Upper left: Wat Ubaosoth Ratanaram, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Upper right: Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos
Lower Left: Weihan Manduan Temple, Meng Haai, Yunnan, China
Lower Right: Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand

A wat (Khmer: វត្ត, vôtt [ʋɔət]; Lao: ວັດ, vat [wāt]; Thai: วัด, RTGSwat [wát]; Tai Lü: 「ᩅᨯ᩠ᨰ」(waD+Dha); Northern Thai: 「ᩅ᩠ᨯ᩶」 (w+Da2), [wa̋t]) is a type of Buddhist and Hindu temple in Cambodia, Laos, East Shan State, Yunnan, the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, and Thailand.


The word wat is borrowed from the Sanskrit vāṭa (Devanāgarī: वाट), meaning "enclosure".[1][2] The term has varying meanings in each region, sometimes referring to a specific type of government-recognised or large temple, other times referring to any Buddhist or Hindu temple.


Wat Mahathat, Luang Prabang, Laos

In Buddhism, a wat is a Buddhist sacred precinct with vihara, a temple, an edifice housing a large image of Buddha and a facility for lessons. A site without a minimum of three resident bhikkhus cannot correctly be described as a wat although the term is frequently used more loosely, even for ruins of ancient temples. As a transitive or intransitive verb, wat means to measure, to take measurements; compare templum, from which temple derives, having the same root as template.

In Cambodia, a wat is any place of worship. "Wat" generally refers to a Buddhist place of worship, but the precise term is vôtt pŭtthsasnéa (វត្តពុទ្ធសាសនា) meaning "Buddhist pagoda". "Angkor Wat" (អង្គរវត្ត ângkôr vôtt) means 'city of temples'.

In everyday language in Thailand, a "wat" is any place of worship except a mosque (Thai: สุเหร่า; RTGSsurao; or Thai: มัสยิด; RTGSmatsayit) or a synagogue (Thai: สุเหร่ายิว; RTGSsurao yio). Thus, a wat chin (วัดจีน) or san chao (ศาลเจ้า) is a Chinese temple (either Buddhist or Taoist), wat khaek (วัดแขก) or thewasathan (เทวสถาน) is a Hindu temple and bot khrit (โบสถ์คริสต์) or wat farang (วัดฝรั่ง) is a Christian church, though Thai โบสถ์ (RTGSbot) may be used descriptively as with mosques.


The facade of Phra Wihan Luang (meeting hall), Wat Suthat, Bangkok

According to Thai law, there are two types of Thai Buddhist temples:


Main article: Thai temple art and architecture

Royal stupa (preăh chêdei) of Kuntha Bopha was built by using Khmer architectural style during the Angkor period in the form of temple shrine, Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
The main chedi in Wat Phra Mahathat, Nakhon Si Thammarat
Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos
Wat Chaiyamangkalaram, George Town, Malaysia

A typical Buddhist wat consists of the following buildings:

Almost all Buddhist temples in Cambodia were built in Khmer architectural style. Most temples were finely decorated with a spiked tower (bosbok) (Khmer: បុស្បុក)(some temples have three or five spiked towers; some have none) on the rooftop along with pediments, naga heads, and chovear (Khmer: ជហ្វា) (a decorative ridge-piece that is placed at each topmost edge of the roof, just above the tip of each pediment). Below the edge of the roof and at the top of external columns, garuda or kinnari figures are depicted supporting the roof. There are a pair of guardian lions and one head or several (three, five, seven, or nine). naga sculptures are beside each entrance of the temple. Inside the main temple (vihara) and the multipurpose hall (lunch hall), mural paintings depict the life of Gautama Buddha and his previous life.

The roofs of Thai temples are often adorned with chofas.


Some well-known wats include:


Main article: List of Buddhist temples in Cambodia

At the end of 2017, there were 4,872 wats with 69,199 Buddhist monks supporting Buddhism in Cambodia.[5] By 2019, it was illustrated that 97.1 percent of the Cambodian population was Buddhist,[6] making Cambodia to be one of the most predominant Buddhist nations in the world.



Main article: List of Buddhist temples in Malaysia

Despite having only 3.8 percent Buddhists in Kelantan, the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan has numerous Thai wats.[7]


Main article: List of Buddhist temples in Singapore


Main article: List of Buddhist temples in Thailand

As of 2016 Thailand had 39,883 wats. Three hundred-ten were royal wats, the remainder were private (public). There were 298,580 Thai Buddhist monks, 264,442 of the Maha Nikaya order and 34,138 of the Dhammayuttika Nikaya order. There were 59,587 Buddhist novice monks.[8]


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Other countries

See also


  1. ^ "wat". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 26 November 2020.
  2. ^ "wat". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  3. ^ ราชกิจจานุเบกษา,ประกาศกระทรวงธรรมการ แผนกกรมสังฆการี เรื่อง จัดระเบียบพระอารามหลวง, เล่ม ๓๒, ตอน ๐ ก, ๓ ตุลาคม พ.ศ.๒๔๕๘, หน้า ๒๘๔
  4. ^ "sala". Spoken Sanskrit Dictionary. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  5. ^ 26th annual Buddhist monk summit of Cambodia in Chaktomuk conference hall, Phnom Penh, December 2017.
  6. ^ "Percentage distribution of population by religion, area, and province, Cambodia, 2008-2019 (General population census of Cambodia in 2019)" (PDF). National Institute of Statistics. 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Thai temples that can be found in The State of Kelantan Darul Naim, Malaysia". Malaysian Internet Resources. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Educational Statistics 2016". Ministry of Education Thailand (MOE). p. 14. Retrieved 29 July 2018.