New Discovery of Buddha Collection at Tam Nong Papha , Thakhek District, Khammuan Province, Central Laos

Director, Division of Archaeological Research




Tam Nongpafa was discovered in mid May 2004 by villagers of Ban Tha Khae and Ban Na Khangsang while rowing a canoe in a underground pond and searching for various forest products. The mysterious cave's entrance was hidden behind a vegetation about 12 metre above this pond and opens on a steep cliff wall of a limestone massive. During the last hundreds of years, inside of this cave was preserved not only the beauty of geological formations, but also a very precious cultural value of Lao art. It is a most significant Collection of Buddha Statues ever discovered in Laos. This Treasure Collection has survived intact and in good condition, it consists of 229 Buddha statues, made of bronze, lead, wood, terra cotta and pollen covered with gold and silver plated. Apart of the iconographic items, some of religious movables were also preserved. About 8 dates were identified in the palm leave manuscript and on the throne of statues. According to this written source, the manuscripts are belonging to the earlier date which between 1568 and 1627, whilst the pollen statues are between 1738-1754. Among the bronze statues, many of them represent a stylistic design that can be found a lot of similarity with those bronze statues displayed in Sisaket and Ho Phrakeo Museums in Vientiane. The small Bouddha made of pollen covered by gold and silver plated that known by traditional appellation as "Phra Keson Dokmai" are identical to those found in Luang Phrabang, Vientiane, Champassack and many places throughout the country.

Who takes the objects to this cave? When it was happened, when it was abandoned, what is the reason? Why to keep in such mysterious place? Why nobody remember about what was happened here? Where is the custodian gone? A lot of questions are still to be answered in the further research activity.