Lao people boast a plethora of
distinctive monuments and architectural
styles. One of the most notable
structures is That Luang , the Great
Sacred Stupa, in Vientiane. Its dome
like stupa and four-cornered
superstructure is the model for similar
monuments throughout Laos. Stupas serve
to commemorate the life of the Buddha
and many stupas are said to house sacred
relics (parts of Buddha's body).
Generally, Hinayana Buddhists cremate
the dead body then collect the bone and
put in the stupa which set around the
temple. Different styles of architecture
are evident in the numerous Buddhist
vats. Three architectural styles can be
distinguished, corresponding to the
geographical location of the temples and
monasteries. Vats built in Vientiane are
large rectangular structures constructed
of brick and covered with stucco and
high-peaked roofs. In Luang Prabang the
roofs sweep very low and, unlike in
Vientiane, almost reach the ground.
These two styles are different from the
vats of Xieng Khouang where the temple
roofs are not tiered.
Lao religious images and art are also
distinctive and set Laos apart from its
neighbours. The "Calling for Rain"
posture of Buddha images in Lao, for
example, which depicts the Buddha
standing with his hands held rigidly at
his side, fingers pointing to the
ground, cannot be found in other South
East Asian Buddhist art traditions.
Religious influences are also
pervasive in classical Lao literature,
especially in the Pha Lak Pha Lam, the
Lao version of India's epic Ramayana.
Projects are underway to preserve
classic Lao religious scripts which were
transcribed onto palm leaf manuscripts
hundreds of years ago and stored in
Another excellent example for the
richness of Lao culture is its folk
music, which is extremely popular with
the people throughout the whole country.
The principle instrument is the khaen, a
wind instrument which comprises a double
row of Bamboo-like reeds fitted into a
hardwood soundbox. The khaen is often
accompanied by a bowed string instrument
or saw. The national folk dance is the
lamvong, a circle dance in which people
dance circles around each other so that
ultimately there are three circles: a
circle danced by the individual, another
one by the couple, and a third one
danced by the whole party.