Muang Khoun - Xieng Khouang - The Ancient Royal Capital


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Muang Khoun 27 kms south of downtown Phonavan, used to be the old Royal capital of the Phuan Kingdom.

At the height of it's fame the Muang Khoun - Phuan kingdom was described as “a large and beautiful city protected by wide moats and forts occupying the surrounding hills and the opulence of the sixty-two pagodas and their stupas, of which the flanks concealed treasures, obtained the capital a fame that spread wide and far”.

The Tai Phuan are a Buddhist Tai-Lao ethnic group that migrated from what is today southern China and by the 13th century had formed an independent principality at the Plain of Jars that prospered from the overland trade in metals and forest products.

Phuan kings maintained a semblance of independence over the years by offering tribute to Vietnam and Lane Xang and eventually Siam.
Whatever price the royal house paid, however, it was not enough to keep Xieng Khuang from being repeatedly annexed, overrun and forcibly depopulated, beginning with the invading armies of the Vietnamese on their way back from sacking Luang Prabang in the late 1470s through to the Second Indochina War, when nearly every village in the province was obliterated.


In the mid-14th century, Muang Phuan was incorporated into the Lane Xang Kingdom under Fa Ngum, though the Phuan were able to retain a high degree of autonomy.
After Siam (Thailand) extended control to Lao territories east of the Mekong in the 1770's, Muang Phuan became a Siamese vassal state and also maintained tributary relations with Dai Viet (Viet Nam). To exert greater control of the lands and people of Muang Phuan, the Siamese launched three separate campaigns (1777-1779, 1834-1836, 1875-1876) to resettle large parts of the Phuan population to the south to regions under firm Siamese control.

Subsequent invasions by Chinese marauders called "Haw" plundered Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang, and the Franco-Siamese treaties of the 1890's placed Xieng Khouang under colonial rule as part of French Indochina until briefly after World War II.

The Chinese Haw invaders pillaged everything they could - the chedis at Muang Khoun wre tunneled through looking for gold & valuables.

That Chompeth

That Chompeth 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.

Thousands of Phuan people fled & whilst fleeing they were captured by Siamese soldiers coming from the south to stop the Chinese Haw invasion. Held prisoner by the Siamese troops they were marched to Bangkok to become slaves. In two generations three-quarters of the Phuan population died - the Phuan state never recovered.


When the French arrived Muang Khoun was chosen as the French provincial capital and the devastated former royal seat of the defunct kingdom was transformed into an architectural gem of French Indochinese villas and shophouses. Then the French were kicked out of Laos & the Indochina war came.


In the 1960's and early 1970's Xieng Khouang suffered heavy aerial bombardment and intense ground battles due to its strategic importance. The original capital city, Muang Khoun, was almost totally obliterated by US bombing and consequently, the capital was moved to nearby Phonsavanh.


Of several Muang Khoun Buddhist temples built between the 16th and 19th century, only ruins remain. Wat Phiawat, however, survived the bombing and can be visited.

Wat Phiawat

Wat Phiawat was built in 1372 in the reign of King Larn Khum Kloung (King of Muang Phuan).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 Phiawat stands today, it would not move any further. Thus, King Larn Khum Kloung built his temple here. The people of Phuan 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 Phiawat once construction was finished and it was the first temple of Muang Phuan. 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 Phuan had a war with Muslim Chinese who damaged Phra Putharoub Oung Tuee by cutting the right hand off.
In 1953, Wat Phiawat 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 Phiawat 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.



That Foun

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.

Wat Si Phom

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.

Modern day Muang Khoun
The local motorbike bridge across the Nam Ngiou river

Local villagers





It's still a poor community...


Drop by for a visit sometime
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