On your visit to Laos, the National Museum in Vientiane is a must-see for anybody interested in the glory that is Lao history.
Note: With the exception of the Stone Jar from the Plain of Jars, all photo captions reflect accompanying descriptions found at the museum. In some cases when the writer’s intention was clear, minor grammatical changes have been made to increase readability.
Club-head: Volcanic stone: This star-shaped stone club-head probably dates from the time of early settlements in the region, many hundreds of years ago. Similar club-head have been found elsewhere in Asia, the Pacific, and in South America, but this is the only example yet to be found in Laos. Originally mounted on a stick to be used as a weapon, it probably later took on a ritual significance as an amulet or ceremonial implement. The war stone shaped with careful chipping and polishing, and the central hole is ground down with small stone and sand. This volcanic stone does not seem to be common in Laos, so perhaps this item has been traded from elsewhere, which would also account for its rarity.
Standing stones: The Hin tang, or “Standing stones,” of the mountainous province of Luang Namtha are incised with designs which are almost certainly of ritual significance, and which bear strong resemblance to motifs important to other megalithic cultures elsewhere in the region. Although these stones, which were arranged in small mountains on mountaintops, have not yet been investigated by archaeologists, it appears they have a strong cultural connection with other megalithic traditions which were scattered across mainland Asia two thousand years ago.
The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. Scattered in the landscape of the Xieng Khouang plateau, Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR, are thousands of megalithic jars. These stone jars appear in clusters, ranging from a single or a few to several hundred jars at lower foothills surrounding the central plain and upland valleys. Lao stories and legends tell of a race of giants who inhabited the area ruled by a king called Khun Cheung, who fought a long, eventually victorious battle against his enemy. He allegedly created the jars to brew and store huge amounts of lau hai (“lau” means “alcohol”, “hai” means “jar”—So “lau hai” means rice beer or rice wine in the jars) to celebrate his victory.
The Lao Pako pottery was once placed in groups, in pits. This pottery group was recovered in the excavations 2003. You can imagine how the people of Lao Pako must have started with placing the big rounded jar on the bottom of a deep pit. It has a typical screw head applique decoration and incised pattern in a beautifully preserved red slip on its neck and body. Inside the jar they placed a rounded pot with a dark red slip as well as a small urn with a lid that also functions as a bowl. A small bronze bangle, probably made to fit a young child, and a piece of iron was also placed in the jar. A lid shaped like a hat, covered the jar perfectly. Finally, they placed a bowl with pedestal and a small buff colored pot on top of it all. The group was complete and they closed the pit.
Buddha sheltered by the naga king: bronze, Ankgor period style: This sculpture represents the Buddha as both a monk and a king, with rich royal jewelry worn over simple robes. The image of the Buddha being sheltered by the seven-headed naga king Mucalinda became iconic in Angkorian times. The Buddha was meditating on the shore of the lake during the 6th week after attaining enlightenment and was caught by a raging storm. The serpent king emerged from his home in the lake and unfurled his hoods to protect the Buddha.
Makara-headed water-chute: Sandstone, 7th century: The makara is a mythical aquatic animal that resembles a crocodile with a trunk. Because of its aquatic association, it is often used, as here, in architectural details concerning the channeling of water, such as spouts, or for directing springs. This makara piped water that filtered through the sacred mountain that towers over Wat Phu. The water, which was already blessed by the linga at the summit, passed through the sanctuary, and over the altar, pouring a steady trickle of holy water for pilgrims to the temple to lustrate themselves with.
Linga: Sandstone, c 11th century: The linga represents the Hindu god Shiva, in the form of a stylized phallus, and is one of the most important and potent symbols of Hinduism. This particular style of linga actually represents the trimurti, the holy trinity of the Hindu gods. The square base stands for Brahma, creator of the Universe, the octagonal section for Vishnu, and the top, rounded section is for Shiva. The site of Wat Phu, from which it originated, was chosen for its proximity to Lingaparvata, a mountain in the southern Lao province of Champasak, auspicious due to the linga-like stone outcrop that caps it.
Yoni: Sandstone, 9-14th centuries: The yoni, usually used to anchor a linga, represents the equivalent feminine principle of power. Whilst the linga is a symbol of Shiva and his generative role in creation, the yoni represents nurture and fertility. Surrounding the cavity for the linga is a channel for ablutionary waters to flow through.
Lintel: Sandstone, 7th century: Lintel is the tangle stone which scave in general paturn that on the top of the door of the royal palace stone.
Head of Vishnu: Sandstone, 12th century: This sculpture was made under the influence of Angkor’s Bayon style. The serenity of the facial features is typical of art of this period. The peaceful benevolence of the deities the Angkorian style depicts is unusual, as other Buddhist art traditions tend to represent all aspects of creation, striking a balance between good and evil, wrath and mercy, and life and death. It seems that this was originally a sculpture of the Buddhist deity Lokesvara, the Lord of the World, but his elaborate hairstyle has been modified to make Vishnu’s crown.
