When we were doing our research in Laos, we always were asking our informants, mostly monks and Pali scholars, if they knew of any related Sinxay art at temples in Laos. We were given some false leads and surprisingly we found the key Sinxay sites in our own explorations. When we stayed in Vientiane we always stay at the Vayakorn guesthouse located downtown across from Carol Cassidy’s Lao Textiles Gallery. Located within less than a 1 kilometer distance are several important wats. Wat Mixay, Wat Ong Teu, Wat Inpeng and Wat Haysoke. Wat Haysoke is a block off the main street and is probably considered the least “scenic” of all these wats. Regardless, tourists always seem to be walking across the wat’s grounds to get from point A to point B, and like most wats, the wooden panels covering the window openings are all carved. We must have walked through these grounds countless times during our Sinxay research and probably glanced at the carved windows, but always failing to look closely. Well, towards the end of our research I saw a window that seemed to be showing a scene from Sinxay and then, with the blinders taken off, I looked closely at all the carved window panels and lo and behold they were carved with scenes from Sinxay. And even more amazing is that the were sequenced telling the story of Sinxay. There is nothing like this in Laos, or even Isan. The murals in Isan are beautiful, but all the various scenes portrayed are haphazardly placed, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the compositions.
Thanks to our friend Saysamouth, a Pali scholar we worked with extensively, he told us that Abbot of Wat Haysoke at the time was Atjan Bouakeo and that it was now believed he lived in the states. When we got back I contacted various people I knew in different parts of the states and amazingly we learned he was an Abbot at Wat Buddhabhavana in Massachusetts. Since then we’ve communicated several times through email and in one email he told us the story of how he had the murals carved which is described in our book.
It is a Lao tradition that when stories like Sinxay were read from a Palm Leaf Manuscript that the readers, who were usually monks, began by paying homage to the memory of the writer and the spirit of the manuscript. We wanted to do the same with our book and about a year ago asked Atjan Bouakeo if he might like to write a homage for our book. We hadn’t heard from him in about a year, and then lo and behold, yesterday, June 18, an email appeared in our inbox from Atjan Bouakeo with an Anoumothana. This is so special and we will include both his Lao writing and an English translation. We indeed feel blessed that Atjan Bouakeo would pay us this honor and Sinxay will be that much better. In addition to this Anoumothana we have a blessing from Bounteum Sibounheuang. Sibounheuang is one of the most highly respected maw pawns in Vientiane. In Lao culture maw pawns, as highly esteemed elders, most often formermonks, play an essential role when they lead Baci ceremonies. These spiritual ceremonies are a time-honored tradition in Laos that commemorate special events, restoring harmony and balance to individuals and community.