Luang Prabang / The National Museum





Photo: The National Museum

Until the communist takeover in 1975 this building directly opposite the town rock was the king's palace. The building itself is not very old. Its construction, consuming 20 years, was begun only in 1904. But it contains spectacular objects of art. However, the museum's most important piece of art can only be admired as a copy: a small Buddha statue by the name Pra Bang. The name of the town derives from the name of that statue: Luang stands short for Nakhon Luang = capital, Pra = holy. Luang Prabang may well be translated as Capital of Holy Bang.

The original statue is from 80 % gold. It is 83 centimetres high and weighs 50 kilograms. Allegedly, it was made in Ceylon in the first century of Christian reckoning. In the 11th century it was kept in Angkor until it was brought to Luang Prabang by the Laotian King Fa Ngoum, after he had married a Khmer princess. When King Setthathirat made Vientiane the capital of Laos, he took the statue there. In 1779 it was robbed by the Siamese, but was returned in 1839. The statue is the most important holy object of Laotian Buddhism.

For security reasons the original statue is said to be kept in a bank safe.