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Lao modern literature since 1975

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After 1975 established authors such as Outhine Bounyavong, Dara Viravongs, Pakian Viravongs, Douangdeuane Viravongs and Seree Nilamay resumed their literary activities alongside revolutionary writers such as Phoumi Vongvichit, Souvanthone Bouphanouvong, Chanthy Deuansavanh, Khamlieng Phonsena and Theap Vongpakay. They have since been joined by a younger generation of writers.

Lao literature Under the Royal Lao Government era

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Throughout the Royal Lao Government era, scholars such as Pierre Somchine Nginn and Maha Sila Viravongs continued to transcribe important works of traditional Lao literature which had not previously been available to the general public; many of these were subsequently published under the auspices of the Lao Literary Committee (fore-runner of the Lao Royal Academy, established in 1951) and the newly-established Vientiane General Library (later the National Library).

Lao literature during the French colonial period

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Printing arrived late in Laos; the first Lao publications appeared in the 1920s, but print quality remained relatively poor for decades after this, and during the latter years of the colonial period most French-language government publications were still printed in Vietnam, while Lao-language material was sent to neighbouring Siam.

Lao literature during the Lane Xang era

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The earliest recorded history of the Lao dates from the period immediately following the establishment of the kingdom of Lane Xang in the late 14th century, but the development of an indigenous Lao literary tradition is usually attributed to the reigns of three illustrious kings of the 16th century - Wisunarath (1500-1520), Photisarath (1520-1550) and Sai Setthathirat I (1550-1571).

Early Lao Literature

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As in neighbouring countries, the earliest literature to emerge in what is now the Lao PDR served to perpetuate the various proverbs, myths, legends and cosmology associated with particular ethnic groups. Today several of Laos' ethnic minority groups still preserve a rich tradition of epic stories, performed by village elders who are charged with keeping the ancient art alive.

Lao Literature

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In recent years, western interest in Southeast Asia has grown considerably. Literature from the region, both in academic publications and collections aimed at a more popular audience, has increasingly gained foreign attention. Literature in translation has begun to play a significant role in educating westerners about Southeast Asian culture and society. The increased importance of literature as an educational tool is a reflection not merely of the fact that there is a greater quantity of works available at this time but also of a gradual shift in the nature of Southeast Asian studies itself. Until recently, western readers (and particularly those without knowledge of a Southeast Asian language) had to rely solely on the writing of westerners for their knowledge of the region. In the field of Southeast Asian studies, the voice of the people of Southeast Asia has been conspicuously lacking. This is precisely why literature is not merely an entertaining way to learn about the region, but also unique in its usefulness. Literature in translation serves as a looking glass. Through fiction we have the opportunity both to observe how Southeast Asians view their own cultures and the ways in which they express their views to a Southeast Asian rather than a western audience.

Lao Sculpture

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Buddhist sculpture

The earliest Buddha images in present-day Laos are those of the Mon and Khmer kingdoms of the first millennium C.E. Dvaravati-style Mon Buddha images can be seen carved into the rock face at Vangxang, north of Vientiane, and several Mon and Khmer Buddha sculptures recovered from the central and southern provinces are exhibited in museums. The earliest indigenous Buddha images, dating from 1353-1500, show a strong Khmer influence, but by the reign of King Wisunarath (1501-1520), a distinctive Lao style had begun to develop, and statues displayed characteristic beak-like noses, extended earlobes, tightly-curled hair, and long hands and fingers. During this period, two distinctive mudras (hand positions), found only in Lao Buddhist sculpture, appeared: "Calling for Rain," in which the Buddha stands with both arms held stiffly at the side of the body with fingers pointing downwards, and "Contemplating the Tree of Enlightenment" in which the Buddha stands with hands crossed at the wrist in front of the body.

Lao Folk Dance

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Lao circle dance or Lamvong

The typical Lao folk dance is kind of circle dance or to dance in circle. This Lao circle dance is called "Lamvong" in lao language and it is a famous dance and greatly enjoyed during parties, weddings, festivals and other local celebrations.

Lamvong is a very easy dance that doesn't require any special skills and it's great fun so don't be shy. If you spend more time on the sidelines than on the dance floor at Lao parties and celebrations then you're missing out.

To dance the Lamvong, you basically move continuously round in a large circle, moving your arms, legs and bending your fingers to the music, but you should never be touching your dance partner. It is typically performed to mor lam (traditional) or luk thung (country) music. In Lao nightclubs, however, Western forms of dance predominate.

Lao circle dance

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As in neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia, one of the most popular social dances in Laos is the celebrated of circle dance (lamvong in laotian), in which couples dance circles around one another until there are three circles in all - a circle danced by the individual, a circle danced by the couple, and a circle danced by the whole crowd. It is a famous dance and greatly enjoyed during parties, weddings, festivals and other local celebrations.

Lamvong is a very easy dance that doesn't require any special skills and it's great fun so don't be shy. If you spend more time on the sidelines than on the dance floor at Lao parties and celebrations then you're missing out. Featuring delicate and precise movements of the hand, the lam vong is danced to a slow rhythm performed by an ensemble led by the khene. Subtle differences characterise the style of lam vong performed in different regions.

Lao Arts

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Except for modern and contemporary visual arts, Lao artistic traditions developed around religion and the political and social circumstances that governed the lives of the various ethnic groups in Laos. Many of these traditions, particularly sculpture, music, and classical dance, were strongly influenced by the Khmer, Vietnam, and Thai civilizations. The physical artistic heritage of Laos encompasses archaeological sites, religious monuments and cultural landscapes, traditional towns and villages, and a variety of highly-developed crafts including textiles, wood carving, and basket-weaving. The two great performing art traditions of Laos are rich and diverse folk heritage of the lam or khap call-and-response folk song and its popular theatrical derivative lam luang; and the graceful classical music and dance (natasinh) of the former royal courts.

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