|Laos has a long tradition of oral literature,
including folk tales, children's stories, proverbs, parables and poems.
Talented narrators can recite lengthy poems, some as much as six hours
long, entirely from memory. Lam or khap is love poetry set
to music, performed as a solo or in duets. Some songs go on all night and
sessions have been known to last for up to 72 hours. Contests for spontaneous
poems and songs are also popular.
There are three masterpieces of Laotian literature: the Vetsantrasadok, the Sin Say, and the Thao Hung. The Vetsantrasadok is the most popular and deals with the life of Buddha before his enlightenment. Education through reincarnation is the theme of the story. The poet Phangkham wrote Sin Say. Sin Say, the hero, was born holding a bow and arrows in his hand. His brother, Sang Thong, was a golden snail, and his half-brother was an elephant with golden tusks. The story tells how the ogre Nhak Koumphan stole the brothers' aunt and how the brothers defeated the ogre and rescued their aunt. Thao Hung is a historical epic. Its hero belongs to the Mon-Khmer ethnic group. It recounts the struggle between ancient ruling families in Indochina.
|The Dhammapada is an important book in Buddhist literature. It contains 423 verses spoken by the Buddha on various occasions. For example, "Mind is the most important thing. It is the source of all actions. If we act or speak with an impure mind, we suffer. But if we act or speak with a clean mind, then we shall be happy." The Dhammapada was originally written in Pali, a language that closely resembles Sanskrit.||
|Laotian folk music is not written down but is
played from memory. Musical instruments include the khen (a bamboo
flute), buffalo horns, tam tam drums, xylophone and a two-string violin.
Maw lam, or Laotian theatre, is part of many Laotian festivals.
It may be a rehearsed production complete with costumes, or an informal,
improvised dialogue between two players.
Taos has a rich architectural heritage. One of its most famous buildings is the Great Stupa in Vientiane, which is considered a symbol of the country. The temples at Luang Prabang, the former capital, have been designated a World Heritage Site. They have graceful roofs that sweep down close to the ground.
|Traditional Laotian handicrafts include weaving and carving. Women weave colourful cloth of cotton or silk that is worn as a long, wrap-around skirt. The intricate patterns may include gold or silver thread. The patterns depict river dragons, flowing water or a mythical creature that is part-lion, part-elephant. Men carve in wood or bone. Some carvings have religious significance, others portray scenes from everyday life.|