Ganesha: Sandstone, 7th century: This sculpture of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesha, was found on Khong Island in Siphandon, an area in the far south of Laos which was under the sway of the Khmer empire from its earliest times to its downfall. Ganesha is the son of the god Shiva, who severed the head of his offspring in a rage, then replaced it with the head of the first animal that passed by – an elephant. He is the god of knowledge, and the remover of obstacles. His potbelly betrays his predilection for sweets, which he is shown plucking with his trunk from a bowl in his left hand.
Bai Sema: Sandstone, 12-13th centuries: The Mon speaking people were descended from a group of Indian migrants, and were widespread throughout this region from the 7th century until they were displaced by the Khmer in the 11th century, this example comes from Ban Sikhai in Savannakhet Province.
The Tai Leu Masterpiece Buddha (circa 1850) This exceptionally large teak wooden Buddha was most likely carved in the Hongsa region by a Tai Leu carver. the anatomy of the statue is advanced; note how the Buddha’s gently sloping shoulders and pot-belly represent old age so directly. The carver was probably professional, possibly one of the artisans of the royal court of Luang Prabang. It was originally covered in gold leaf and traces of it and lacquer can still be seen. The statue was decorated by gem stones on the torso (note small round holes) The remaining eye is a piece of old mirror, a scarce commodity back then. The most unusual aspect is the two-hands-down pose: Buddha giving his last teaching. Not one Buddha in 100,000 is in this provocative death pose. The wooden Buddhas are carved for a blessing or to remember a loved one. Sometimes, they take on a community role. One old carver said “During the war we had nothing. We made the Buddha any way that we could.” Larger Buddhas like this were made for group merit. It might have been carved as an offering during a famine or drought. One of the most amazing statues leave their habitat, their unique history is lost forever. This statue was bought in a Bangkok Junk Store for $400. Preserve Lao Culture.
King Fa Ngum: Fa Ngum, a Lao Prince, was the legendary founder of the Lan Xang Kingdom, or Kingdom of a Million Elephants in the 14th century. As a youth he was sent into exile to Angkor and married a Khmer princess. In 1351, Fa Ngum was at the head of a Khmer army to reimpose Angkor’s control over the northern Khorat plateau. After conquering the plateau, he marched north to capture Meuang Sua (Luang Prabang) of which he became lord in 1353. Because of his military successes due to his ambition and military genius, he gathered around him leaders of other meuangs. From his base in the center he sent his forces north to draw the other meuangs into his power. Then he marched south to subdue the Lord of Vientiane and Lords further south of the Mekong river. Upon return to his capital, now called Xiang Dong or Xian Thong, he announced the foundation of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. Fa Ngum’s conquests are described in great detail in the Lan Xang chronicles.
The peacock Houda: Mounted onto elephants, this was a traditional means of transport in Laos during the 17th century. This houda is still used for special ceremonies in Vientiane to this day.
Lao manuscripts: Laos possesses a rich literary tradition dating back to the 15/16th century AD, with its Golden Era during the reign of King Suriyavongsa (1638-1695). Works have survived in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts and sometimes mulberry tree (sa) paper. They were kept at the libraries of some 3,600 Buddhist monasteries (vats/wats) scattered all over the country. as for their content, they comprise not only of religious texts, but include the whole range of popular, learned and literary writings such as works about history, traditional law and customs, astrology, magic mythology and rituals, traditional medicine and healing, grammar and lexicography, as well as poetry and a huge number of epic stories and folktales. In addition to works written in Lao, there are many important manuscripts written in Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism. The manuscripts were handed down through continuous copying and traditionally stored in wooden caskets.
Palm-leaf manuscripts: Vientiane period, 1560-c. 1700: This cabinet contains a Lao fable, the Kalaket, as well as many other stories and texts, including the Sinxay and a healing manuscript. Lao Buddhists believe that if a fragment of the healing manuscript is soaked in water, then consumed, it will cure illness.
King Xayshethathirath leading the people in the fight against feudalist Burmese.
Copy of the Franco-Thai agreement to share Laos using the Mekong as the border dated 3 October 1893.
Auguste Pavie and James Scott, representing respectively the French and British governments in their discussions at Sing district to share Laos.
The material the French colonist used to capture Lao people.
The conquered Lao people subject to barbarous slavery.
One of the jails that French colonialists used to imprison the Lao people in Luangprabang.
