Myth: Where the Lao People Came From
Lao history may not have been known to scholars outside
of Laos until "the 14th century when King Fa Ngum, with Khmer backing, succeeded in
uniting Laos and much of the present-day north-eastern Thailand into Lan Xang, the Kingdom
of a Million Elephants."1.
Yet, the Lao people themselves have always known the history of Lao people since the
beginning of time in their myth of the "Great Gourd from Heaven."
This myth does not only tell where the Lao people came from, but it also tells of Lao
cosmology. It consists of the world of Thaen, the world of human beings, and the
world of celestial beings called devata. Thaen is the great god in heaven
who is the creator of all, the earth and its inhabitants. Thaen also sends down Khun
Bulom, the first king of the humans. The first myth to be presented tells of how the
first king, Khun Bulom (Lord Bulom) was born to earth, how the earth was troubled because
of the gigantic gourd, and how Khun Bulom requested help from heaven, and how the earth
was populated with humans, animals, plants, jewels, and other things. The story of
Khun Bulom himself could be part of a myth of origin of the Lao people, yet it can also be
an example of heroic narratives or folk epics as well as an example of a historical
chronicle. As almost all Lao people know the name of Lord Bulom and consider him
their hero, Lord Bulom story will be presented under the heading "Lao Folk
Epics." The second myth is similar to the first, with a few detailed
variations. The story called Khua Khao Kad, (The Giant Creeper) tells of
how the earth faces great problems with the growth of the vine or creeper, how the
Greatest god, Thaen, sent the first couple of commoners down to earth to get rid of the
creeper, how the couple sacrified their lives to do so, and how humans must hold an annual
ritual to express their gratitude and greatfulness to the couple. Three versions of
the same story are presented here. Prior to the existence of Khua
Khao Kad, is the myth of Phya Khankhaak, the Toad King.2 This myth tells of how
human beings revolt and fight against Thaen, the great god, as he refuses to send rain to
earth. After the victory of Phya Khankhaak, the Toad King, human beings could
travel to heaven to learn magical knowledge. Later, they misuse the magic and kill
each other until a great pile of corpses grew to be a giant creeper that blocks the sun
and troubles the humans. In Phya Khankhaak, the Toad King myth,
the Toad King himself shoots up an arrow to destroy the creeper, sacrificing his own life
to do so. Lao Phuan3
is an important group of people in Laos, thus it is appropriate to present here a myth of
origin by the Lao Phuan called The Four Marvelous Brothers. The
Mekong River is important to the livelihood of the Lao, Thai, and other peoples living
along the river. It is well-known that it is the river of 2600 miles flowing from
Tsinghai (China), South and Southeast Asia down to the China sea in South
Vietnam. The Lao people has a myth to explain its origin as a part of a
Thai/Lao folk epic in verse, Phadaeng
Nang Ai in the episodes 9-13. The prose version of the story of the
origin of the Mekong is the last myth to be presented here.
The Great Gourd Of Heaven4
Long long ago the earth was covered with
dense forest, and one enormous creeper grew out of the forest and stretched right up to
the sky. It had only one gourd hanging from it, and this gourd was very, very big.
The gods in heaven had a meeting, and
decided that the earth should be inhabited, so one of the gods was sent down with his
followers. His name was Khoun Bulom, and he had two wives, Yommala and Akkai.
There were no men or animals on earth at
this time, just gods and some spirits. But the earth was very dark, because of
the huge gourd that blocked out the light from the sun. Khoun Bulom sent a messenger to
the Great God of heaven asking for help. The Great God, Pra In, ordered some other
gods to come down to the earth to cut away the creeper and to make holes in the gourd too.
As soon as they cut away the huge creeper, sunlight shone all over the earth, and
it became a very bright, very pleasant place indeed.
But making holes in the gourd was very
difficult task. At first the god used a pointed iron bar that they first
heated in the fire. And once they made the hole many human beings started to crawl
out from the centre of the gourd. But the hole was quite small and the human beings
found it difficult to squeeze through. The gods saw this so they made another hole,
this time with an axe. This axe made a big clean hole in the side of the gourd, and it was
not difficult for them to get out. They were whiter than those who came out first,
because the first human beings had to push their way out through the tiny, dark, sooty
hole that the iron bar had burnt in the side of the gourd. But all of them came
from the same place. Those who came first were the big brothers and sisters, and
those who came next were the younger brothers and sisters; they were very closely related.
