Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang (Lao: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, literally: "Royal Buddha Image (in the Dispelling Fear mudra)," pronounced [lǔaŋ pʰra.bàːŋ]), is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 425 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The population of the city is about 50,000.
The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It had also been known by the ancient name of Chiang Thong. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. It is a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site.
The main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the major landmarks in the city is a large steep hill on which sits Wat Chom Si.
Wat Xieng Thong (or Temple of the Golden City) is a Buddhisttemple (wat), located on the northern tip of the peninsula of Luang Phrabang, Laos. Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art. There are over twenty structures on the grounds including a sim, shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees.
Wat Xieng Thong was built 1559-1560 by the Lao King Setthathirath near where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers join. Until 1975 the wat was a royal temple under the patronage of the royal family and the Lao kings were crowned in the wat. The wat is considered as representing typical Laos art and craft. The building of the wat have carved gilded wooden doors depicting scenes from Buddha's life. In the sim the ceiling displays Dharmachakras - dharma wheels symbolising Buddhist law and the circle of reincarnation. The outer walls of the sim depict Lao legends and the rear gable is decorated with a glass mosaic depicting the tree of life. The outer walls of the Sanctuary of the Reclining Buddha, also known as Red Chapel, are decorated with mosaics.
In 1880, the Tripitaka library was added and then the drum tower in 1961. This temple, along with Wat Suwannaphumaham, was spared by any damage during the sacking of the city in 1887. This was because the Black FlagHaw leader, Đèo Văn Trị, had studied here as a monk in his early life, and used it as his headquarters during the sacking of Luang Phrabang. On one side of the sim, there are several small halls and stupas that contain Buddha images of the period. There is a reclining Buddha sanctuary, which contains an especially rare reclining Buddha that dates from the construction of the temple. In 1931, the image was taken to Paris and displayed at the Paris Exhibition and was kept in Vientiane until 1964, where it returned to Luang Phrabang. In the near compound's eastern gate stands the royal funerary carriage house, where it houses the funeral carriage, which stands 12 metres high and there are various urns for the members of the royal family.