Main Contents Luang Prabang and Its Art Furniture and Statuary Beliefs and Religions Population and Habitat

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Buddha Images

bhudda_images.gif (50565 bytes) It is undeniable that Khmer and Thai arts have had an influence on Laotian sculpture, but Luang Prabang artists, for whom each Buddha image possesses its own spirit, have sought to attain their goal by following a path which led them to an elegant and spare stylisation. In its most highly idealized representation, the image of the Buddha should have an egg-shaped head and face, eyebrows like a drawn bow, a nose like the beak of an eagle and smooth, round arms like elephant tusks.

However, three major features characterize the Luang Prabang Buddha in comparison to those of the neighboring countries. The usanisa (cranial protuberance) is always embellished with a stylized flame; the ear-lobe unusually long is shaped like a snail shell; and the urna or divine frontal sign is never represented.

Images of the Laotian Buddha, like all others in South East Asia, wear clothes: the antaravasada wrapped around the hips and the uttarasanga draped in monastic style. The sanghati folded and carried on the left shoulder, can seen on some Buddha statues.

The sitting Buddha, in the virasana in the maravijaya attitude has his left hand resting on the lap; while the right hand, palm on knee, touches the pediment with the tips of the fingers, thereby calling the earth as witness. Those in the samadhi attitude, both hands resting in the lap, right hand on the left, are most often represented in Luang Prabang.

The Buddha of Enlightenment, seated under a canopy of naga head protecting his profound meditation is quite rare in Laos. The attitudes of the Standing Buddhas are more varied. The Buddha may be standing still with a gesture of "Absence of Fear", interpreted in Laos as being the ‘Buddha quietening family quarrels94. In the abdhaya mudra attitudes, both palms are turned forward or if both arms are hanging beside the body, it is considered to represent ‘Calling the rain over a Kingdom affected by drought'. In some cases, the hands may be crossed on the stomach or carrying an alms bowl with both hands in the attitude of the begging Buddha.

There is also a Buddha in a walking posture advancing on either foot. On the side of the leading foot, the hand is lifted in the gesture of ‘Reassuring' or of ‘Increase'.

In Luang Prabang, wooden or bronze Buddha statues adorned with the finery of Cakravatin monarchs, or even with the attributes of royalty on their monk92s robes are not that common. And even rarer, since in Luang Prabang there is only a single statue at Vat Xieng Thong dating from 1569, is a representation of the Buddha lying down.

The Luang Prabang Buddha has a profoundly moving effect by its grace, its gentleness, the fluidity of line of its chest and thighs, the narrowness of its hips, the elegance of its gestures and the slimness of its hands. It is covered with gold leaf by the faithful, not so much to enrich the image, but to convey the color of the great sage's skin endowed with a golden incarnation. It is therefore one of the most representative elements of the traditional art of Luang Prabang which must, in our opinion, be protected and preserved.




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2003 SEAsite Laos.  Treasures of Luang Prabang
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