Wat Wisunalat in Luang Prabang

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Wat Wisunalat or Wat Visoun is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple. The temple houses an important collection of ancient Buddha images in Luang Prabang.

>>Wat Aham Temple

History

The temple burned down in 1887 when Luang Prabang was largely destroyed and looted by the Black Flag Army, a militia group from China. It was rebuilt in 1898.

An engraving made by Louis Delaporte, a French explorer who travelled extensively in Cambodia and Laos in the 1860’s and 1870’s shows a much more elegant and ornate sim structure built early 16th century. The print shows a large temple, its roof supported by massive 30 meter high wooden pillars.

Laos’ most venerated Buddha image, the Phra Bang Buddha, was enshrined in the Wat Wisunalat twice, from 1513 until 1707 and from 1867 until 1887.

Wat Wisunalat

Architecture

Wat Wisunalat’s sim is a brick structure of fairly plain architecture with a two tiered roof. The roof’s ends are adorned with Naga finials. At the center of the roof is a “Dok so faa”, an ornamental element consisting of 17 miniature stupas covered by parasols.

The wooden doors of the sim originate from the original early 16th century structure. The delicate gilded carvings on the doors depict the Hindu Gods Vishnu, Brahma, Indra and Shiva on his mount, the bull Nandi.

The portico of the front entrance is covered by a separate roof supported by large white pillars. The wooden balustrades in the windows are similar to those in stone at several of the Khmer temples of Angkor. The sim houses the largest Buddha image of Luang Prabang. Around the gilded image is a large number of small images in several mudras. The bronze and wooden images, many of which are gilded are up to 400 years old.

Active temple with resident monks

The Wat Wisunalat is an active temple. The resident monks live in the kuti, the monks private quarters. As is the case with many Buddhist temples, the grounds contain a large Bodhi tree, a tree much venerated because it was a Bodhi tree under which the Buddha meditated and reached enlightenment.

How to get

Wat Wisunalat in Luang Prabang

The temple is found next to the Wat Aham on Thanon Wisunalat, South of Mount Phousi and Kingkitsarath road in Luang Prabang. Much of the town can be reached on foot. A tuk tuk or jumbo to the temple will cost between 10,000 (about US$ 1.30) and 15,000 Kip (about US$ 2) depending on the distance.

Entrance fee & opening hours: The temple opens daily between 8 am and 5 pm. Admission is 5,000 Kip (about US$ 0.65) per person.

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