Thai name พระทองคำ วัดไตรมิตร
This temple is well known for its 3-metre tall, 5.5 tons solid gold Buddha image, constructed over 700 years ago during the Sukhothai period. Originally the gold image was covered with plaster to conceal it from the invading Burmese and was just rediscovered accidentally about 40 years ago.
On 14 February 2010, Wat Traimit’s new building named “Phra Maha Mondop” was officially opened to the public. And the Gold Buddha was moved here. The first floor of the building is the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre where tourists can learn the history of the Chinese immigrants in Thailand as well as their culture which has become part of the Thai culture. The second floor holds an exhibition of the origin of the Gold Buddha. And the top level is where the world’s largest gold Buddha image is enshrined.
History of the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit
Named Phra Sukhothai Traimit, this statue is placed in Wat Traimit near Chinatown in Bangkok. In the traditional sitting poster, it measures 3.10 m. across the lap from knee to knee and 3.91m. from base to top. A peculiarity of the statue is that it can be taken to 9 pieces. The purity of gold is 40 % from the base up to the neck, 80 % from the chin to the forehead, and 99 % for the hair and the topknot, weighing 45 kg. It was estimated that the gold Buddha was built in the Sukhothai period (1238-1438). But there are no written records of its origin.
Towards the end of the 18th century after King Rama I estabished Bangkok as the new capital, he ordered the removal of all important Buddha images from the North to Bangkok lest they might suffer damage since the northern region was not yet pacified. And among the statues moved to Bangkok was this gold Buddha. But it was covered with stucco and placed at Wat Phraya Krai without arousing any special interest among the worshippers.
Later, Wat Phraya Krai became dilapidated and was ordered closed by King Rama V(1868-1910). And this statue was moved to Wat Traimit. The abbot of the temple then asked other monasteries for a possible transfer. But nobody was interested because of its huge size and plain look. So the abbot decided to keep the statue in his own temple and built a special vihara to house it.
On the eve of its scheduled removal, a heavy rain soaked the stucco covering. In the act of moving, the statue was accidentally dropped and the stucco cracked, revealing the shining gold inside.
Nobody knows the true reason for the cover-up of the gold Buddha. It was presumed that the statue was covered up just before the invasion of the Burmese in the mid-18 century, so as to conceal its true value from the enemy.