In addition to being the royal temple at which the kings of Luang Prabang were crowned down to 1975, the temple was the monastery of the 'Gateway to the Town' and it was here that the king's officials made their arrivals and departures.
The sim or ordination hall - a small building with a low, sweeping three-tiered roof supported by square whitewashed columns - was constructed in 1560 by Sai Setthathirat I (1550-1571) to honour the legend of Chanthaphanit, whose story is illustrated in black and gold stencilled designs inside the building. According to tradition, two hermits settled near a striking mai thong tree which became the site of the future kingdom of Muang Sua. A betel-nut trader from Vientiane, chosen for his intrinsic merit by the people, became the first monarch of the kingdom. Under the name of Phagna Chanthaphanit Sathit Souvannaphouma, he ordered the construction of the royal palace and the first monastery at the site indicated by the two hermits.
Wat Xieng Thong was the only monastery in Luang Prabang to escape the 1887 fire at the time of the sacking of Luang Prabang. It has been restored twice - in 1928 and then again between 1952 and 1960 by King Sisavangvong (1904-1959). On the latter occasion the sim was extensively redecorated and remodelled to feature richly-decorated wooden columns supporting a ceiling decorated with dhammachakkas (dhamma wheels).
The rear wall of the sim features a beautiful glass mosaic of the mai thong tree set in a red background, also dating from the 1960s and similar in style to the mosaic in the Throne Room of the Royal Palace with which it is contemporaneous. Surrounding the sim are numerous other buildings, notably the ho tai (tripitaka library), the reclining Buddha sanctuary or Red Chapel (ho tai pha sai nyaat) with its especially important reclining Buddha statue, the ho kong (drum tower) and the exquisitely-carved and gilded royal funeral carriage house (hong kep mieng). The latter houses an impressive 12 metre high royal funeral chariot, the funeral urns of various royal family members and a cabinet containing ipok puppets.
- Street address : Ban Xieng Thong
- Telephone :
- Contact : Phra Onekeo Sitthivong Chief Abbot of Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Pak Khan
- Opening hours : 08:00am-05:00pm daily