Storytelling and Sinxay – Key to Survival

Storytelling and Sinxay – Key to Survival

In our forthcoming book we have four contextual chapters: Buddhism, Lao Literature, Isan and Laos. These four chapter themes will also be the four categories we use to organize our posts, which for the most part, will fall into one, or more, of those four categories. This post on Storytelling and Sinxay will fall into both into the Lao Literature and Laos categories.

We write in our chapter on Lao Literature that:

“Most, if not all Lao literature, including Sinxay, owes its origins not to the individual who is credited with authorship (in Sinxay’s case, Pangkham), but to a larger and earlier tradition of oral storytelling shared by different Tai[1] and other Southeast Asian peoples.

In the essay “Books of Search,”[2] Peter Koret writes, “In many ways, a Lao story is not original to its written composer. When a Lao story was put into writing, it is likely to have already existed in one or more oral and/or written forms.”

[1] The Tai language group constitutes the largest single language family in mainland Southeast Asia.

[2] Koret, Peter. 2000. “Books of Search.” The Canon in Southeast Asian Literature. Smyth, David (ed.). Curzon Press. 212.

One of the people we were very fortunate to meet in Laos while doing our research on Sinxay was Thongkham Onemanison, a Lao author who remembers first hearing the story of Sinxay when it was read out loud by a weaver in the village where he grew up. When she needed a break from weaving she would read Sinxay from a palm leaf manuscript and Thongkham would always come to sit by her side, reveling in the riveting story of Sinxay. The first and only book analyzing Sinxay, The Role of Soumountha and the Wisdom of Sinxay, was written by Dr. Thongkham Onmanisone and published in 2012 by The Lao State Press in Vientiane. In addition, one of Onmanisone’s short stories was the first modern Lao literary work to win a prestigious SEAWrite award in 1998. In 2000, he published the first comprehensive official Lao dictionary, and, in May 2011, he was awarded the National Artist of Literature medal for his devotion and promotion of Lao literature. We had a Lao artist draw Thongkham, as a young boy, listening and imaging the story as read out loud by a weaver in his village in southern Laos, which is the featured image in this post.