Shifting political dominance and boundaries within the South East Asian region have left multi-cultural imprints in a number of fields, including art and architecture. This immense diversity of art and architectural forms, corresponding to different periods of Lao history, and its influence can be seen, even today in the graceful Khmer temple complexes, elegant Buddhist wats (temples), heritage sites, colonial architecture and stilted rural dwellings.
Buddhist religious structure such as pagodas, wats, stupas dot the landscape. Their interiors are painted or carved with Buddha images and other religious symbols. The principal construction material for these structures, until about the 19th century, was wood. This made them vulnerable to both to the ravages of war, fire and the tropical climate. Many palaces and temples have been partially or wholly destroyed and the original construction lost. In some cases, much of it has been rebuilt, using modern techniques and materials rather than old traditional methods and styles.
However, from the earliest Hindu temples and shrines to the later magnificent Buddhist structures, temple architecture had a singular purpose - to teach, enlighten and inspire worshippers.
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