이 수텝 사원은 치앙마이를 대표하는 명승지다.

‘부처의 사리를 모신 곳’이라는 뜻을 지니고 있는 도이 수텝 사원은 란나왕조 때 흰 코끼리가 부처님의 사리를 싣고 산마루까지 올라가 그 자리에서 울고 탑을 세 바퀴 돌더니 쓰러져 숨을 거두자 그 자리에 탑을 세워 사리를 모시며 세워졌다는 전설이 있을 만큼 특별한 곳이다. 특히 도이 수텝 사원을 방문하기 위해서는 나가상이 늘어선 290여 개의 계단을 걸어 올라가거나 케이블 카를 탑승하기도 하는데 트래킹의 명소인 만큼 많은 관광객들이 계단을 사용하기도 한다.

금을 입힌 거대한 사리탑을 포함해 사원 내부에는 성물을 운반했던 코끼리를 기리는 코끼리상과 호랑이 가죽을 걸친 은둔자 와수텝의 상, 불교 신자들이 칠 수 있도록 허용된 종과 징이 비치되어 있다. 또한 대리석이 깔린 안뜰의 회랑에는 불상과 부처의 삶을 묘사한 벽화와 사리탑 양쪽에는 동서로 각각 한 채의 불당이 있다.

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12312423Contributor, LEE Su Ho

He is a editor of monthly global travel magazine in Korea. While he works as a professional travel editor, he traveled almost all around world.

현재 이수호 기자는 여행 전문 매거진의 에디터로 활동하고 있다. 세계지도의 모든 나라가 빨간 펜으로 체크되는 그날 까지, 세계를 두 발로 밟고자하는 그의 꿈은 현재진행형이다.

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