The colour of their skin was not a problem for them at all.
These first human beings are the ancestors
of all humanity. From that place they spread out all over the world. They
adapted themselves to the various climates and natural environments in different places.
But the important thing is that they came out from the same place and were the same
human beings, and they truly loved one another as brothers and sisters.
When all human beings had come out, the gods
pierced another hole in the gourd and many animals came out--elephants, horses, cows and
so on, and after them many things came out for the human beings to use to make life
beautiful. Jewels of all kinds, gold and silver.
Lao people have handed this story down from
generation to generation, and it shows how every tribe is as worthy of honour and as
significant as all the others, because we're all brothers and sisters and come from the
Khua Khao Kad, The Giant Creeper5
See the Picturebook
Phya Thaen sent one of his sons named Khun Bulom
to be born on the human world. Khun Bulom gathered all the people and led them to
establish a city in a land called "Na Noi Oy Nu" (the present day Laos).
The king ruled the city for a long time but the people were poor. So, they begged
Phya Thaen for help.
Phya Thaen looked over the city with his divine eyes and saw the giant
creeper called Khua Khao Kad whose vine was huge and long. It crept up from
earth to heaven. The branches and leaves of the creeper were so huge that they
blocked the sunlight which in turn prevented the people from having good crops from their
agriculture. Besides, the vine became paths for the ghosts to come to the human
Seeing this, Phya Thaen sent an old married couple called Pu Mod and Ya
Ngam to the human world. The couple led the people to make a living for a long time,
but everyone was still as poor as ever. The people came to gather for consultation
and unanimously agreed that "the cause of all the poverty and hardship came from the
giant creeper. We must have it cut."
Actually, the cutting of the giant creeper is very complicated and the
cutter would be killed after having cut the vine. Pu Mod and Ya Ngam realized that
they had been sent to earth by Phya Thaen to help the people. Thus, they felt ready
to sacrifice their lives for the well-being of everyone on earth.
Before attempting to cut the vine, the couple gave their last word:
"After we are dead, if you have meat, you must send some to me with the crow.
If you have fish, you must send some to me with the vulture." Then, the old
couple began cutting the vine days and nights until they lost all their energy. . . .
Now to express their gratitude and to thank Pu Mod and Ya Ngam, the people
make merit and dedicate it to the old couple every year.
Pu Nhoe and Ya Nhoe,
Grand-parents of Luang Phrabang6
See Video of
Historically, "Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe" were called Pu Sangkasa and Ya
Sangkasi or Phikohn. King FaNgum nominated this elderly couple to be the ghost
of Xiangthong Captial, Lanxang Kingdom, six years before Buddhism arrived in Laos in 1353.
Based on Muang Thaeng (Thaen) history and Laichao or the Laichao
(presumably in South China) that Maha Ouphalad Onkeo governed in 1835, it is believed that
Pu Nhoe and Ya Nhoe were sent to earth by God. They arrived on the earth to fulfill
the request of Putalok and Putalao who wished them to cut down the giant creeper whose
vine reached the heaven. Its leaves blocked the sunlight and darkened the
earth. This giant creeper called Khua Khao Kad grew at the Nong Ula close
to the village Tasaengsammuen where Putalok and his 29 children and Putalao and his 20
children lived. Then Khun Burom named the village the capital of Nachao; the
capital was renamed Laichew or Laichao in 1272.
After the French conquered Vietnam in 1885, Muang Thaeng's name was
changed to Dien Bienphu. The Words Sibsong Chutai or Sibsong Chaotai refer to
12 areas, but according to Laichao history; it was called Sibsong Phuhai.
Pu Nhoe agreed to cut the creeper, even though he himself would die.
He told the people to remember his sacrifice, by calling his name "Nhoe"
all the time. Thus, the word "Nhoe" appears at the end of
most sentences or phrases in Lao. For example, ma nhoe (come here), non
nhoe (go to sleep), kin nhoe (please eat), and so on.
Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe became important to most royal rites in Luang Phrabang.
For example in the coronation ceremony, Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe would be the first to
pour the holy water on the king for blessings. In the royal cremation, Pu Nhoe Ya
Nhoe would lead the ceremony. In the Lao New Year's celebration, Pu NhoeYa
Nhoe joyfully danced. Even now in the New Year's celebration, manikins of Pu
Nhoe Ya Nhoe lead the procession, dancing. Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe have become
significant parts in all important ceremonies.
The first time PuNhoe YaNhoe featured in the New Year's dance was during
the reign of King Sakkalin in Wat Xiengthong. Later, other temples like Wat Kang and
Watmanolom adopted the dance. During King Visoune's reign, the dance was performed
on the first day of the New Year's ceremony at Wat Visoune. The last day of the
ceremony, the dance was performed in Wat Phrakaew. Later, the final dance was
performed at Wat That and at Wat That consecutively and to these days the final dance of
Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe has been performed at Wat That.
Besides being featured in the New Year's celebration, there is a worship
ceremony for Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe on the eight day of the sixth lunar month. In all
ceremonies or celebrations, a figure of a lion always appears dancing behind the manikins
of the couple. It is believed that once Pu Nhoe Ya Nhoe caught the lion in the
Himavanta Forest. They raised the lion as their own adopted son, who also became
their guard, as it was the strongest and most powerful animal. People in Luang
Prabang like to name their children using the word "sing (lion)" as
part of the names. That is why, we hear of the word "sing" in
many things and places. People may be named Singkham (golden lion) or Singkeo
(precious lion). One of the towns in Sipsongphanmali Region was called Muang Sing
(City of the Lion). The powerful voice of the king is called "Singhanaht (like
a lion roar)." The royal window is called "singhabanchon (the lion
window)" and the royal bed is called "singhad" (bed of the
The Four Marvelous Brothers7
Once upon a time, there was a childless old couple who lived near the
river bank at the foot of a high mountain. The couple had been poor ever since they
had been married. The couple wished to have children to help them work and to
continue their lineage. Other families near them enjoyed having children around.
Those with children could travel here and there easily. For this poor old
couple, they could not enjoy such pleasure. Even when they got exhausted, they could
not afford to stop working. They had to work to earn their living.
The poor couple consulted with each other one day: "We should
go to ask for blessings from the devata guarding the high mountain. Perhaps
we may have a meritorious child who is diligent and may be a great help to us in farming.
He can look after us when we get sick or take care of our properties after we have
passed on. Then, we can be like others in our village."
Thus, the couple prepared flowers, candles, and incense sticks to go ask
for a child as their wish. The two raised their joined hands in a prayer
position and together they spoke: "Sathu, sathu, we are so poor and suffering.
May the great devata bestow a great blessing on us. May we be granted a
child of our own."
On the way home, an unusual incident occurred. It so frightened them
that they both turned pale. When they looked up in the sky, they saw a giant dragon
blowing multicolored rays of fire down onto a bush right in front of them.
The old couple thought, "There must be something magical happening
there." After the dragon disappeared in the clouds, they rushed to look at the
bush. They saw a golden pumpkin, a silver squash, and black and white grains,
shining like diamonds and jewels. They carefully wrapped those things in a phakhawma,
the all purpose cloth, and returned home.
Once home, the couple did not know where to properly put those things.
"How about putting them in a corner of the hut?" asked the husband.
"Oh, no, they might get soiled," said the wife. "How about
putting them in a jar?" asked the wife. "Oh, no, they might be too stuffy,
" said the husband. Then, the husband had an idea. "I will weave a
bamboo cradle and hang it in the middle of the room. What do you think, Wife?"
The wife agreed, "That's a good idea. We could put our children in the cradle
and rock them back and forth." The husband then began weaving the cradle.
Once it was done, he hung the cradle in the middle of the room, and said to his
wife, "Now we must take very good care of our children." And so they
did; they loved their "children" as much as their own eyes.
