2. Culture

The Lao multi- ethnic people have their own civilization since the beginning of their existence with regards to their mode of practice of the agriculture, their lifestyle, their art and their dialects. The Lao multi ethnic groups practice different customs which co-exist and complete with each other.

Religion:  The original belief of the Lao multi-ethnic people was animism which was later influenced by Indian culture. The Brahmanism came next and followed by the Buddhism. Today about 65% of the Lao people are Hinayana Buddhists, though animism continues to co-exist with Buddhism.

Language: Lao language is the national language. Except for those influenced by Pali or Sanskrit  ( Indian origin), the Lao national language is a monosyllable based dialect and the Lao letters are derived from Pali characters.


1. A very long existence of human civilization.

The stone tools and other human traces discovered in many parts of the country, especially in Houaphan and Luang Prabang provinces are evidence of the presence of prehistoric man in the Lao territory at least 40,000 years ago.
The Lao civilization is characterized by the influence of the Chinese and Indian cultures.

2. A long history of scattering independent princedoms and principalities:

At the beginning of its history, the Lao PDR had no central power to make it a single country. The Lao land was composed of many independent small states scattered in different parts of the valleys of the Mekong river, Southern China, North Eastern Thailand and some other parts of Indochina. The famous principality was Xiengthong which later became the capital of the Lao unified Lane Xang Kingdom.
The word “Lane Xang” means a million elephants. The word “ Lane Xang” with another intonation means a grazing-ground for elephants. The kingdom of Lane Xang for many people can be interpreted as a land of a million elephants; for some historical study, it can be interpreted as a grazing ground for wild elephants because the capital of the Kingdom Luang Prabang was surrounded by fields for the pasture of wild elephants. The word “LAOS” has no meaning, it was used by mistake by the French during the colonial time. The exact word is “LAO”.
<Back: People & Culture | Lao Culture&History | Next: Lao History>
Lao Embassy, 2222 S St, NW, Washington, DC. 20008