Wat Xieng Thong Sim (built c. 1560 onward)
It has been called "a feast for the eyes and the soul." Of the many structures of the monastery none is more striking than the sim, as both its exterior and interior are decorated with a rich grandeur. The ornate fa�ade of the portico is an intricate combination of maroon, black and gold utilizing gilded wood in graceful swirls of flora, dharma wheels, and stenciled designs. Black lacquered pillars with gold stenciling support the roof of the portico. The stenciling on the fa�ade recounts scenes from the jataka and depiction of the punishment of evil-doers. The doorway of the main entry and its surround are most elaborate, as the ensemble almost reaches the inner roof of the portico. Side exterior walls of black lacquer and gold stenciling carry on the themes of the front wall, while on the back of the sim is the large tree of life in mosaic. The elegant low sweeping roofs are topped by a seventeen element dok so fa, symbolic of royal patronage, reaching toward the heavens.
The eight massive interior wooden pillars that form the main support of the roof structure are maroon with delicate gold stenciling. Black or red lacquer walls with gold stenciling is seen throughout the structure: walls, pillars, beams, ceiling and windows, always in a tasteful manner and with great precision. The large central Buddha is set in front of an intricately decorated wall and towers above a variety of other statues and other objects of veneration.
There are over twenty structures on the grounds including shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to gardens of various flowers and trees. A number of the structures are notable, in addition to the magnificent sim, several deserve special attention.
Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional style of a fascinating city.
Text by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska, USA
All images copyright 2006 by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska, USA. The images were taken in 2004, 2005 and 2006.