|Kingdom of Lan Xang
|Capital||Luang Phrabang, Later Vientiane (Viang Chan)|
|Historical era||Middle Ages and Renaissance|
|-||Founded by Fa Gnum||1354|
|Today part of|| Laos
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Laos|
|Dark ages of Laos|
|History of Isan|
|Peopling of Laos|
The Lao kingdom of Lan Xang[n 1] Hom Khao (Lao: ລ້ານຊ້າງ lâansâang - ລ້ານ "million" + ຊ້າງ "elephant"+ "Under the White Parasol"; Pali: शिसत्तनखनहुत्, Sisattanakhanahut; Thai: ล้านช้าง, RTGS: Lanchang; Burmese: လင်းဇင်း, IPA: [lɪ́ɴzɪ́ɴ]; Vietnamese: Vạn Tượng) was established in 1354 by Fa Ngum.
Prince Fa Ngum of Muang Sua (modern Luang Prabang) is listed first on the historical list of monarchs of Laos. Fa Ngum went as a youth to the Khmer Empire (present-day Cambodia,) where he married a daughter of a Khmer emperor. In 1349 with the empire in disarray, the prince set out from Angkor at the head of a 10,000-man army, to establish his own country by claiming the crown of his uncle. In June 1354, at the site of the victory celebrated in the epic, Phra Lak Phra Lam, (present-day Vientiane,) and accompanied by an army of more than 50,000 soldiers, he was crowned ruler of Lan Xang. The "million elephants under the white parasol" of the kingdom's name alludes to his formidable war machine.
King Fa Ngum organized conquered principalities into Muang under subservient lords styled Chao[n 2] Muang. Although the term "border" is an anachronism in the Mandala model, the Kingdom of Lan Xang extended from the borders of China south to Sambor below the Mekong rapids at Khong Island, and from the Dai Vietnamese border to the western escarpment of the Khorat Plateau. It was thus one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia.
Fa Ngum's campaign started in southern Laos, taking the towns and cities in Central Laos, moving up into Xieng Khouang where he helped another exiled prince of Xieng Khouang take the throne, from Xieng Khouang Fa Ngum took his army into Vietnam taking many Vietnamese towns until the king of Vietnam agreed to a peace treaty establishing the boundary between them, from Xiengkhouang FaNgum began to take Northern Lao principalities and finally his initial goal of taking his home town of Loungprabang where he crowned his father. After establishing himself in Loungprabang, Fa Ngum's ambition continued to grow he then began a campaign into Northern Thailand taking the cities of Chiangrai and Chiangsaen; he turned his army towards Chaingmai but his cousin the King of Chiangmai sent a letter offering troops to Fa Ngum if he ever requested them. From Northern Thailand, Fa Ngum went south into Sukothai, taking the townships of the eastern Sukhothai Kingdom, and the towns that were under the governance of Ayutthaya. King U Thong of Ayutthaya, then in a conflict with Angkor, had very little choice but to grant Fa Ngum the lands he requested, plus offering his daughter to Fa Ngum to gain favor and to avoid any conflict with him. From there, he arrived on the western bank of the Mekong across from Vientiane with an army that started with 10,000 Khmer soldiers that grew to 50,000 troops, and more than 6,000 war elephants. When Fa Ngum conquered Vientiane, he proclaimed the establishment of the new Kingdom of Lan Xang, crowning himself the lord of all the lands.
The early years of Fa Ngum's rule were uneventful. The years 1362 to 1368, however, were troubled by conflict between Fa Ngum's Mahayana Buddhism as it had been practiced where he had been raised, and the region's encroaching Theravada Buddhism. He severely repressed popular resistance to the change, and had many temples torn down.
In 1368, Fa Ngum's Khmer wife died. He then married a daughter of a king of Ayutthaya, who seems to have had a pacifying influence on her husband. She was instrumental in welcoming a religious and artistic mission that brought a carved figure of the Buddha, the Phra Bang, for which the capital was renamed Luang Prabang. Popular resentment continued to build, however, and in 1373 Fa Ngum withdrew to Muang Nan. His son, Oun Heuan, who had been in exile in southern Yunnan, returned as Regent of the kingdom his father had created. Oun Heuan, unlike his father a peaceful ruler, succeeded in 1393 on death of his father as King Samsenethai (300,000 Thai) at the time that Mongol domination of the middle Mekong Valley was on the wane.
