Legend has it that during a trip, King Chanthaphanith saw a hill, whose form reminded him of a huge grain of rice. Beside this hill, there was a magnificent Royal Poinciana (otherwise known as a Flamboyant) covered with bright red flowers, so he called the town "The Flamboyant City ".
Another legend tells us about two hermits who predicted the prosperity of a town if it was built at the foot of this ‘rice grain’ hill
A small realm
Up until the 14th century, the town often changed names :
- Muang Seua (also written Muang Swa)
- Xieng Dong-Xieng Thong
- To end up by being called Luang Prabang
It became the headquarters for different reigning dynasties:
- The Chanthaphanit Dynasty
- The Phra Xay Dynasty
- The Xoua Dynasty
- The Khun Borom Dynasty, of which Fa Ngum was a part.
Up until Fa Ngum’s accession to the throne, the history of Luang Prabang was closely tied up with surrounding realms and influences :
The first Lao leader was Khun Lo, who conquered the town of Luang Prabang in the year 698. Khun Lo was the eldest son of Khun Borom, a mythical figure in the Lao legend of the beginnings of the world as we know it today. Khun Borom came from heaven (possibly a figure indicating China) and supposedly gave to his seven sons equal parts of the new Thai territory. Historically, this territory can be identified as the regions of Myanmar, South Yunnan, North Thailand (Chiang Mai and Ayuthaya), North Laos (Luang Prabang and XiengKhouang) and Noth Vietnam. All the Lao royal families recognised Khun Lo as their first ancestor.
- In the centuries that followed, Luang Prabang fell, respectively, under the reign of the Yunnan realm of Nanzhao (Nan-Chao), the Khmer empire (Cambodia of today) and a few Thai overlords.
- Then came the Lanna realm, founded in 1259, which extended from Chiang Mai in Thailand to Luang Prabang.
- The main religion was still animism, even though many countries (especially the Khmer Empire of Wat Angkor) had converted to Buddhism under Indian, then Chinese influence.