The ruined but nevertheless impressive brick chedi, oldest of the buildings in the spacious precinct of Wat Chedi Luang, collapsed during an earthquake in 1545. The massive base - unusually constructed in a combination of brick and laterite - gives only an inkling of the chedi's once towering height (90 m (295 ft)). Its story began in 1401 with the erection of a small chedi in memory of San Muang Ma, who died in that year.
This was later enlarged, first by his widow and then again by King Tiloka his grandson (the pagoda at Bodhgaya in India being taken as a model). Fine elephant heads and carvings of Buddha can still be seen in the niches. The famous Emerald Buddha (now in Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok) is reputed to have stood at one time in the niche on the east side.
Guarding the entrance to the large wiharn with its triple-tiered roof and highly ornate gables, are two magnificent rhinoceros-nosed serpents, their scales made out of brightly glazed tiles. They are quite the most splendid to be seen in Thailand. As well as a number of small statues and some elaborately carved elephant tusks, the wiharn contains three bronze statues of Buddha cast in 1440.
Most of the well-proportioned chedis in the outer court house cremation urns.
Beneath a huge gum tree on the left of the entrance to the precinct stands a delightful little temple, the Lak Muang. Built in 1940 on the site of an earlier wooden building, the shrine is the abode of Chiang Mai's guardian spirit (Lak Muang). According to tradition, if the great tree should fall, disaster will overtake the city.