City of good karma

Updated: 2013-12-22 13:38

By Wu Liping (China Daily)

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City of good karma

Fresh herbs are popular on local tables.

"A young man in Laos will become a monk at least once in his life," says Khammuong Oudomhak, head of the office at the Laos Journalists Association, and our guide.

"Some may devote their whole lives to Buddhism, but most choose to be a monk for years or just for several days. In Laos, the main aim of becoming a monk is to give thanks to mothers."

City of good karma

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Becoming a monk and chanting the sutras will gather merits, and dedicating these merits to one's mother will bring blessings upon her.

Oudomhak tells us he had been a monk for 17 years.

"I became a monk under my mother's wish," he says. "When I grew older, I felt the goodness and calm that come from Buddhism."

Although Oudomhak, 64, has resumed secular life for nearly 40 years, he says he has benefited from the experience.

"It taught me the beauty of a simple life," he says. "Laotian people treat guests warmly and hope they can be as happy as we are."

In Luang Prabang, the religious and the secular live together harmoniously, which we can sense from the layout of the city. On some streets, temples are constructed all along one side of the street, while ordinary houses are on the opposite side of the road.

The doors of the temples are always open, inviting all to share the merits of sutra-chanting. The walls of the temples are shorter than shoulder height, all the better for passers-by to look in at the monks and how they live.

Among the temples in Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong, or The Temple of the Golden City, is regarded as the most beautiful temple in Laos. It was built in 1560.

Another interesting building is the Luang Prabang National Museum, built upon the old royal palace buildings that were constructed between 1904 and 1909.

The throne room of the palace is decorated with colorful mosaics on the red wall, depicting Laotian folk tales, customs, ceremonies and wars. In the king's reception room, visitors can enjoy the murals recording the daily lives of ordinary Lao people. There is also the king's old study, as well as all the bedrooms for the royal household, all decorated with traditional furniture, portraits, costumes, household goods and other artifacts that were used by the imperial family.