Traditions and Cultures of Laos

Laos culture and traditions are influenced by various neighboring countries, especially those with Indic and Sinitic cultures, as well as by its own religion of Theravada Buddhism. Laos culture is expressed in diverse aspects such as language, art, literature, performing arts, textiles, and celebrations. Laos culture also involves distinctive customs and practices related to marriage, family, and living arrangements. Laos culture is one of the most varied and captivating in Southeast Asia.

1, Customs and practices:

Women in Phaa sin, a long, patterned skirt

Lao custom dictates that women should wear the distinctive phaa sin, a long, patterned skirt, although ethnic groups often have their own clothing. The conical Vietnamese-style hat is also a common sight. These days men dress Western style and only don the phaa biang sash on ceremonial occasions. Contemporary women, especially in urban centres, often wear western-style clothing, though the "phaa sin" is still the mandatory attire in government offices (for those who work there as well as Lao women visiting).

2, Society:

Laotian society is a society characterized by semi-independent rural villages engaged in subsistence agricultural production. Ethnic, geographic, and ecological differences create variations in the pattern of village life from one part of the country to another, but the common threads of village self reliance, limited regional trade and communication, and identification with one's village and ethnic group persist regardless of the setting. Rural trade networks, however, have been a part of life since the 1950s. Except near the larger towns and in the rich agricultural plains of Vientiane and Savannakhét, villages are spaced at least several kilometers apart and the intervening land variously developed as rice paddy and swidden fields or maintained as buffer forest for gathering wild plants and animals, fuelwood, and occasional timber harvest.

3, Arts and Crafts:

The Laotians have a variety of regional and rural art forms, including weaving, basketmaking, wood and ivory carving, silverwork, and goldwork. There are a number of musical instruments that are characteristic of the rural Lao as well as the midland and upland minority communities. The most widely known of such instruments is the khene, a wood-and-bamboo mouth organ that is used by various rural peoples. Other instruments include assorted flutes, plucked and bowed lutes, drums, and cymbals. The country also has a wealth of regional vocal music traditions—most of which are designated by some form of the term khap or lam. Performance of such vocal music often takes the form of a spirited battle of knowledge, wit, and artistry between the sexes. Most music is not written down but is transmitted through oral tradition.



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