The Luang Prabang national museum
An exact replica of lifestyle in the former Royal Residence, the former Royal Palace was built during the rule of King Sisavang Vong between 1904 and 1909. His son, King Sisavang Vatthana and his family were the last to occupy the grounds. In 1975, the Lao people gained independence from the monarchy and the following year, on 13th March, the palace was re-opened to the public as a national museum by the government.
It has been decorated with wall and mosaic paintings throughout and contains furniture and household goods used by the Royal Family. The richness of diplomatic gifts indicates how successful Luang Prabang had been as a kingdom at that time. The museums has over 50,000 artifacts on display in various rooms.
- The King’s Reception Room was the room where the ambassadors from far and wide came to deliver their credentials to the King. In 1930 King Sisavang Vong commissioned a French artist, Alix de Fautereau, to decorate the walls. The theme of this room is “daily life” in Luang Prabang from dawn to dusk. Another wall features reliefs of Ramayana.
- Throne Room consists the thrones. The main throne was used by the last monarch, King Sisavong Vattna. A smaller throne was used by the past kings such as Oun Kham, Khamsouk and Sisavang Vong. All walls in this room are decorated with colorful mosaics representing Lao folk tales, customs, ceremonies and wars. These mosaics made from Japanese glass and lacquer were produced by Laotian craftsman between 1963 and 1967.
- Prabang Room holds a statue of Lord Buddha, known as Prabang Buddha, with the palms of both hands facing outward. It’s a symbolic gesture of protection against all evils. This Buddha statue came from the King of Khmer when the first King of the Lan Xang empire, Fa Mgum, introduced Buddhism in the 14th century. Every Phi-Mai Lao(Lao New Year), the Buddha is carried to Wat Mai next to the museum and splashed with water, in a ceremony known as Song Nam Pha.
- The Queen’s Reception Room is where the Queen would meet with the people and entertain her guests. There are three Royal portraits by famous Russian artist, Ilya Glazunov. The main wall features King Sisavang Vattana, on the right wall is his wife, Queen Khamphouy and on the left wall is their son, the crown prince, Vongsavang. Each painting uses an artistic device that tricks the eye into thinking you are being followed around the room. See for yourself by moving from right to left while looking at the top of the King’s shoes.
The other rooms are Protocol Room, Bronze Drums Galleries, Reading Room, Queen’s Bedroom, King’s Bedroom, Children’s Room, Dining Room, Secretary’s Reception Room and Check Room.
The Royal Palace collections include :
- Jakarta Paintings which are drawn on cloth, consist of 16 chapters from the Jakarta tales. They tell stories of the previous lives of Prince Gautama who was destined to become Lord Buddha.
- Bronze Drums presented to the king by Pao Kham, a minority ethnic group. When they celebrate their harvest festival or certain ceremonies, people beat the drums which hang from the ropes threaded through handles on the side.
- Ramanaya masks, musical instruments and costumes in children’s bedroom, worn by the Royal dancers when they performed the dance of Ramanaya.
- Queen Khamphouy was good at making textiles. She embroidered, by hand, this Lao roll skirt known an a sinh. It is designed in the Luang Prabang style, featuring items such as birds, dragons, fish and butterflies.