Nong Tang (or Lake Tang: Nong = Lake) is a karst landform along Highway 7, approx. 48km northwest of Phonsavan, the new capital of Xieng Khouang province. The lake overlooks Phukood district, home to massive sandstone jars. The lake’s scenic beauty is admired equally by people travelling to the Plain of Jars or by others heading towards Vientiane or the former royal capital of Luang Prabang.
The lake has a historic connection with Xieng Khouang and the Plain of Jars, when James McCarthy, a British surveyor employed by the King of Siam, passed Nong Tang on his way to Xieng Khouang Province. Escorted by two hundred soldiers, on 16 January 1884 McCarthy left Bangkok, reaching the northeast frontier of Siam’s dependencies several weeks later. The province was still reeling from the devastation inflicted by marauders from Yunnan, who killed, looted and plundered all in sight.
In Nong Tang, McCarthy found no sign of human life, only partridges and peafowl. Continuing on their journey, the party crossed the Nam Tang River and some rice fields. On ascending the river bank, they noticed some objects in the distance, which they mistook first for tents, then for cattle and finally for stones rising from the ground. When they reached the Plain of Jars, they realised that those objects were “gigantic stone jars. Some of them stood erect, some were lying on their sides, some were in fragments, and all round there was evidence that the ground had been excavated. Beneath one of them we dug up the earth and found traces of charcoal, with what appeared to be an anklet of rusty iron”. McCarthy was impressed by the stone jars of Xieng Khouang, and declared that “These vessels are such as could not possibly have been carried to their present position, but must have been made in situ”. (James F. McCarthy. Surveying and exploring in Siam: with descriptions of Lao dependencies and of battles against the Chinese Haws, John Murray, London, 1900).
Details of historical background provided by Miss Lia Genovese, PhD Candidate, History of Art and Archaeology, University of London
Piew History Cave
From 1964 onwards, in view of eliminating the Lao people’s movement for peace and independence, the us Government and its cliques continuously intensified their “escaladed war” Many military operations engaging Thai and lao Royalist troops under the direct command of US Army officers were launched within the liberated zone.The Us Air force provided full support to these operations. In the xieng khouang province; “ the 3 raze operation” was launched with the mission of “full killing, destroying and exterminating this strategic operation was completely defeated by our patriotic movement and peoples who combated the enemy with determination and bravery .our struggle was led by the Central Committee of the party and in the case of xieng khouang province this put under the supreme command of Comrade Samane Viyaket. In spite of attacks repeatedly conducted by the US Army, the liberated zone not only resisted but also expanded in size which demonstrated that the US strategy of eliminate was fully crushed.
Following their massive and humiliating defeat in each operation, the US Government decided to increase their Air force strikes to a full scale air bombing, moving from military targets to civilian target which included habitation, schools, hospitals, temples citizens and all civilian properties. From these numberous air raids, the Tham Piew war crime is and will be for ever remembered since 374 lives were annihilated by US fighters within a few seconds. These air raids took place on the 24th of who died were farmers living in different village surrounding the site, they had come to live there was the hope that the cave was the last refuge under the constant US Air bombing.
Therefore the 24th of November has been declared as the day of remembrance, in Laos. We shall mark this day by ceremonies expressing. Our abhorrence to war in particular, we shall pray for the souls who embraced the cause of our national liberation and who protected our motherland for bright future.
Ancient Temple in Muang Khoun
Old Xieng Khouang, now call Muang khoun, is located 32 km southeast of Phonsavanh. It eas once the royal capital of the Phuan Kingdom. Muang Khoun survived the ravage of the Haws in the 19th century only to be totally destroyed by American bombing during the height of the second Indochina War. no more than the ruins of the French hospital, church and school remain alongside Piawat temple with its large sitting Buddha and a few ancient Stupas. On the outskirts town the ancient stupas tower over the city and the views surrounding the structures are well worth the hike.
That Foun was built in 1576 – the same time as the original That Luang in Vientiane. It is said that the stupa was erected to cover ashes of Lord Buddha that were brought from India, during a time when Buddhism was proliferating in Laos.
That Chompeth is located nearby. It was created to evoke Buddhist values inspiring truth and clarity. Chom Phet means Jewel Pinnacle due to a shiny diamond that king Chao Kha Khad installed at its top in 1422. That Chompeth was heavily damaged by Haw invaders in 1874 and almost completely destroyed in 1969 during the war.
Wat Si Phom was built in 1390 by Thammkhatha, said to be the most skilled temple builder in Luang Prabang at that time. Chronicles record that it was the most beautiful temple of the kingdom. It got totally destroyed but the locals rebuilt a new temple.
Wat Pia Wat was built in 1372 in the reign of King Larn Khum Kloung (King of Muang Phoun).the ‘sim’ (holy building) additions were made in 1882. King Larn Khum Kloung was a great patron of Buddhism and established religious relationships with Burma. Consequently, Burma gave a golden Buddha statue to King Larn Khum Kloung to worship. King Larn Khum Kloung raised the Buddha statue on the back of an elephant and swore that he would build a temple at the place where the elephant stopped in Muang Khoun. When the elephant stopped at the spot where Wat Peer Wat stands today, it would not move any further. Thus, King Larn Khum Kloung built his temple here. The people of Phoun raised the area to form a small hill on which to build the temple as it was the belief that a holy sanctuary should be placed on a high place.
The temple was given the name Wat Peer Wat once construction was finished and it was the first temple of Muang Phoun. King Larn Khum Kloung also gave instructions to create a big Buddha image in the same style as the golden Buddha statue that he brought back from Burma. This statue was granted the name Phra Puttharoub Oung Tuee, and is the statue which you see today.
In 1925, Muang Phoun had a war with Muslim Chinese who damaged Phra Putharoub Oung Tuee by cutting the right hand off.
In 1953, Wat Peer Wat was destroyed once more by the French colonial power in Indo-China.
In 1954, Prince Suthakumarn (Chao sai Kham) encouraged the Lao people to contribute towards the restoration of Phra Putharoub Oung Tuee and Wat Peer Wat to make them once again as beautiful as they used to be.
In 1968 the vat was destroyed by T28 aircraft gunfire, and now, only the pillars of the building and stately Buddha remains.
The Plain of Jars is an archaeological landscape that combines ancient and contemporary history with authentic insights into Phuan, Hmong, Khmu and Tai Dam Cultures. Nature encounters are easily accessible yet of the beaten track.
Visiting The Plain of Jars is a serene inspiration. The ritual burial jars with their minimalistic Iron Age aesthetics are an ever-present part of the landscape and the only remaining witnesses to a vanished civilisation. Unlike Ancient Greece or the First Emperor of China that date from around the same time, we know very little about the civilization that created The Plain of Jars. There is neither a legend of Troy nor a Chinese Book of Songs that kept the memory alive. In more recent history a Secret War took place here. Constant aerial bombardments transformed the landscape – and often jar sites as well- into a Plain of Scars. Regardless, villagers found imaginative ways to rebuild their existence and often made the legacy of the war a resourceful part of their daily life. Bombs became spoons; and a distinct Xiengkhouang style of architecture was created that incorporates bomb shells as building material and décor for houses. The integrity of a culture that did not succumb to hardship but grew with its trials and yet preserved century old village traditions and beliefs is characteristic for The Plain of Jars. The stories you will uncover here are not immediately obvious to the naked eye. You will have to take your time to listen and open your heart to understand. But then something very rare will happen: You will realize that even today in a world that believes in “total knowledge” there will always remain hidden stories and places that will never be fully understood. We invite you to a journey to The Plain of Jars. Be inspired by hidden stories.