Background of President Hochiminh (1890-1969): President Hochiminh (when he was young his name was Nguyentonthanh) was born in 1890 in Nga An Province at the time of the colonial controlled Vietnam. President Hochiminh learned from his father about patriotism. In 1911 President Hochiminh was on the way to western countries looking for the way to liberate the country such as Europe, Asia, America and Africa, after the October 1917 revolution President Hochiminh moved back to France. During his time in France his name was Nguyen Ai Quoc and he participated as a worker. In 1920 the 18th congress of the French Socialist Party was organized in Toua City, he spoke a speech on behalf of the Indochinese region, he also participated in the creation of the French Communist Party, during his movement in French Communist Party from 1920-1923 President Hochiminh participated in some delegations who from the country under France, creating colonial federation for revolution. In 1923 President Hochiminh moved from France to Russia, he participated in international Communist movement which had the important role in Asia using the method of Marxism and Leninism. In 1930 President Hochiminh created Vietnam Communism which changed into Indochinese Communism. In 1944 President Hochiminh created Vietnam army which original from Vietnamese People hero. In 1945 under the leadership of Hochiminh there was the August revolution. On December second 1945 the liberation for independence in Hanoi, Vietnam which was the foundation of the Vietnamese Democratic Republic. On second September 1968 Hochiminh became the president of Vietnamese Democratic Republic for 24 years. In 1987 UNESCO proclaimed President Hochiminh as a National Hero.
Ngugen Aiquoc at the 1920 Tours conference which saw the founding of the French Communist Party.
The background of Khamseng Sivilay. Comrade Khamseng was born on 5th December, 1913 in Sakonakhon District, Udon Prefecture, Thailand. His grandfather moved from Mahaxay District, Khammaun Province, Laos, to Sakonakhon District, Thailand. Comrade Khamseng was born in a farmer’s family, his nationality is Lao and he believed in Buddhism, he graduated primary school and he could speak Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese. Comrade Khamseng became a member of the party on 15th March 1931 at Sakonakhon district, Thailand. In 1935-1944 comrade Khamseng became a Chinese soldier. In 1934 he became a member of the Communist Party and also he was the first Lao communist. In 1945 comrade Khamseng participated in the revolution in Vietnam. In 1946 he got married with a Vietnamese student and had one daughter. In 1948 he participated in the Lao revolution. In 1949 he took delegations at the revolution area for electing government through Myama, Thailand. In 1951 comrade Khamseng studied at La district for three months. In 1953 he worked for revolution in Sing district. In 1969 comrade Khamseng died.
The uprising of the people in Vientiane prefecture in September 1945.
The people are rallying to celebrate the victory
French colonial soldiers sent to take various districts in northern Laos.
Being deceived by the French colonialists Sisavangvong committed treason by accepting false independence on 19 July 1949.
Multi-ethnic people volunteer for the fight against French colonialists.
Hmong people undertake military training.
Members of the central committee of the Free Lao Front elected by the Congress.
Members of the Lao Resistance Government elected by Congress.
Conference of the Lao-Viet-Kmer allies held on October 11, 1951 in North Vietnam.
The Free Lao Army and Vietnamese volunteers liberate the Boloven Plateau.
The military is delighted after their victory.
French prisoners of war between 1953-1954.
The victory at liberated Dien Bien Phu, 7th March, 1954. A heroic mark in the history of Indochina.
People in the city of Paris rally urging for peace in Indochina.
At Geneva on 20th July, 1954 an agreement is signed acknowledging the independence of the 3 Indochinese countries.
Masses rally to celebrate the victorious outcome of the 1954 Geneva Conference.
French soldiers, prisoners of war from Dien Bien Phu in March 1954.
French officers and soldiers preparing to fly out of Laos from Vientiane Airport after the defeat in Indochina.
Lao Free Front army gathering in Xam Neua and Prongsaly provinces in August 1954.
King Savangvong at a rally with US imperialist.
Reactionary government established on 23rd November 1954 by US imperialist has Katai as its premier.
Comrade Souphanouvong having a friendly chat with the people of Xam Neua Province.
American imperialist transported weapons to invade and interfere with Laos.
Soldiers of the Lao Free Army engaging in production.
The American imperialists suppress and threaten the people who are patriotic towards their homeland.
Conference house where the first founding congress of the party took place.
Officers, soldiers and people are clearing the trees in the area that the conference will be held.
The rule of Lao people’s party in the part congress from 22nd March – 6th April , 1955.
The opening of the National Unity Front Congress.
Political resolution of National United Front.
Comrade Kasysone Phomvihane presents reports to the first founding congress of the Lao people’s Revolutionary Party on 22nd March 1955 in Nameo village.
The hero named Sithong is commanding a battle to defend the two provinces in April 1955.
The Free Lao Army assaults enemies during the defense of two provinces.
People in the liberated zone urge the US imperialists to leave Laos.
The workers at the publishing house are printing documents to be used in the congress.
