Si Satchanalai-Chalieng Historical Park

28

Nov
2021

Si Satchanalai-Chalieng Historical Park

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During the 13th century, the Sukhothai Kingdom consolidated its power in the Central Plains by building a number of satellite cities. The most important of these was Si Satchanalai. Today, its ruins lie on the right bank of the Yom River, 4 miles (7 km) south of modern Si Satchanalai. One of the best examples of a Thai muang, it was laid out along fixed cosmological lines – temple complexes lay at its heart, surrounded by city walls, rivers, and forest. It is considered by many historians to be the apogee of Thai city planning. The nearby ruins of Chalieng are thought to be an earlier Khmer settlement, an outpost of that empire dating from the time of Jayavarman VII (1181–1220). At the height of the Sukhothai Kingdom, Si Satchanalai was twinned with the city of Sukhothai. A royal road, the Phra Ruang, linked the two.

Exploring the Park

The ruins of Si Satchanalai are not as grandiose as those of Sukhothai but are in some ways more interesting. They have not been as extensively restored, and fewer tourists visit the site. The ruins evoke a once powerful city that, although not a seat of government of the Sukhothai Kingdom, was the city of the deputy king and an important commercial center in the 14th and 15th centuries. Its most important trade was in ceramics, for which it was renowned all over Southeast Asia and China.

Today, the ruins at Si Satchanalai cover an area of roughly 18 sq miles (45 sq km) and are surrounded by a moat 40 ft (12 m) wide. A good way to tour the site is by bicycle; there is a bicycle rental store located halfway between Si Satchanalai and Chalieng. Visitors can also ride around the ruined city on the back of an elephant. An information center located in front of the Ram Narong Gate houses a small exhibition of artifacts found at the site and photographs of Si Satchanalai’s many monuments.

The Main Wats

At the heart of the moated city a huge Sri Lankan-style, bellshaped chedi forms the centerpiece of Wat Chang Lom. To the south is Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo, around whose central lotus-bud chedi are many smaller ones in different styles, some containing stucco Buddha images. One of these chedis is a smaller version of the famous lotus-bud chedi at Wat Mahathat at Sukhothai style can be seen elsewhere around the park. Nearby stands Wat Lak Muang, a small, Khmerstyle shrine built as the city foundation shrine.

Minor Wats

On a low, wooded hill north of Wat Chang Lom stands Wat Khao Phnom Phloeng, once the site of ritual cremations. Also among the ruins are a seated Buddha, a chedi, and a number of columns that once supported a wihan roof.

On a hill top, farther west, all that remains of Wat Suwan Khiri is a single chedi, though there are great views from here of the rest of the city.

Beyond the City Walls

Farther west, on a mountain outside the city walls, is a row of ruined monasteries reached by a shady path. At the top of the path is the large, ruined chedi of Wat Khao Yai Bon.

There are many other minor ruins scattered inside and outside the moated site, and while some have been restored, others comprise little more than the base of a wihan or chedi. The mondop of Wat Hua Khon, for example, once contained seven stuccoed standing Buddha images; today only three are still plainly identifiable. North of the old Tao Mo Gate is Wat Kuti Rai. There are two rectangular mondops here, both built entirely from laterite.

Their pediments retain holes for beams, suggesting that they were once linked to other buildings. Inside one mondop is a seated Buddha image.

To the north are the kiln sites of Ban Pa Yuang and Ban Noi, where some of the finest Sangkhalok ceramics were produced. A sign of the times is that villagers nearby sell modern replicas to supplement their farming incomes.

Chalieng

Situated 1,090 yards (1,000 m) to the southeast is the settlement of Chalieng, predating the city of Si Satchanalai and in all likelihood built by the Khmers as a staging post for travelers. Some of the ruins that can be seen today date from later.

The laterite shrine of Wat Chao Chan was built in the Bayon style as a Mahayana Buddhist structure. The wihan and mondop, now ruins, were added later and reflect a move toward Theravada Buddhism

Surrounded on three sides by a tight bend of the Yom River, the most important of the Chalieng sites is Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, the buildings of which reflect a range of architectural styles from Sukhothai to Ayutthayan. The original Sukhothai lotusbud chedi was built over with a huge Khmer-influenced, Ayutthayan prang, one of the finest structures of its type in Thailand. Nearby, a seated Buddha, sheltered under the head of a naga, sits inside a half chedi. Also close by are remains of stucco reliefs of walking Buddhas, said to be some of the very finest examples of Sukhothai sculpture.

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