Pha That Luang (The Great Stupa or Sacred Reliquary) is the most significant Laotian religious and national monument. It is situated on a hill about three miles north east of the center of Vientiane.
Legend dates its founding from 3rd century BC Asokan missionaries who erected a shrine here to enclose a breastbone of the Buddha. The earliest physical remains of a religious structure on this site, however, seem to date from a Khmer monastery around the 12th century.
In the mid-16th century King Setthathirat moved his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered construction of That Luang. Work began in 1566. Covered in gold leaf, it repeatedly was plundered by Burmese, Siamese and Chinese. A Siamese invasion of 1828 led to massive destruction of the capital and virtual abandonment of That Luang. The present structure is a French-directed reconstruction from the 1930s–made to replace an earlier botched French reconstruction of 1900– and is based on the detailed drawings from the late 1860s by the talented French architect and explorer Louis Delaporte.
There three levels, each conveying a reflection of part of the Buddhist doctrine. The first level is 223′ x 226′; the second is 157′ along each side; the third level is 98′ along each side. From ground to pinniacle, the thaat measures 147.6′. The encircling cloister walls are almsot almost 279′ along each side and contain a large number of Lao and Khmer sculptures.
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