Culture of Laos

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A village pagoda near Park Ou, Laos.
Laos musicians during a Baci celebration in 1973.

Laos has its own distinct culture. Through Theravada Buddhism it has influences from India and has also influences from China. These influences are reflected throughout Laos in its language as well as in art, literature and the performing arts.

The Lao way of life is very much influenced by Buddhism, as can be seen in the way that Lao people live and behave. They are taught to be patient and to accept people. In the past, when law enforcement was not in place, Buddhism was the only thing that bound people together, taught people to be good, and discouraged detrimental behavior.


Further information: Lao language

The primary language in Laos is Lao, however there are other Laotian dialects spoken by the ethnic minority groups living in Laos. The Lao language is a very polite language with multiple tiers of politeness including common polite particles such as "Jao" and "Doi".


Further information: Religion in Laos

Almost all ethnic or "lowland" Lao (Lao Loum and Lao Lom) are followers of Theravada Buddhism. They constitute 40-50% of the population.

The remainder of the population belongs to at least 48 distinct ethnic minority groups. Most of these ethnic groups (30%) are practitioners of Satsana Phi ("deities' religion[s]"), with beliefs that vary greatly among groups.

Satsana Phi is predominant among most Lao Theung, Lao Sung, the Sino-Thai groups, such as the Thai Dam and Thai Daeng, as well as among Mon-Khmer and Tibeto-Burman groups. Among lowland Lao, many pre-Buddhist phi religious beliefs have been incorporated into Theravada Buddhist practice. Catholics and Protestants constitute approximately 2% of the population. Other minority religious groups include those practicing the Bahá'í faith, Mahayana Buddhism, and Chinese folk religions. A very small number of citizens are atheist or agnostic.

Festivals and public holidays[edit]

An important festival in Laos is Boun Pha Vet[1] celebrated once a year. This is a two day Buddhist festival that involves the entire community. Traditionally the Boun Pha Vet is held in January or February depending on the moon cycle. During the ceremony the monks give a sermon of all chapters of the Maha Wetsandon Chadok, otherwise called the Great Birth Sermon.


Further information: Music of Laos

Laotian music is dominated by its national instrument, the khaen (a type of pipe constructed from bamboo). Bands typically include a singer/rapper (mor lam) and a khaen player (mor khaen), alongside fiddlers and other musicians. Lam saravane is the most popular genre of Laotian music, but ethnic Lao in Thailand have developed a popular form called mo lam sing.

One significant archive of ancient Laotian culture is the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang province.

Traditional clothing[edit]

Laotian women wearing xout lao.
Main article: Xout lao

Traditional Laotian clothing for the Lao ethnic group is called xout lao (Lao: ຊຸດລາວ Lao pronunciation: [sut.láaw]) which literally means "Lao outfit". It can be worn by men, women, and children. Xout lao for women usually consists of a sinh, either a blouse or a suea pat, and a pha biang. Xout lao for men includes a pha hang or pants, a shirt similar to Raj pattern, with optional knee-length white socks and a pha biang.

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