The Phra Bang (also written Phrabang, and which literally means "delicate Buddha") is the mystical national emblem of this country. It is a statue 83cm high, covered in gold leaf.
According to the legend, this statue was made in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) between the 1st and the 9th century. It belonged for a long time to the Realm of Angkor before being given to Prince Fa Ngum, after the creation of the Realm of a Million Elephants and a White Parasol. It arrived in Luang Prabang in 1359, and so the town was renamed.
The Phra Bang is considered as a symbol of the right to rule Laos. Only a pure and true government may keep this sacred image. Its story, like that of Laos is tumultuous.
- in 1778, the Siamese (the Thai of today) invaded Luang Prabang, seized the statue and took it to Bangkok.
- in 1782, the statue returned to Luang Prabang, after a series of unfortunate events which they attributed to the absence of their palladium.
- in 1828, the Siamese again took the statue back to Bangkok
- in 1867, during a change of government, the sacred statue went back to Luang Prabang.
- since 2006, the Phra Bang is in one of the rooms of the Royal Palace (which also does the job as a museum) before being taken at a later date, to a special pavilion which is still being constructed.
Each year, on the 3rd day of the Lao New Year, the Pha Bang takes its place in the courtyard of the Wat Maï Temple to be shown to the population who, in a sort of procession, purifie it by giving it water.