Posted by: kookkhu | April 20, 2010

People of Laos

The population of Lao PDR has reached 5,218,000, and is growing at an annual 2.4%. The average population density is 21 per square kilometre, giving Lao the lowest population density in Asia. The highest population in Lao is in Vientiane municipality, with 149 per square kilometre, while the lowest population density is in Saysomboun Special Zone, at 8 per square kilometre.
The estimate populations of the major provinces are : 598,000 in Vientiane prefecture, 766,000 in Savannakhet, 572,000 in Champassak, 416,000 in Luang Prabang, 333,000 in Sayaboury.
About 85% of the population are rural dwellers, and the 1999 census revealed that there were 60,000 more women then men. Over 70% (2,220,547) are engaged in productive work, and 936,870 are unemployed, a classification which includes students (69.4%), domestic workers (12.6%), the aged (14.6%). There are 576,758 people at work in towns, and 2,580,659 work in the countryside. An age-group breakdown gives: 0-14 years – 2,251,600; 15,59 years -2,548,800; 60 years and above – 290,700 people. The population consists of 94 ethnic groups, in four main linguistic families, according to preliminary figures given to a symposium on the name of ethnic groups on August 13-14,2000. The Mone-Khmer family has 32 ethnic groups which include Khmu, Pray, Singmou, Khom, Thene, Idou, Bid, Lamad, Samtao, Katang, Makong, Try, Trieng, Ta-oi, Yeh, Brao, Harak, Katou, Oi, Krieng, Yrou, Souai, Gnaheune, Lavy, Kabkae, Khmer, Toum, Ngouane, Meuang, and Kri. The Tibeto-Burnese family includes seven ethnic groups: Ahka, Singsali, Lahou, Sila, hayi, Lolo and Hor. The Hmong-Ioumien category has two main tribes: Hmong and Ioumien. These multi-ethnic people of Lao are generally scattered across the country, while each has its own unique tradition, culture and language. Lao people are frank, open and friendly, and they possess a strongly developed sense of courtesy and respect. Everyone who adheres to the latter will receive warm welcome.
The generally accepted from the greeting among Lao people is the Nop. It is perform by placing one palm together in a position of praying at chest level, but not touching the body. The higher the hands, the greater the sign of respect to persons of higher status and age. It is also used as and expression of thanks, regret or saying good-bye. But with western people it is acceptable to shake hands. When entering a Wat or a private home it is customary to remove one’s shoes. In Lao homes raised off the ground, the shoes are left at the stairs. In traditional homes one sits on low seats or cushions on the floor. Men usually sit with their legs crossed or folded to one side, women prefer solely the latter. Upon entering guests may be served fruit or tea. These gestures of hospitality should not be refused.
Lao people boast a plethora of distinctive monuments and architectural styles. One of the most notable structures is That luang, the Great Sacred Stupa, in Vientiane. Its dome like Stupa and four-cornered superstructure is the model for similar monuments throughout Laos. Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many Stupas are said to house sacred relics (parts of Buddha’s body). Generally, Hinayana Buddhists cremate the dead body then collected the bone and put in stupa which up in a round the temple.
Deferent styles of architecture are evident in the numerous Buddhist Wats. Three architecture styles can be distinguished, corresponding to the geographical location of the temples and monasteries. Wats built in Vientiane are large rectangular structures constructed of brick and coved with stucco and high-peaked roofs.

In Luang Prabang the roofs sweep very low and, unlike in Vientiane, almost reach the ground. These two styles are different from the Wat Xieng Khouang where the temple roofs are not tiered. Lao religious images and art are also distinctive and set Lao apart from its neighbors. The ” Calling for Rain” posture of the Buddha images in Laos, for example, which depicts the Buddha standing with his hands held rigidly at his side, fingers pointing to the ground, cannot be found in other south East Asian Buddhist art traditions. Religions influences are also pervasive in classical the Lao literature, especially in the Pha Lak Pha Lam, the Lao version of India’s epic Ramayana.  Projects are underway to preserve classic Lao religious scripts, which were transcribed into palm leaf manuscripts hundreds of years ago and stored in Wats. Another excellent example of the richness of Lao culture is its folk music, which is extremely popular with the people throughout the whole country. The principal instrument is the khaen, a wind instrument which comprises a double row of Bamboo-like reeds fitted into hardwood sound box. The khaen is often accompanied folk dance is the Lamvong, a circle dance in with people dance circles around each other so that ultimately there are three circles: a circled by the individual, another by the one couple, and a third one dance by the whole party. Information from:www.asia-planet.net


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