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The Pak Ou (Tam Ting) Caves

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The Pak Ou (Tam Ting) Caves

Transcribed from signs around the Pak Ou (Tam Ting) caves:

“History: The first us of the caves for religious purposes was at the time when the local population worshiped Phi, or the spirits of nature. It is said that the caves are associated with a river spirit. It is believed that the Lao people first entered the river valley in the middle of the eigth century after moving southward from south China. It was not until considerably later that Buddhism first spread into the area from the west. By the 16th century, Buddhism had been adopted by the royal families of Lao and the caves received patronage from that time until 1975. Every year, the King and the people of Luang Prabang made a pilgramage to the caves as part of the New Years religious observances. Artisans were commissioned by the royal family to prepare sculptures. Many of the carvings in the cave date from between the 18th to 20th centuries.”

Pak Ou

“Sculptures of Buddha: The more than 4,000 sculptures of Buddha now found in the Tam Ting caves have been placed there by worshippers. For the most part, they are carved from wood or mouldede from a tree resin, then coated with red of black lacquer, and then covered with gold leaf. A few of the sculptures are carved from animal horn or made from bronze or a low-fired ceramic. Common poses are three of the positions which depict important stages of life of Buddha; ‘Calling for Rain’ with the figure standing and the arms pointing downwards, ‘Calling the Earth to Witness’ with the figure seated and one hand extended downwards, and ‘Meditation’ where the hands are crossed in frton of a seated figure. ‘Stop Arguing,’ where the figure is standing and the palms of the hands are extended outwards and the ‘Reclining’ position are not common.”

Pak Ou

“Lower Cave: The mouth of the lower cave is a prominent landmark visible from the Mekong River. Paved pathways lead up to this cave as well as to the upper cave, some 60 meters above the river. Approximately 2,500 sculptures are located in the lower cave. A focal point for visitors is the altar closest to the entry where offereings of flowers, incense, and candles are made. Lion figures guard the entry while a Ramayana sculpture of a ‘hermit’ associated with forest medicines sits immediately above the lower entry platform. A large stupa-like structure surmounts the highest platform. A smaller stupa on the cliff face to the south holds the ashes of a recently deceased villager. A small spring in the cave supplied holy water which was used during the annual New Year ceremony.”

Pak Ou

“Ban Pak Ou: On the eastern bank of the Mekong River opposite the caves of Tam Ting is Ban Pak Ou. In the past, the village wat received royal patronage in exchange for caretaking the caves. The wat is a picturesque example of a village style religious complex which has a temple, dormitory, and bell tower. Restoration of the wat is being undertaken with the assistance of Thai friends. Nets and fish traps at the mouth of the River Ou indicate that Ban Pak Ou is a fishing village which regularly supplies fish to the market in Luang Prabang. The villagers grow rice in the paddy fields behind the village. The Village is a peaceful place with a thriving elementary school. Small shops sell among other things sweets and bottled drinks.. The Department of Tourism has erected a large rest house for day use by parties of visitors.”

Pak Ou

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5 Responses to "The Pak Ou (Tam Ting) Caves"
  1. Pat Cassidy says:

    I am off to SE Asia with three girlfriends next month and I have learned so much from your blog. Thank you for sharing. You sound like you are having a wonderful life…..

  2. I’m doing my best! Have a great time on your trip!

  3. Marg Greenwood says:

    We are doing that Nagi of Mekong boat trip in November, was so good to read your blog about it and see the photo’s.
    Thanks for sharing, a great read

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