The central committee of the party participates in the first National Conference held on 20th January, 1956.
Comrade Souphanouvong decorates Sithong with the freedom medal.
The two party coalition government set up for the first time on 11th November 1957 with the participation of the Lao Patriotic Front.
The election for a supplementary seat held in May, 1958.
The 2nd Battalion breaks out of an enemy encirclement at the plain of jars, returns to base on 18th May, 1959.
Lao Liberation Army assembled to take over the battlefield.
Liberation of the plane of jars, 1st January, 1961.
Namone conference held between 13th-17th May, 1961.
Zurich conference held between 19th-22nd June, 1961.
Lao Liberation Army moves to liberate Luang Namtha Province in October, 1961.
Geneva conference held on 23rd July, 1962 to acknowledge the independence of Laos.
The US imperialist deceived the right wing soldiers Nokoupasith, making them party to the war.
Weapons imported by the US imperialists for their puppets.
The US imperialist set up bureau for assistance to the Vientiane puppets aimed at expanding the war in Laos.
Vong Pao (smiling in the center of the picture) the commander of the special force; the key henchman of the US imperialists who savagely murdered the Lao people.
Thao Khamsing aged 7, citizen of Xieng Khouang province, injured by US imperialist bomb.
Nang Phimpka, injured by US imperialist napalm bombing.
The pagoda, sacred place of the people, destroyed by US imperialists.
Xieng Khouang province monks killed by US imperialist bombs.
Anti aircraft battery vigilantly defends Viengxay district from air attack.
The Lao liberation army courageously defends Thebare in Viengxay district.
The army and the people liberated Nam Bark on 14th January, 1969.
To follow the call and directives of the party central committee, the Lao army expressed its determination on the battlefield.
The army and the people of Luangpha Bang launch an attack on the enemy in Mam Bark on 12th January, 1968.
Comrades Phounsipaseath and Samane Vilyketh, members of the Army Section of the Party Central Committee carry out mobilization among the soldiers of the Tank Division before going to the battlefield.
Hmong YongKay, grandmother, the one who has intelligence in leading to fight the enemy in Xiengkhuang Province. She was offered to become a national Heroine.
The army and the people rally against air raids ordered by President Johnson to destroy the Lao liberated zone in 1964.
The delegates attended the Congress Party in Viengxay cave, Huaphan province.
Comrade Avatdoda Potsta from the Cuban Communist Party delegation which visited Houa Phane province.
The Lao liberation Army carry out the continued destruction of the base in the La Cave and Na Khank.
US imperialists and their puppets mobilizing their forces in Xangthong-Longcheng in preparation for the KouKiet operation.
Siphon pagoda in Xieng Khouang destroyed by US imperialist bombs.
The militia of Xieng Khouang Province make plans to coordinate with army regulars in various operations in the plateau of Xieng Khouang.
The women’s militia, Pack District of Xieng Khouang, with 12.8mm machine gun in the KuKiet operation August, 1969.
US imperialist 10 fighter bomber 105 D shot down on 11th May 1965 by a militia man of Phang district, Xieng Khouang province named Thit Chantho, 26 years old using a rifle.
The victory of the Lao People’s Liberation Army in operation code name “Lamson 719.”
Seno airfield, one of the US imperialist air bases destroyed by our army.
The fate of the American soldiers in the operation with the code name Lam son in 1971.
Enlarging the cave to construct an office for top level leaders in Vieng Xay.
Board for the Lao Patriotic Radio Broadcasting at work.
Comrade Sisomphone Lovanxay reports on the rally of the Party to the Second Party Congress.
Comrade Phoumi Vongvichit grants an interview to the mass media on the achievement of the Vientiane negotiation on 21st February, 1973.
The liberation of Dong Hen by our army Savannakhet.
The signing ceremony of the Vientiane protocol on 14th August, 1973.
Attacking Salaphoukhoun base to force the Vientiane side to sign the agreement.
Comrade Vo Nguyen Dap presents the friendship flag to the Lao Revolutionary Party on behalf of Vietnamese Communist Party.
Prince Souphanovong enters Vientiane on 3rd April, 1974 to form the Provisional Coalition Government and the National Political Coalition Council.
The Provisional Coalition Government and the National Political Coalition Council are officially established on 5th April, 1974.
Comrade Sisavath Keobounphanh explains to the Nanhang Military Party Committee about the new resolution of the Politbureau.
Conference of the Committee for Seizing State Power on 14th August, 1975.
Women’s Artillery Detachment moves into Vientaine, assisting the people to seize power on 22nd August, 1975.
People’s uprising to seize power in Vientiane Capital Prefecture on 23rd August, 1976.
-- Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman ...."Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives... and to the "good life", whatever it is and wherever it happens to be."