Chief city of the province of Luang Prabang
Town of Luang Prabang
Politics (royal capital)
Location and site
In a mountainous region of north central Laos, Luang Prabang is situated at the junction of the upper Mekong River and a north bank tributary, the Nam Khan River; these two waterways define a peninsula. A sacred mount, the Phu Si, dominates the site.
The urban core at the centre of the peninsula brings together political and religious functions. At the periphery, residential and commercial activities occupy the shores of the two waterways in the traditional manner of early villages. The main street, known as the “Peninsula Promenade,” crosses the peninsula lengthwise over a distance of 1 km. A second axis crosses the first at its base, forming a colonial administrative centre at the crossroads. A rampart defines the limits of the old city.
With the royal and aristocratic residences, the Buddhist monasteries constitute the essential element of the historic city: shrines, that (stûpas), chapels, libraries, Buddhist monasteries and other structures. These groups of buildings, set in extensive gardens, are distinguished by their high roofs covered with glazed tiles, the whiteness of their walls and the rich decor of their woodwork. The traditional appearance of the residential architecture, originally in wood and then in brick during the colonial era, has been preserved.
Criterion (ii): Luang Prabang reflects the exceptional fusion of Lao traditional architecture and 19th and 20th century European colonial style buildings.
Criterion (iv): Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble built over the centuries combining sophisticated architecture of religious buildings, vernacular constructions and colonial buildings.
Criterion (v): The unique townscape of Luang Prabang is remarkably well preserved, illustrating a key stage in the blending of two distinct cultural traditions.
- In 1353 Lao Prince Fa Ngum, who was exiled in Angkor, founded the Kingdom of Lan Xang; its capital was Xieng Tong, later known as Luang Prabang. Xieng Tong was also the capital of an earlier principality, founded by the Lao people who came from Southern China, which was a vassal city of Angkor. Theravada Buddhism, which was growing in importance, was added to the local cults.
- At the time of the Burmese threat, the capital of the Kingdom of Lan Xang was transferred to Vientiane for strategic reasons in 1563, and Xieng Tong was renamed Luang Prabang.
- While there was order and prosperity during the reign of Suriya Vongsa (1637-1694), his succession led to a political crisis and the division of the Kingdom into two royal states (Vientiane and Luang Prabang) and a princely state (Champassac), as well as a number of exterior conflicts. Luang Prabang was pillaged in 1753, 1774 and 1791.
- The city went under intensified Siamese suzerainty in 1836, and was devastated by the “Black Pavilions,” the remaining part of the Chinese army of the Taiping movement, between 1887 and 1893. Its reconstruction and its re-establishment as the religious and royal capital of the State of Luang Prabang took place under King Sisavang Vong (1906-1947). It remained the capital until 1946.
- After the estabishment of the French protectorate in 1893, the traditional morphology of the city was combined with new urban principles between 1915 and 1925.
Mr. Chanhsouk Phandolack
City Administrative Office
Viengmay village, Meunloukthao road, Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, Laos
Mr. Saveuy Silavanh
Luang Prabang World Heritage Office
Xiengthong village, Sackarine road, P.O.box. 993
Luang Prabang District, Lao P.D.R
+85620 5999 5559