Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang | Adventure Laos

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang

Wat Xieng thong is the largest and most splendid temple (“wat”) of Luang Prabang royal city. It was built on the Mekong River bank in 1560, under the reign of King Setthathirat (1548 – 1571). The temple is best known for its impressive mural Tree of Life describing Buddhist story.
The best time to visit this temple is the early morning: you can capture the best light for successful pictures. You’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer tourists.
There are many legends about the place where the Nam Khan enters the Mekong. It is believed to be the site where the two hermits, who founded Luang Prabang, placed the boundary stone for the new settlement. Another story tells about a betel merchant with the name of Chanthapanit who built a palace on this site, making himself the first king of the new capital. It has been said that he was the first founder of Wat Xieng Thong. The union of the Nam Khan with the Mekong is also said to be the home of two nagas (water spirits in the form of large snakes), the guardians of the river. A shrine to the nagas existed at the site until recently.

During the 1960s Wat Xieng Thong was completely remodeled with sweeping roof. The entrance was redecorated and gilded. Both the interior and the exterior walls were covered with black, glossy lacquer. On the back wall, a large mural named “a tree of life” was set in colored glass mosaics. The sophisticated decoration of Wat Xieng Thong represents amazing skills of Lao artisan.

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang
A superb piece of Lao temple architecture, Wat Xieng Thong presents a sweeping two-tiered roof and ornate mosaics including a beautiful ‘tree of life ‘glass montage on the rear temple wall. The tree portrays the tale of the founding of the temple which legend states was by two hermits who decided to create the sanctuary next to a large flame tree where the rivers met. The story continues inside with dharma wheels depicted in gold on the ceiling. Relics include a rare reclining black Buddha dating back to the reign of King Setthathirat displayed in the Red Chapel. The Buddha image was showcased in Paris in 1931 before being returned to the temple in 1964 and it is considered to be extremely unique.

Additional highlights of Wat Xieng Thong are the drum tower, the Triptaka library added in 1828 and the central sim or ordination hall which dates back to the founding of the temple in 1560. One of the more unmissable exhibits due to its sheer size is the remarkable funeral carriage which was once carried through the streets of Luang Prabang containing royal ashes, the royal urns with ashes inside reside close by with a naga or serpent king statue guarding them. Nagas and other mythical statues complete the elaborate decorations at exquisite Wat Xieng Thong.

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