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That Luang – The Most Important Stupa in Vientiane

In your journey travel to Vientiane, That Luang stupa or Pha That Luang temple is the worth place to stop over, which is the unique temple in the Kingdom of a Million Elephants.

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History of Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang temple is large Buddhist stupa in the center of Vientiane, Laos covering by gold outside. It is translated literally into Great Stupa in Lao meaning and believed to store a breastbone, the relics of Buddha as well as many treasures. The stupa has undergone several restorations and nowadays is considered as the most important national monument and a national symbol in Laos. You can easily see its image on the Lao currency and the national emblem.

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Legend said that the temple was firstly built in the 3rd century as a Hindu temple. In addition, people believed that Emperor Ashoka from the Mauryan Empire had sent Buddhist missionaries (Bury Chan or Praya Chanthabury Pasithisak) and five Arahata monks who brought a holy relic (breastbone) of Lord Buddha to the stupa. After that, it was reconstructed in the 13th century as a Khmer monastery.

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The work of construction of That Luang stupa was started in 1566 under the order of the King Setthathirat. In the same time around the mid – 16th century, he had chosen Vientiane as the capital city instead of Luang Prabang. Plated with gold outside so the stupa was repeatedly plundered by Burmese, Siamese and Chinese.

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Due to the Siamese invasion in 1828, That Luang suffered a large damage and was neglected. In 1900, the stupa was restored to its original design basing on the detailed drawings from the 1860s of Louis Delaporte, a French architect, and explorer. However, the work of restoring was unsuccessful and then redesigned and rebuilt in the 1930s. In addition,That Luang was massive damaged more than one again because of a Thai air raid in the Franco-Thai War and was rebuilt after the end of World War II.

The Interesting Architecture of That Luang

The architecture of the temple not only represents for Lao nationalism but also expresses Lao culture and identity. The stupa nowadays consists of three levels and each of the level is designed with different structures basing on Buddhist doctrine.

The 1st level is the square shape and has the function as the pedestal of the temple with the measures 223 feet x 226 feet. There are four arched prayer gates and stairways connecting up to the 2nd level on each side.

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The second level is 157 feet along each side and surrounded by 120 lotus petal along with 30 small stupas and has arched gateways leading to the next level.

The third level is 98 feet along each side and includes a tall central stupa with brick base. At the top of the stupa are stylized banana flower and parasol.