Ancient Luang Prabang and Sinxay

Ancient Luang Prabang and Sinxay

Since Sinxay was written during the 2nd golden age of the Lan Xang Kingdom during the late 1600’s, one would think that there would be some work of art to be seen at one of the many temples in Luang Prabang about Sinxay. After all Luang Prabang was the first capitol of the Lan Xang Kingdom. But the fact is that the capitol was moved in the mid 1500’s to Vientiane, in the center of the kingdom, by the king at the time, Setthathirath. So it’s pretty clear that Sinxay was written well after the capitol had been established in Vientiane. Did Pangkham every make it up to Luang Prabang? We’ll never know. One would think though, with the prevalent thinking at the time most likely being that Sinxay was a jataka tale, and Luang Prabang being a center for Buddhism within the kingdom, that some monks would have wanted to have scenes from Sinxay carved for posterity in door or window panels. It’s so interesting that Sinxay seems to be more well known in Sam Neua, in the remote northeast of Laos, rather than in the world heritage site of Luang Prabang.

We haven’t been up to Luang Prabang for about five years and never did a serious search when we were there during the first phase of our research on Sinxay to see if there were any artistic works representing Sinxay to be seen at any of the temples in Luang Prabang. At that time our main reference in exploring all the marvelous temples in Luang Prabang was the outstanding book written by Denise Heywood. The book is Ancient Luang Prabang & Laos. In March 2015 she came up with a third revised, updated version of the same book. Her current photographs of the temples really are inspiring and she also provides many historical photographs. I know Bai and I find it valuable to see how temples looked 50-150 years ago.

We’ve communicated with Denise on and off over the years and recently asked her while she was in the middle of one of her tours to Luang Prabang if she had ever seen anything related to Sinxay in any of the temples. She just replied, “Today I talked to very knowledgeable expert on L Prabang and he says Sinxay is so little known and imagery hard to identify. He said you would need to find some very old artist here who might know more and recognise images if he saw them.”

Even in Luang Prabang Sinxay is relatively unknown! OMG  If there ever was a city in Laos where Sinxay should be represented, it would be Luang Prabang. We’ll see if our book on Sinxay can change that, ha, ha, ha. We “laugh” because nothing happens quickly in Laos. Even though the government declared Sinxay a cultural heritage a number of years ago, it has done little if anything to promote Sinxay. Again, we hope that our book might reawaken some interest in Sinxay.

We’re including some of our favorite photos of Luang Prabang in the gallery below.

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