Going by a few different names, including Ho Prakeo and Hor Pha Keo, Wat Ho Phra Kaew is a former temple in the city of Vientiane, Laos. Originally built in 1565 as the home to the Emerald Buddha, this building has had to undergo several renovations and rebuilds over the years. Today it is a Museum that houses a wide assortment of religious art as well as a small gift shop.
History of Wat Ho Phra Kaew
In 1565, King Setthathirath moved his capital from the city of LuangPrabang to Vientiane. It was there that he ordered a series of temples to be built which included Wat Ho Phra Kaew. This particular temple was to be built directly on the grounds of the Royal Palace and was to be the home of the majestic Buddha figurine built out of emerald. He had the giant statue moved three different times, first from Chiang Mai, then to Lanna, and next to Luang Prabang before finally bringing it to Vientiane.
The temple at Wat Ho Phra Kaew was actually the personal panels of worship for the king and no monks were allowed to reside within the temple itself. This was quite a difference from the other temple projects that he had built within the city limits.
The Emerald Buddha remained in the temple for over 200 years, but in 1779 the city was captured by the stymies and the figurine was taken while the temple was destroyed. For those who are interested, you can currently find the statue at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
In 1816 a new king had the temple rebuilt however it was destroyed again in 1828 by the stymies. The city was completely raised by the stymies forces in the temple remained a distant memory for over 100 years. In 1936 the French began a reconstruction of the temple after seizing Laos as one of its protectorates and in the 1970s the temple was converted from a place of worship to a museum. In 1993 it underwent its last restoration.
What to Find in the Wat Ho Phra Kaew
There are many great things to find in the Wat Ho Phra Kaew. Prominently displayed are some of the most prestigious and beautiful pieces of religious art from the country. You will also find a large number of Buddhas that are displayed some that date back as far as the sixth century. The beautifully carved wooden doors are actually from the original old temple and there is still a throne within the site where the Emerald Buddha once sat.
Artifacts on display go beyond Buddhist religious works. There also can be are stones and wood carvings, and documents that date back hundreds of years. It is truly a beautiful museum to visit housed in this fantastically reconstructed temple.