Days and nights went by, the golden pumpkin, the silver squash, the rice
grain, and the sesame seed grew unusually large and heavy. The old couple could no
long lift them. The wife could only rock the cradle back and forth, taking a very
good care of them as if they were their own children.
Ever since they have been in possession of the four things, the old man
became stronger and more diligent. He went to work on his farm more regularly.
Each day the old man would clear the entire mountain for farming without feeling
tired. Each day he would plant his crops without the least fatigue. Each day,
the old man would see more and more of the lush squashes, pumpkins, sesame seeds, and rice
grains. He could not believe his own eyes, and each day he would say in awe,
"Wow, look at all those crops. I can't possibly do all that by
myself! That is the work of a hundred strong men."
The old man came to tell his wife about what he saw. Both of them
became amazed and puzzled. That night the couple had a plan. They went to bed
earlier than usual so that they could wake up at night to watch their
"children." Late at night, as the couple were hiding and watching the
cradle, they became astounded and speechless. They saw four handsome young lads
hatching out of the golden pumpkin, the silver squash, the rice grain, and the sesame
seed, carrying farming tools in their hands. The four young men then left the hut.
The couple hurried to hide the shells of the golden pumpkin, the silver squash, the
rice grain, and the sesame seed before tracing the four young men's track. They
wondered what they would be doing in the middle of the night. Once they reached the
farm, they saw the four young men digging the earth, making vegetable beds, and planting
something at great speed. It seemed as if they were using magic.
As the dawn was approaching and the roosters began to crow, the four
hurriedly walked home. Once home, they could not find their shells. They began
searching for them, but in vain. Then, they began to discuss and reason. The
old couple came out of hiding and said to them, "My sons, don't feel upset
about this. You can live keeping your human forms and continue living with us.
We love you so much." The four young men replied, "Dear Father, Dear
Mother, if you so love us, please allow us to live in our shells until the proper time has
come. We shall turn into complete human beings on the full moon night of the
twelfth lunar month." The old couple listened in awe. "On that day,
you must prepare a tray of flowers, candles, and incense sticks to present to the shells
to pay homage to them on our behalf. Once we are out of the shells, we could
continue doing the same thing on the same day each year. Then, the shells will
become magic and good for healing all kinds of sickness." After so saying, the
four young lads said goodbye and returned to live inside their shells again.
On the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, the old couple followed
the young men's instructions. And the young men continued living and taking care of
the couple happily until they reached the age of eighteen. Then, the sons begged
their mother to carry a golden pumpkin, a silver squash, some rice, and sesame seeds to
offer as gifts to the kings of four cities and ask for hands in marriage of the daughters
of those kings. When the king of each city glanced at the golden pumpkin, the silver
squash, the rice, and the sesame seeds, they became delighted and were more than happy to
grant the old woman's request. The sons then became royal son-in-laws. Each
son inherited the part of the kingdom together with subjects to be under his care.
The golden pumpkin prince became Phya Muang Lum or king of the lowland whose protectorate
covered lands along the Ngiew River. The silver squash prince became Phya Muang Fa,
king of the great high mountains. The black sesame seed prince became Phya Muang
Thoeng, king of the highlands which are Phu Xuang, Phu Saed, and Phu Daedka. The
fourth prince became Phya Sipsong Hou Muang, king of the twelve areas.
Since the four brothers went to rule the four cities, the shells of the
golden pumpkins, the silver squash, the rice grains, and sesame seeds became mines of
gold, silver, gems, and jewels spreading all over the lands. Thus, their
subjects who were commoners could use those precious things for their ornaments.
When farming season came, the kings came to help their people work in the
fields and farms. Everyone was helping each other year in and year out until it
became a custom for the people to lend helping hands in farming. Thus, each city
became prosperous with graneries filled with rice, ponds filled with fish, farms filled
with pumpkins, squashes, sesame plants, and rice of all kinds and colrs, the black rice,
the red rice, the brown rice.
As time went by, the four kings led their people to build their cities to
be prosperous with contented subjects. The old couple alternately went to visit
their sons' families and grandchildren. They led the people in the rite of paying
homage to the shells of the pumpkins, squashes, rice, and sesame seeds after the harvest
was done on the full moon day in the twelfth lunar month.
