Buddhism, Lao Tradition, Laos, Lifestyles, Travel

Mee and Tho’s Luang Prabang, Laos

High Definition videos of Luang Prabang, Laos by James Quilty at Vimeo.

  • Mee and Tho’s Luang Prabang

Mee and Tho are children who live on the other side of the Mekong river from Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos. Each day they cross it to sell trinkets to the tourists and help their family in the markets. We met them at a museum devoted to traditional Lao houses where they and their friends hang out and attend art classes on weekends. Mee and Tho offered to show us their Luang Prabang. This is the first of a three part series. The traditional music is from the album “Music of Laos: the Buddhist Tradition.”

  • Mee and Tho’s Luang Prabang – The Mekong

On the second day Mee and Tho show us the morning market and we take a journey along the Mekong to see the Buddha caves and the waterfalls. We end the day watching the semi-annual boat races. This is the second of a three part series. The traditional music is from the album “Music of Laos: the Buddhist Tradition.”

  • Mee and Tho’s Luang Prabang – Almsgiving

On the final day of our trip to Luang Prabang, Yui and I cross the Mekong to visit Mee and Tho’s villiage, Ban Xiangmen. We participate in the almsgiving to the local monks and meet with the senior monk who shows us the ancient temples Wat Chom Pet and Wat Long Khon. Ban Xiangmen is almost as rich with history and architectural beauty as Luang Prabang. This is the third of a three part series. The traditional music is from the album “Vision of the Orient – Music from Laos”

Updated Photos 5/1/2008:

Wat in the last clip at 4:43 with the animal in question (Screen shot 1) that the Thai interpreter claimed that it is a symbol that Laos was once ruled by Thai King, which I don’t believe it is the case. In Buddhist iconography, we find the lions (Singhto) in their role of dharma protectors supporting the throne of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. They are also found at the entrance of the monasteries and shrines. I think the lions here are symbolic of the bodhisattvas, the “sons of the Buddha” or “Buddha’s lions” holds true here, and not the sign of Thai King. See full explanation in comment, below are screen shots, and photos by James Quilty at Flickr.

Screen shot 1:

Screen shot 2:

You can visit his blog at Notes From Thailand, and I also added him to my blogroll for future visit.

10 thoughts on “Mee and Tho’s Luang Prabang, Laos”

  1. Great video! The video quality is a lot better than most of the other videos on youtube. The person who made this did a really great job. I disagree with last comment about Laos being occupied by a certain king. But all in all-a great video.

  2. Bassak, I agree with you that I disagreed with the statement by the Thai interpreter that the symbol on the old temple is a signed that Thailand, or Thai King once occupied Laos. I believed the Thais have their own history of things; most writers favor their own country and culture but just because we’ve similar language and culture don’t make us once a part of Thailand or the Siamese. I think the Buddhist artwork or artifact is very similar whether in Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand but varies in interpretation, and that doesn’t mean that Cambodia and Laos was once a part of Thailand because of the similarity.

    I’m also impressed with the quality of his videos and his choice of music. His narration works well on these videos.

  3. Ginger, History-especially southeast Asia history can be very confusing and bias. Each nation has there own version of events and the chronicles of event within the nation can differ greatly(Vientiane and L. Prabang). But I think a lot of people forget to realize is that history has to be learned from all points of views to full understand things more clearly. But as long as you know who you are and where u came from. We don’t have to worry about mixing fact and fiction about our history. The only sad thing is when someone learn one-sided history and use that knowledge to insult people.

  4. I didn’t know that circle drawing and the animal symbol on a temple cealing meant Laos was rule by Thai. I thought it was just a random mural.

  5. I’m not arguing that “part” of Laos was once ruled by Thailand (just like part of Thailand was once Laos, correct me if I’m wrong here,) the section that I was born, Meung Kao across from Pakse back in the 1940s was once ruled by Thailand for a short period. But in this case, I believed she is mistaken and made a general statement because the lion symbol is a symbol of Buddhism, with what she said, the narrator (film maker) then concluded that Laos was once a part of Thailand (I believed that Laos is older than Thailand). I think the art work might have some Thai influence because it might have been done by Thai artists (this I don’t know, just speculation on my part), just like the Buddhist art work at Wat Lao Buddhavong of DC was done by Thai artists from Thailand. I believed the bat here is a symbol of good luck and fortune. see below for explanation of the lion symbol in Buddhism. Source.

    [Lions are the kings of the animal kingdom: they are proud and majestic…Due to these characteristics the lion has been considered through all ages and countries as a symbol of royalty and protection, as well as of wisdom and pride. The iconographic representation of the lion originated in Persia.

    In Buddhism lions are symbolic of the bodhisattvas, the “sons of the Buddha” or “Buddha’s lions”. bodhisattvas are beings who have attained a high level of spiritual development. They have generated bodhicitta and made the vow to renounce the happiness of the highest enlightenment and remain in this world working until all sentient beings are free from suffering. bodhisattvas practice the six basic paramitas: charity. Morality, patience. effort, concentration and wisdom [dana, sila, ksanti, verya, dhyana and prajna] and the four which derive from the basis ones: skillfull means, vows, power and knowledge [upaya, pranidhana, bala and jnana]. Tehre are eight great or divine bodhisattvas. In the Nispannygavaqli of Mahapandita Abhayakara Gupta three sets of sixteen bodhisattvas are mentioned.

    In Buddhist iconography we find the lions in their role of dharma protectors supporting the throne of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. They are also found at the entrance of the monasteries and shrines. In the northern areas of Nepal, influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and art, the lions have become “snow lions”. Actually there are no lions living in the snow mountains, but there are leopards. Snow lions area depicted in white or blue color with turquoise or orange mane floating in the wind and very wrathful, with big eyes and open mouth. They roam freely in the high snow mountains without any fear, symbolizing the wisdom, fearlessness and divine pride of those dharma practitioners who are actually able to live freely in the high snow mountain of the pure mind, without being contaminated by delusions. They are kings of the doctrine because they have achieved the power to subdue all beings with their great love, compassion, and wisdom.

    The lions as guardians of the temple are represented in pairs at the entrance of shrines and baha compounds.]

    If you watched the last clip again, at 5:07 (Screen shot 2) (I’ll try to get a screen shot of this when I have more time), you will see that there are varies animal symbols and I believed it was just random painting of animals, and the lion being the king of the animal kingdom, of course others might have different interpretation than me, and since this is a Buddhist Wat, I think the lions are symbolic of the bodhisattvas, the “sons of the Buddha” or “Buddha’s lions” holds true here, and not the sign of Thai King.

  6. I updated the photos of the animals, I’m curious to know of your interpretation of the mural on the Wat ceiling.

  7. Wow! So you where born in Muang Kao huh! Both of my parents are there. Hey, we might be related.

  8. I was told that I don’t have any relative in Laos except for my dad’s adopted sister and her family that live in Xieng Khuang Paksun, she is Vietnamese. We used to live next to Wat Thung Simeung Wat Sorn Suk Sitt (sorry, my memory is a bit fuzzy,) and I’m sure my dad would know your parents or vice versa, Muang Kao is a very small village, I know a lady that lives in PA that came from Muang Kao, and we called her our cousin, but we’re not related. There are many that live in TN.

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