The kingdom of Lan Xang, made up of diverse Lao, Tai, and ethnic hill tribes, lasted for another 600 years, briefly reaching an even greater extent in the northeast. The principality of Muang Phuan, brought under Lan Xang in the mid-14th century, enjoyed semi-independent status. Fa Ngum's descendants remained on the throne for almost 600 years after his death. They maintained the independence of Lan Xang to the end of the 17th century by a complex network of vassal relations with lesser princes. During this time, they fought off invasions by Vietnamese Emperor Le Thanh Tong, 1478–79, Ayutthaya King Chairacha in 1536, and Burmese King Bayinnaung, 1571–1621.
Beginning in 1694, a series of rival princes fought for the throne, and in 1707, the country split into three kingdoms: Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. Vientiane made several attempts to unite the Lao Kingdoms that were prevented by Siamese intervention, resulting in the three splintered Kingdoms paying tribute to Siam. Vientiane also had a tributary relationship with the Vietnamese court at Hué, a relationship that, in the wake of the failed Laotian Rebellion for independence (1826–1829) of Anouvong, the last king of Vientiane, became a casus belli for the Siamese–Vietnamese War (1831–1834).
McCarthy's account of 1894
James McCarthy, F.R.G.S., Director-General of the Siamese Government Surveys prior to establishment of the Royal Thai Survey Department, was appointed to the command of an expedition to this region, Reports had reached Bangkok of bandits called Haw plundering and destroying villages on the north-east frontier, the whereabouts of which were unknown, the greater part unvisited by Europeans, and on maps of the country, a blank. Siamese astrology (โหราศาสตร์ horasasat) determined the journey should start at noon on January 16, 1884. McCarthy reached Luang Prabang in June, and recorded the following traditional account of the founding of Lan Sang.
Luang Prabang, one of the oldest towns of Indo-China, has, very probably, the most interesting history. I was able, at odd intervals, to gather the following traditional scraps from the eldest son of the chief —
- The first king was K'un Borom, who lived at Teng (identified by Major Gerini as the Dasana or Doana of Ptolemy), where a tree grew that reached to heaven, and shaded the whole district of Luang Prabang. The king used to amuse himself by going up and down between earth and heaven until the evil spirits, wishing to keep him on earth, cut down the tree. The wood of the tree is found even nowadays, and, under the name of " Kua Kao Kat," is, of course, used as a charm against every evil. The king planted pumpkins, and one day, to see whether a pumpkin was ripe, pierced it with an iron spear, whereupon, to his surprise, blood flowed from it. He waited a few days and then pierced another, when a black man issued forth, who became the progenitor of all the Ka Che, or Kamu. A few days later he pierced another pumpkin, when a white man came out, who became the progenitor of the Lao. In accordance with the tale the Lao look upon the Ka Che as their elder brethren.
- As time went on both the Lao and Ka Che grew very numerous, so that it became necessary to find a new country, and rivalry sprang up between the families, though the younger brother's family, or the Lao, were admitted to be the cleverer. On the occasion of the exodus from Muang Teng. the Lao, with their usual skill, used wooden boats and rafts, whereas the Ka Che made boats of buffalo hide. Both went down the Nam Nua,[n 3] but at a rapid called Men Kwai (" Smell of Buffalo "),[n 4] the Ka Che boats were broken and had to be abandoned. Thus the Ka Che were obliged to seek a helping hand from the Lao, who took them to the spot where the town of Luang Prabang now stands. There they founded a city called Sawa, which grew to be very powerful, and held sway over the whole Me Kawng valley. The city was named after a large stone over which the pagoda Wat Chieng T'awng has been built.
