Sunday, June 3, 2012

Champasak Provincial Historic Museum Part 1 - Relics, Sculptures & Traces of the Past

Pakse, South Laos - Visiting the museum was not particularly part of my plan, but it's actually highlighted in LP. I wasn't looking forward to this one because Laos isn't known for great museums. In fact, the National Museum in Vientiane was a bit of a let down, except that it hosts a "jar" taken straight out of the mysterious "Plain of Jars" north of the capital.

LP calls it "Champasak Historical Heritage Museum", but the signs outside says "Champasak Provincial Historic Museum". Either way, they're descriptive of its theme - history of Laos, particularly the Champasak region. The building is bigger than the one in the capital and has two stories. The ground floor contains relics, sandstone lintels, statues, gongs and other artifacts collected from around the region. It also has musical instruments, jewelry, jars, textiles and other regional ornaments. The paintings on display are quite few (but colorful) and mediocre so don't get your hopes up.

Entry was straightforward. In fact, my presence seemed like a pleasant surprise. I was, as always, greeted with warm welcome. I logged into notebook and paid 10,000 kip (2,000 kip for locals). I pointedly asked if it was alright to take photos - despite a sign that says otherwise - and was glad to have been accommodated  without much fanfare. And these couple of posts will be shared for a) posterity, 2) completion so other probable guests will know what to expect. Personally, I was more impressed after preparing these shots than when I was there. The long ride from Don Khong should be contributory to this. Moreover, this allows me more time to really examine the objects than when i was there trying to see and remember as much as I could.

The second floor is mostly filled with fading photographs that plot the rise of communism in the country, including several that proved Vietnam's hand in their comradeship with the Pathet Lao. There are degenerating sepia-colored mugs of ethnic tribes like the Laven which I liked, but there are very few (some of them I'll post in the second part). The second floor is more historical didactism than tangible objects, thus it's easy (and less compelling) to breeze through the upper level.

During  this visit, a couple of curious monks came up to "interview" me. Why was I there? Did I like Laos? Was I traveling alone (I was supposedly very brave to do so)? I kinda enjoy the light banters with them. For a change, I wasn't the one hounding them. Haha.

The museum is open daily from 8:30 to 11:30 AM, then again at 1:30 to 4 PM. It's easy to spend an hour and a half to navigate this museum, located along Route 13, and near the Hotel Residence du Champa. In this first part are photos of this visit.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Friendly monks at the museum.

Pillar inscriptions are written in Dham alphabet. It dates back to the 18th century and found in Champasak District.

This is a fragment of a lintel originally situated above the door of a brick Pre-Angkorian temple., an arch formerly ornamented with vegetal medallions, the extremieties crook in vegetal motif; The lower border is decorated with garlands and lotus flowers. This pre-Angkorian Khmer art comes from the transition of the Prei Kmeng style at the 2nd half of the 7th century AD. This fragment was taken from Bane Veun Kheane Village, Mounlapamok District in Champasak. 

A mythical animal - a makana or a dragon?

Two mythical animals (makana) spew an ornamented arch in the middle of a medallion that shows divinity in the middle. The lower border is decorated with garlands. This lintel is originally placed on top of a door of a brick-made Pre-Angkorian Temple.  

Sivaleung. This finial was taken from Pakor Village , Sukuma District of Champasak Province. It dates back to the 7th to 9th century.

Lintels like this is a decorative component of the entrance arches and doorways, usually  placed on top.

Pha phom, Phasiva, Phavisanu.

Champasak Museum Part 2 here -

A bust of a historical figure greets you at the entrance.

The entrance of the museum. You have to pay your entrance fee here and write your name in a logbook.


Ramakrishnan said...

Great post. Seeing the stone sculptures I can see great influence from Hinduism. As I had mentioned earlier during 10-12 centuries Chola kings traveled extensively to SE Asian countries and left their indelible foot prints there.

eye in the sky said...

@ Ram:

Sometimes these influences overlap and kinda blur where architectural forms and artistic movements are concerned. I personally can identify Angkorian artifacts on a BIG scale because the form is almost unmistakable, but where intricate details are concerned, I find it hard. :)