The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang (Lao: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, literally: "Royal Buddha Image (in the Dispelling Fear mudra)," pronounced [lǔaŋ pʰra.bàːŋ]), is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 300 km north of Vientiane.
It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The population of the city is about 50,000.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Muang Sua was the old name of Luang Prabang following its conquest in 698 A.D. by a Tai prince, Khun Lo. Khun Lo had been awarded the town by his father, Khun Borom, who is associated with the Lao legend of the creation of the world,
Nan-chao princes or administrators replaced the aristocracy of Tai overlords. Dates of the occupation are not known, but it probably ended well before the northward expansion of the Khmer empire under Indravarman I (r. 877-89) and extended as far as the territories of Sipsong Panna on the upper Mekong.
In the meantime, the Khmers founded an outpost at Xay Fong near Vientiane, and Champa expanded again in southern Laos, maintaining its presence on the banks of the Mekong until 1070. Chanthaphanit, the local ruler of Xay Fong, moved north to Muang Sua and was accepted peacefully as ruler after the departure of the Nan-chao administrators. Chanthaphanit and his son had long reigns, during which the town became known by the Tai name Xieng Dong Xieng Thong.
The dynasty eventually became involved in the squabbles of a number of principalities.
Khun Chuang, a warlike ruler who may have been a Kammu (alternate spellings include Khamu and Khmu) tribesman, extended his territory as a result of the warring of these principalities and ruled from 1128 to 1170. Khun Chuang, a single family ruled over a far-flung territory and reinstituted the Siamese administrative system of the 7th century. At some point, Theravada Buddhism was subsumed by Mahayana Buddhism.
Xieng Dong Xieng Thong experienced a brief period of Khmer suzerainty under Jayavarman VII from 1185 to 1191. By 1180 the Sipsong Panna had regained their independence from the Khmers, however, and in 1238 an internal uprising in the Khmer outpost of Sukhothai expelled the Khmer overlords.
Eventually, the ruler of Luang Prabang became synonymous with the figurehead of the French Protectorate of Laos. When Laos achieved independence, the king of Luang Prabang, Sisavang Vong, became the head of state for the Kingdom of Laos.
Aftermath of Franco-Thai War Thailand occupied the city, since the Mekong River became the international border in the area. After the end of World War II, the Thai government returned Luang Prabang back to French.
However, Colonel Hans Imfeld, commissioner of the French Republic, entered Luang Prabang on 25 August 1945 with a force of Franco-Laotian guerrillas and received assurances from the King that the French protectorate was still in force.
Monarchs of Luang Prabang
- Khun Lo, warlord who founded the city
- Fa Ngum, prince of Luang Prabang who founded Lan Xang
- Oun Kham, king who ruled under the French
- Kham Souk (Zakarine), king who ruled under the French and who pushed for independence
- Sisavang Vong, king under the French, and who, when France granted Laos independence, ::became king of the whole country
At the end of the main street of Luang Prabang is a night market where stalls sell shirts, bracelets and other souvenirs. The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong temple are among the most well known historical sites. Along with the wats a significant part of the old town's appeal are the many French provincial style houses.
The road from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is poorly maintained, remote, unlit, unmarked and extremely dangerous for the unfamiliar, particularly in the wet season. Buses regularly travel the route in 14–16 hours.
Route 13 from Vientiane, passing Vang Vieng, to Luang Prabang is paved, though the pavement is in poor condition at places. It is also relatively narrow, with sharp curves. There are no markings or lighting on the road. Several daily buses run from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, taking 9–11 hours.
The Mekong River itself is also an important transportation link. At Chiang Khong it is possible to hire a barge to cross the river. A trip from Huay Xai, just across the river from the Thai border, costs 20 baht on a boat. Luang Prabang can be reached by slow boat in two days, typically with a stop at Pakbeng.
Luang Prabang features a tropical wet and dry climate (Aw) under the Köppen climate classification. While the city is generally very warm throughout the year, it is noticeably cooler during December and January. Luang Prabang also experiences wet and dry seasons, with the wet season from April until October, and the dry season during the remaining five months. The city receives approximately 1,450 millimetres (57 in) of precipitation annually.