- History omits the story of the pumpkins, and says those who came first to Muang Sawa were the descendants of K'un Law, the eldest son of K'un Borom, by his wife Nang Pola. The second son was Chet Chieng, who founded Chieng Kwang, or Puan ; the third son was Ti-Palan, who founded Laksa Kuha, or Yunan.
- The second wife had four sons : Chu-Song, who founded Pa-Kung, or Anara ; Lak-Kong, who founded Hongsawadi (Pegu) ; Lai Pong, who founded Chieng Dao, or Aleve (Chieng Hung, Siamese " Rung," the Lao having no R) ; Kun In, the youngest, who founded Si Ayiw t'ia. Thus Muang Teng is regarded as the distributing centre of all the population of Indo-China.
- To settle the long-standing dispute concerning supremacy between the Ka Che and the Lao, it was agreed that the mastery should be given to those who should make the highest chaleo, or small matting placed conspicuously to frighten spirits and tigers from the camp. The Ka Che set to work, but could not raise their chaleo to any considerable elevation. The Lao, tying theirs to the end of a bamboo, which when let go sprang up to a great height, easily became the masters, and, until quite recently, the Ka Che consequently supplied them with all that they required. In the old days a rupee purchased more rice than four men could lift.
- For fifteen generations the chiefs had the title K'un,[n 5] and for six generations the title of Tao.[n 6] The name of the city was changed to Lan[n 7] Sang (Siamese " Chang," the Lao having no ch) the meaning of the name, according to P'ia[n 8] Riddhirong, the Siamese commissioner, being, " the plain among the elephants " as the surrounding hills are called Sang (Siamese " Chang "), or elephants. Then the name was changed to Luang Prabang, from the Prabang, a golden image of Gautama which, first set up in Ceylon, was carried successively to Cambodia, Luang Prabang, Wieng Chan, Bangkok, and finally back to Luang Prabang.
- In the beginning of this century Luang Prabang was destroyed by Wieng Chan, from which it had long been separated. Its chief, Anurata,[n 9] and his son, being taken prisoners, were sent to Bangkok, where they remained for twelve years. Dying twenty years later, this chief was succeeded by Mongta, who ruled for twelve years, and was followed by Chao Luang[n 10] Serm, who, in turn, after nineteen years of government, was succeeded in 1870 by the late chief, Chao Luang Un Kham.
- Historical Lao romanization variations are Lan Sang, Lane Sang, Lane Xang; Thai may use Lan Chang or Lanchang; compare Mekong#Names Chinese Láncāng Jiāng "Turbulent River" and note on Lan Xang
- Chao, Thai language lord —may also be transliterated čhao, câo, jao; from Middle Chinese 主 (ćǘ) "master;" often rendered in English as "king" or "chief," the latter in allusion to either Chief of the Name or tribal chief, according to relative standing.
- Thai: น้ำเหนือ northern river
- Thai: แก่งเหม็นควาย gang men kwai ; gang rapid(s) also means to struggle with or pick on
- Khun ขุน feudal title equivalent to Baron
- Thao ท้าว honorific
- Thai: ลาน Lan as in Thailand's Lan Sang National Park where Lan is not the numeral but a noun with different tone — yard; lawn; court; courtyard; open space; plaza; grounds  — Sang in the park's name is an entirely different word.
- Phraya equivalent to Marquess or Marquis
- see list of monarchs of Luang Prabang
- Chao lord; Luang being equivalent to viscount
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.
- Legend of the Founding of Xieng Dong-Xieng Thong at Muang Sua
- "The life of Fa Ngoum The youth period". promoting our beloved country - Laos. Muonglao.com. January 20, 2005. Retrieved February 19, 2012. "Prince Fa Ngoum was born in 1316 at the Palace of Xieng Thong in the Kingdom of Muong Sua or Xieng Dong Xieng Thong."
- Christopher Buyers (August 2001 – October 2009). "Lan Xang". The Khun Lo Dynasty Genealogy. The Royal Ark. Retrieved March 3, 2012. "All materials contained in this site are the subject of copyright. Many items are in use under licence. Therefore, on no account may copies be made of text, photographs, graphics or any other materials, without the express written consent of the site owner."