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



Viharn and Decorations

text_24.gif (30906 bytes)



Until the 1960s, most external walls of temples in Luang Prabang were decorated with very beautiful mural paintings. However, they have since then been replaced with whitewash. Now, only the external temple walls of the larger pagodas are decorated, either with gold stencils on red or black backgrounds (Vat Xieng Thong), or with bas-relief in gilded cement (the walls under the porch of Vat Mai), or otherwise colored (the walls under the porch of Vat That).

The internal walls are often decorated with stencilled paintings on red or black backgrounds. On lateral walls these depict the episodes from the Jataka or Laotian legends. Front walls are evenly covered with many images of small Buddhas, while the back walls are always filled with bands of varied patterns.

The most common of these are of principal deities (thep phanom) framed by foliated scrolls with two or four arms in the praying position. Some are of the Kinnari type, half-human, half-animal figures. And yet others depict various mythical animals like the peacock, naga- or gajasimha-headed birds and lions with an elephant heads.

The lower part of the mural, like those of the columns and pillars, is bordered by a broad belt of floral-looking patterns.

Columns and pillars are often crowned with dok kal bua sao; large mortar or gilded cement leaf designs representing banana flower petals or lotus leaves. Gold or silver designs stencilled on red or black backgrounds cover most of the lengths of these columns or pillars.

As a rnle, the designs are in the form of thick-set crosses or trellis-work with lozenges or octogons. Columns and pillars may be decorated differently, to further vary their appearance; in this case the lattices are filled with various patterns of lozenges, florets and rosettes.

The rosettes may be used alternately with mythical aminals or deities. A ceiling extends above the central aisle, at times only at the bay area where the Buddha statue is placed. This lacquered plank ceiling is often painted red and decorated with flowerets, large roses, dancing dieties or mythical animals.


     Back to Luang Prabang and Its Art


SEAsite Laos | Overview | History | Art & Culture | Language | Literature

Gallery | Folklore | Other Topics | Links | SEAsite


2003 SEAsite Laos.  Treasures of Luang Prabang
Last Modified: