As visitors explore this land of ancient temples, waterfalls, and lush rainforests, they are often captivated by the vibrant expressions of Lao art that dot the landscape. Lao art is a reflection of its people’s creativity, spirituality, and local tradition. It has been strongly influenced by the countries that surround this landlocked nation – by the Khmers to the south, the Vietnamese to the east, the Thais to the west, and the Burmese to the north. This time, we will explore the captivating world of Lao art and uncover the best places to bask in its beauty.
Lao art has its origins in the prehistoric period, with ancient cave paintings dating back thousands of years. The arrival of Buddhism in Laos, around the 8th century, profoundly influenced the development of the country’s artistic traditions. Temples and stupas were adorned with intricate sculptures, paintings, and murals that depicted Buddhist and Hindu teachings as well as local folklore.
The Khmer Empire’s dominance over Laos between the 9th and 13th centuries further contributed to the assimilation of artistic elements from neighboring regions. The blend of indigenous Lao culture with Khmer, Thai, and Vietnamese influences resulted in a unique and diverse artistic heritage that continues to thrive to this day.
Traditional Art Forms
Theravada Buddhism, as well as Hinduism, plays a pivotal role in Lao society, and its influence on Lao art cannot be overstated. Traditional Buddhist art in Laos includes intricate wood carvings telling stories of the life of the Buddha, gilded statues, and delicate religious paintings. The Ramayana and similar ancient Indian epics are also particularly important. The iconic That Luang Stupa in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, is a stunning example of Buddhist architecture and art.
Silk weaving is an ancient craft deeply ingrained in Lao culture that dates back centuries. Skilled artisans use traditional looms to create intricate patterns and vibrant colors. Each region in Laos has its own weaving techniques and designs.
Traditional Music And Dance
Lao music and dance are integral to religious and cultural festivals. The “Lam” and “Mor Lam” are traditional music and dance forms that often accompany celebrations and ceremonies.
Wood And Ivory Carving
Lao woodcarving showcases exceptional craftsmanship, with intricate designs featuring dragons and other mythical animals adorning temples, furniture, and household items. The talent of Lao woodcarvers is evident in the detailed and delicate motifs that breathe life into their creations. Although now thankfully frowned upon, the tradition of intricately carved ivory objects needs a mention as a part of Lao’s artistic past.
Lao Silverwork is highly esteemed for its exquisite designs and skilled craftsmanship. Local artisans meticulously craft intricate silver jewelry and decorative items, as well as using other precious metals, showcasing the country’s rich metalworking traditions.
Where To Experience Lao Art
Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic experience of Lao art. The town is dotted with ancient temples, each showcasing unique examples of Buddhist art. Wat Xieng Thong is a remarkable temple known for its intricate mosaics and gilded carvings. Visitors can explore the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, a museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing Lao traditional arts and crafts, including textiles, pottery, wood carving, basket weaving, and jewelry.
The Phra Bang Buddha ranks as the most famous sculpture in Laos. Thought by experts to be Khmer in origin, the gold statue has been housed in Haw Pha Ban, in present-day Laos, on the grounds of Luang Prabang’s Royal Palace since 2013. Every New Year, or Songkran, tradition maintains that the Phra Bang Buddha is taken from the Royal Court and paraded through the streets of the town to the shrine at Wat Mai, where it is bathed and displayed to devotees.
As the capital city of Laos, Vientiane is a vibrant hub of national cultural expression. The Patuxai monument, often referred to as the “Victory Gate,” is an impressive fusion of traditional Lao and French architecture. In the heart of the city, the Lao National Museum offers insights into the country’s history and artistic heritage.
The National School of Music and Dance in Vientiane was established by the Ministry of Education in 1959 to teach traditional classical music and folk performance. If you are lucky, you might be in town for a performance of classical court music or a display of traditional Lao dance.
Those keen on pottery should head to the capital, to a place archaeologists call Sisattanak Kiln Site, where they have unearthed kilns and many examples of ancient ceramics from a golden age of pot production.
Unfortunately, some of the most impressive Lao artifacts reside outside of the country, having been taken as booty. For example, the sixteenth-century Phra Say sacred Buddha image, cast from gold, was taken in the late eighteenth century and is housed in Wat Po Chai, an important temple across the Mekong River in Nong Khai, Thailand. Two companion images of the Buddha, Phra Souk and Phra Seum, are also to be found in Lopburi and Bangkok in Thailand.
A Few Useful Words To Describe Lao Art
|Pottery||ການລົບຊີ້ນ||Kaan lob sin|
|Sculpture||ການທອມສະຕາຍ||Kaan thom satay|
|Literature||ການຂຽນເຄື່ອງ||Kaan khyen keong|
|Photography||ການອັນດັບຮູບ||Kaan an dap huk|
|Silverwork||ການທອມເຈົ້າ||Kaan thom jao|
|Calligraphy||ການຂຽນລາຍການ||Kaan khyen laikhan|
|Theater||ການທຽນໂຄງຮຽນ||Kaan thian khong hian|
|Music||ການຕິດຕາມ||Kaan tit tam|
|Film-making||ການສ້າງບົດບາດ||Kaan sang bot bat|
|Drawing||ການຮຽນອອກ||Kaan hian uak|
Learn More Lao Art Language With Ling
What better way to impress when on a trip to Laos for an art experience than to be able to speak the Lao language? With Ling app, you will quickly learn the basics of writing and reading Lao. And why stop there? With more than 60 languages available, why not try Khmer, Thai, and Vietnamese? Try Ling app today at Google Play and the App Store.