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Architectural Art of the Monasteries


  Until the beginning of the XXth century all buildings in Luang Prabang were made of wood. The only exception to this rule were the temples, which on the whole, were built of bricks and mortar. However, of the sixty five monasteries accounted for in the XVIIIth century only twenty nine now remain; of these, only three - Vat Xieng Thong, Vat Pak Khane and Vat Khili - have retained their original structure and decoration.

Several reasons explain the disappearance of religious monuments in Luang Prabang. Firstly, the climate with its tropical storms and rains has ravaged these light and mostly wooden structures. Then, there were the fires which devastated the town on several occasions, particularly the one during the Laotian New Year in 1774. Finally, during both the French and American colonial periods, the reconstruction and restoration of the town was accompanied by the demolition of several temples to make way for administrative buildings, barracks and housing, and for the expansion of the airport.

However, from the various buildings (monasteries, chapels, stupas, temples), the furniture and statuary that are found generally in monasteries up to the present day, it is possible to define the general features of traditional Luang Prabang art, unique in its kind in Southeast Asia .  Each monastery in Luang Prabang is demarcated by a peripheral masonry wall. Doors in the form of prasat - a small, square, tiered and crowned tower, perforated on opposite sides by two large arched bays connected by a continuous passageway allow access to the sanctuary and its building annexes.


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