Since then, Lao people from some areas will hold a merit making ceremony
after harvest each year. They believe that by having such a ceremony, the spirit of
their deceased ancestors and relatives will receive the merit and would be contented and
peaceful. The offering units in these ceremonies often include pumpkins, squashes,
sesame seed bags, sticky rice and sesame seeds, sesame rice chips, rice grains, cooked
rice, and popped-rice. When people fall ill, they would use dried shells of
pumpkins, squashes, rice grains, and sesame seeds to mix with other ingredients to make
medicine for healing, as told by the four brothers in the myth.
The Creation of the Mekong8
The source of the Mekong, one of the largest rivers in the world, is Kuva
Lake, commonly known as Nong Kasae Segnan. Many years before the Buddhist Era, Nong
Kasae was so vast that nobody could walk around it. It was located on the Tibetan
slope which is now Chinese territory, but during that time it was the property of the
Kingdom of Laos. Not far away in Tibet is the source of another of the world's great
rivers. The Yangtze Kiang, believed by some to be the "Nan" river, referred to
below. The lake was surrounded by a deep forest where tall evergreen trees hid many
kinds of wild animals. The lake, covered with abundant aquatic plants, including different
varieties of the lotus, was the home of fish, crabs, birds, snakes and dragons. It
was the playground of king dragons. Lao people always say that the Mekong originated from
Nong Kasae and that the water from the Mekong and from the Nan River cannot mix in the
same bottle, for the bottle will crack or even burst. The story behind that goes
Once upon a time there lived two dragon kings in Nong Kasae. One was called Souttoranark
and the other was Souvanranark. Each was very powerful and had many thousands of
followers. They became very good friends. Every year they visited and helped one
another in many ways, often exchanging gifts. One day King Soutto and his men went
into a forest to hunt. He was lucky to find big game, an elephant. In spite of its
thin hair, the elephant is one of the largest animals. King Soutto gave a big share
of the meat to his friend. When Souvanranark received the gift, he was delighted and
sent back a message to thank his friend.
One day in the third month, King Souvanranark and his soldiers went out to
hunt along the lake. He was making a determined effort to find big game such as
deer, rhinoceros, elephants or buffaloes, but they did not have any luck. He
could not find anything. Finally he managed to get a porcupine. He and his people
returned to the palace and began to skin and cut up the animal. Then the king
divided the meat into equal parts. Souvan had his men take Soutto's share to him.
Seeing that the skin and the spines of the animal were beautiful, the king sent some of
them along, too. When King Soutto looked at the amount of meat in comparison with
the spines, he though that his friend was unfair. "How could he possibly do that to
me?" he thought. "Only this much meat from the biggest animal in the world? I
can't believe it," he said. He refused to accept the gift and told his friend's
soldiers to return the gift. He also told them to ask their king to come to see him
personally. But before leaving, King Souvan's soldiers pled, "Your Majesty,
this is the meat of a porcupine. Although its spines are much larger than elephant
hair, its body itself is much smaller than an elephant. That is why we could bring
only this much meat."
King Soutto was still very angry and would not listen. Upon their arrival at King
Souvan's palace, the men went straight to report the incident. "Your Majesty,"
they said, "your gift that we delivered has been refused. King Soutto also told
us to ask you to come to see him tomorrow."
King Souvanranark, after hearing that, said, "What has become of my dear friend?
I'm going to find out myself tomorrow. In any case, I don't think he is going
to give up. I don't think he will listen to my explanation. And I don't
think he knows what a porcupine is. He just looked at its spines and thought it was
an animal bigger than an elephant. Why doesn't he see that what I gave was a sincere
gift? Even though it was just a small amount, it was an equal share. I didn't
take advantage of him. Why did he return it to me with anger instead of
At dawn the following morning, King Soutto assembled all his men in the meeting hall
thinking his friend would come. When all his men reported to him, Soutto spoke to them
with a firm voice, "We should be prepared because our friend Souvan has betrayed us.
He did not follow our agreement. He will come to settle the problem with me by
himself. All of you know that a porcupine is a larger animal than an elephant because its
spines are so big and sharp, it must be the largest animal in the world."
