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