Luang Prabang History


Archaeological evidence suggests that Luang Prabang has been inhabited since 8,000 BC. King Fa Ngum founded the first Lao kingdom, Lane Xang, in the 14th century, after he conquered and unified today’s Xieng Khouang Province, Khorat Plateau, and Luang Prabang.

Local inhabitants once referred to the city as Muang Swa, but by 1357, they changed the name to Muang Xieng Dong Xieng Thong. Shortly after, King Fa Ngum accepted a golden Buddha image, called the Phra Bang, as a gift from the Khmer monarchy. In response, he renamed the thriving city state, Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang was the administrative centre of Lane Xang until King Setthathirath moved the capital to Vientiane in 1560. Still, Luang Prabang remained the country’s main religious centre. The city’s first contact with the West occurred in the mid-17th century during the reign of King Surigna Vongsa.

After his death in 1694, Lane Xang broke up into three separate kingdoms: Vientiane, Champassak, and Luang Prabang. By the late 19th century, Luang Prabang was under attack by bandits. They destroyed many sacred Buddha images, temples, and historical documents.

King Sisavang Vong (1904-1959) launched a number of restoration and beautification projects in Luang Prabang, many of which exist today. French influenced buildings began to appear in the late 1800s, adding to the mix of Lao, Tai Lue, Burmese, Chinese, and Tai architecture.

In 1995, UNESCO declared Luang Prabang a World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved temples, traditional wooden dwellings, colonial houses, and natural environment.

Source: Lao Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism


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