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).
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