Xieng Khouang Ethnic Diversity

Four ethnic groups – the Tai Dam, Khmu, Tai Phuan, and Hmong – populate Xieng Khouang’s landscape. Some share the same villages, each in their own section, but interact as a larger community.


The Tai Dam are noted for their silk weaving, a skill they brought from north-western Vietnam, when they migrated to northern Laos in the late 19th century. Tai Dam villages consist of a cluster of houses, mostly on stilts, and with thatched roofing draped over its walls. Under the houses, women weave on looms, while others spin and dye threads. They practice Buddhism with folk animism, and believe objects have spirits, and people possess several souls.  

The Khmu migrated to Laos thousands of years ago, with some settling in Xieng Khouang. They rely on the forest for growing rice, hunting and gathering, and producing woven rattan and bamboo basketry, tools, and net-bags, as well as lao hai (jar alcohol). They practice animism and worship spirits. You can visit a Khmu settlement in a village shared with Tai Phuan at Jar Site 1 at Ban Na-0.

The Tai Phuan wandered to Xieng Khouang’s highland plains from southern China during the 13th century. They established a small principality, Muang Phuan, with its capital in Khoun Town. They are mostly rice paddy farmers, who also fish and collect non-timber forest products.

The Hmong migrated from China to Xieng Khouang in the 19th century. They are the province’s most populous group, accounting for nearly 40% of the inhabitants. Most live in hilltop villages, and are skilled at hunting, mixing herbal medicines, and raising animals, particularly horses. Intricate embroidery and heavy silver jewellery adorn their clothes, and some villages create batik designs using beeswax and indigo dyes.


Xieng Khouang: Beyond the Plain of Jars

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