After his ministers heard that, they thought they should explain to the king which animal
was larger, but they were afraid of being executed. Instead, they kept quiet
and said, "We are ready to listen to your order, Your Majesty."
At that moment, Souvan and his people appeared. Even though King Soutto was still
angry he gave his friend a warm welcome. But he thought he wouldn't excuse Souvan if
he did not admit that he was guilty. As soon as the meeting opened, Soutto began
speaking, "Dear friend, Souvan, I thought we were really sincere friends and both
would follow our agreement seriously. I don't see how you could betray me."
Souvan denied his friend's accusation of being dishonest. He said that he loved and
trusted his friend. He could swear for his faithfulness. These statements made
Soutto even more furious and he said he could not listen. He invited comments from
He asked, "Which of us is selfish or inconsiderate? When I got an elephant, a
smaller animal than a porcupine, I gave my friend an equal share while he gave me only a
small amount of the porcupine meat. That was not fair."
When Soutto finished talking, his soldiers clapped and laughed at King Souvan. When
the noise faded away, Souvan explained again, "Please listen again, my dear friend.
I don't think you have ever seen a porcupine. You cannot judge the size of an
animal by the size of its spines or hair. An elephant is a big animal but its hair
is very thin. Even its eyes are small. The eyes of other animals, such as buffaloes,
cows and horses are larger than an elephant's, but their bodies are smaller. Of
course, a porcupine's spine is larger than the hair of an elephant, but its body is not
much larger than some kinds of birds. Please don't misunderstand. Don't break our
friendship. Please think that I am always your good friend and I also think that you
are always my best friend."
No matter what and how much Souvan tried to explain, Soutto insisted that what his friend
said was not true. He rose from his chair and walked away. Souvan left without
knowing what was going to happen next.
A few days later, Soutto sent a message to Souvan saying that if Souvan was still stubborn
he should prepare for an attack. After reading the message Souvan realized that he
had no choice. He immediately sounded the gong to assemble his men. When they
gathered they discussed how ignorant and inconsiderate Soutto was.
Seven days after the message reached Souvan, Soutto moved his force to Souvan's territory.
All the dragons come with magic power. They moved so fast that they churned
the water until it was muddy. Suddenly, Souvan ordered his soldiers to confront
them, causing a big turmoil. All the Kuva area became cloudy and hazy. The sun
could not be seen for seven days. All the animals, big and small, were afraid.
The birds flew away. The war went on and on, for the two sides were equally
strong. The water became muddier. More and more living beings were dying, and
chaos forced some of the gods living in the heavens to move away. The king of gods
sympathized with the small animals; so he cast a spell with his supernatural power to
threaten the two friends. Finally, they stopped fighting.
The god ordered them to build two rivers to compensate for their deeds. Soutto was
responsible for making the Mekong from the lake to the sea, while Souvan was put in charge
of building the Nan river. The god finally convinced Soutto of the size of a
porcupine and made him understand Souvan. Ever after they were good friends again.
But the waters of the two rivers have not yet forgotten the hatred that led to their
Peter, "Laos" in Traveller's Literary Companion to South-east Asia,
edited by Alastair Dingwall, Brighton, UK: In Print Publishing, 1994, p. 121.
Khankhaak, the Toad King: A Translation of an Isan Fertility Myth in Verse,
translated by Wajuppa Tossa, original transcription by Phra Ariyanuwat Khemajari,
Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1996. The original Isan version of the myth is
almost identical to the Lao version published by the Ministry of Education in Vientiane,
Laos in 1970. The differences are the introductory section by the scribe and the
ending of the story. See also "Notes on the Translation of Phya Khankhaak" pp.
14-23. Click here
for summaries of Phya Khankhaak, the Toad King.
Lao Phuan and Xiangkhwang Region
From Administrative Map of Laos PDR,
Vientiane: The National Geographic Department, 1999.
