Wat Phra Kaew is one of the oldest and most revered Buddhist temples in Chiang Rai. It is unclear when the temple was founded. The temple was originally called Wat Pa Yeah or Wat Pa Yah as it was surrounded by a dense yellow bamboo grove locally known as Yeah or Yah.
In 1434 the temple’s octagonal Chedi (Pagoda) was struck by lightning and it fell apart to reveal Phra Kaew Morakot, the Emerald Buddha, which was hidden inside it. The Emerald Buddha is now at the temple of the same name in Bangkok, but this temple in Chiang Rai has also been named accordingly.
Wat Phra Kaeo, which is located on Trairat Road on the northwest side of town, is the best known of the northern temples. It once housed the Emerald Buddha, Thailands most important Buddha statue which was discovered in 1444. The statue had been moved by various state rulers to be placed in their capitals including Lampang, Chiang Rai and Vientiane before finally being enshrined in Bangkok’s royal Wat Phra Kaeo. There is now a green jade replica of the image on display. The temple also houses a 700-year bronze statue of Phra Chao Lan Thong, which is housed in the Chiang Saen style ubosot.