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Cultural Traces Around the World

The Culture of Laos

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Located in the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula, Lao People's Democratic Republic is famous for its beautiful culture, unique traditions, and pristine landscape. The only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Laos is bordered by Myanmar, China, Âu Lạc or Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. About 66% of the population are Theravada Buddhists while the rest belong to at least 48 distinct ethnic minority groups. The capital city Vientiane is not only the largest city, but also a cultural commercial center containing many significant national monuments like the Pha That Luang which is Lao’s largest icon of Buddhism.

Residential buildings in Laos are built on stilts, which show off the wisdom of the ancestors who lived comfortably, despite the hot and humid climate. Often living along rivers and streams, Lao houses are usually built using sustainable materials including strong, resilient wood.

The traditional culture and arts in Laos have a very long history. Wood carving and metal artworks are used for sculpting Buddha statues or decorating the doors and windows of Buddhist temples. Each Lao ethnic group has their own unique craft style and tradition, which are well expressed through their distinctive traditional textiles and clothing.

Khaen is a distinctive Laotian folk music instrument, which comprises a double row of bamboo-like reeds and a hardwood sound box. In 2017, the Khaen music of Laos was inscribed as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Lam Lao is a typical Lao folk music form, where a singer or story-teller is accompanied by a Khaen performance. Lao folk arts are strongly influenced by Theravada Buddhist culture such as the Hindu epics, and these religious influences are well preserved in the national literature, “Ramayana.” Folk dances are usually accompanied by folk music “lam.” The most popular kind of folk dance or Lao national dance is “lam vong,” which is a slow and graceful couples-dance often performed at weddings, celebrations, and local social events. Lao culture embraces many celebrations on Buddhist holidays, political holidays and ethnic festivals.

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