Lao Phuan is a lowland Lao ethnic group, living in Xiangkhwang
region. From the above map, the Lao Phuan live in the yellow portion in the middle
of other important regions like Vientiane, Special Region Xaisomboun, Luang Phrabang, and
Huophan. Xiangkhwang has been recognized as an important military site for it is
situated on the highest mountain in Laos. All political factions tried to seize this
region to gain the upperhand in battle. Thus, the region itself repeatedly became a
battlefield. During the revolutionary war, over two millions bombs were dropped in
the region. The city of Xiangkhwang itself was almost completely destroyed.
Many of the people immigrated to other regions. After the war was over in 1973, the
Xiangkhwang people returned to settle in the region again. Xiangkhwang has been
well-known for its unusually cool weather with diversity of plants and hot springs as well
as its historic site called Thong Haihin (the Plains of Jars). It is believed that
these giantic jars belonged to Thao Cheuang, the Lao epic hero.
The Lao Phuan people have suffered the consequences of wars. They
had to migrate to other regions several times since the early eighteenth century.
Because of the political turmoils, the Lao Phuan people sometimes had to pay tax to two
kingdoms, the Vientiane and the Annamese kingdoms. Many of them were relocated and
settled in Siam in Sisattanalai, Saraburi, Ban Chiang (Udonthani).
The Lao Phuan people are skilled in silk production with various designs
especially the matmitilai (ikat designs) with refined thin silk
thread and delicately complex designs.
The Lao Phuan of Xiangkhwang are friendly and generous hosts as their
famous saying goes: one must not let the guests or visitors leave his/her home without a
gift in hand. They are also known for their gifts of singing and composing love
poems called phaya keowkan.
The information above is summarized and translated from Doungdeuane
(Viravongs) Bounyavong, Watchananukom pakob huup (Lao Pictorial Dictionary),
Vientiane: K. S. Kanphim, 1998, pp. 38-42.
Great Gourd of Heaven" is told by Somvavanh Phanmatha in The Great Gourd
Of Heaven : A Selection of the Folk-tales and Stories of Laos. Collected by
Roisin O Boyle and Thavisack Phanmathanh, Vientiane: Vannasin Magazine, The Ministry of
Information and Culture, 1992, pp. 1-3.
Louanglad, Khua Khao Kad, The Giant Creeper, Vientiane: Long phim haeng lad
(The Government Printing Press), 1993. This story is retold by Souban Louanglad who
adapted the story told by Pathoumthong published in Vannasin Magazine in January 1980
. This version is translated into English by Wajuppa Tossa.
Vongsackda, "PhouNheu and NhaNheu, Grand-parents of Luang Phrabang" Muong
Lao, April 1999, pp. 18-9. This story is much the same as the Khua
Khao Kad, the Giant Creeper, but the names of the old couple are different and that
this story is told and the ritual to thank the old couple is practiced in Luang
Phrabang. The story is published in English. I edited the English
translation, changing the spelling to conform to the Library of Congress's
transliteration. PhouNheu NhaNheu becomes PuNhoe YaNhoe. Other
versions of the same stories could be found in the following:
"Grandfather Sangasa and Grandmother Sangasy"
in Legends of the Lao, a Compilation of Legends and other Folklore of the Lao People,
by Xay Kaignavongsa and Hugh Fincher, [United States] : Geodata Systems, 1993, p. 5.
"Grandfather Gneu and Grandfather Gneu" in Stories
from Laos: Folktales and Cultures of the Lao, Hmong, Khammu, and Iu-Mien, translated
and edited by Rosalie Giacchino-Baker from Ecoles Sans Frontieres, CA: Pacific Asia Press,
1995, pp. 5-13.
Nettavongs, The Four Marvelous Brothers, Vientaine: Longphim haeng lat
(The Government Printing Press), 2000. The story is in Lao, but the author provides
a summary in English at the back of the book. The English version, translated
by Wajuppa Tossa, presented here is a complete translation from the Lao version.
8. Xay Kaignavongsa
and Hugh Fincher, Legends of the Lao: A Compilation of Legends and other Folklore of
the Lao People, [U.S.A.]: Geodata Systems, 1993, pp. 23-26.
In the Creation of the Mekong River story from Phadaeng
Nang Ai mentioned in the text, the king dragons are the Naga Kings. The names
of the two naga are Suttho Naga King and Suwan Naga King.
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