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Lao P.D.R.

Fon Poo Nheu Nha Nheu & Sing Keo Sing Kham

New year Poo Nheu Nha Nheu and Sing Keo Sing Kham dance


Laos_A03_FonPooNheu


The procession is led by the Ancestors ( Poo Nheu Nha Nheu )and lion dance. It is followed by the New Year Char ; flanked by Austronesian guards armed with musical instruments.


Reasons for selection

New year procession has the following characteristics:
1. Procession of mythic creation ( Poo Nheu Nha Nheu ).
2. Myth of Union (Globe and sky i.e. North and South).
3. Interpretation of challenge between Brahmanism and Buddhism.
4. Patilineriat ( Poo Nheu Nha Nheu i.e. paternal grandfather and grandmother).
5. Mythic literary Age concept with mythic criteria (phantasmagoric illogical exaggeration).
6. Northern Asia lion or Southern Dragon ( Long )or South East Asia; The lion is not the New Year Dance lion, but symbolizes the mythic phantasmagoric giant who dug the area which became the Mekong River ploughing and laying the clods which became the mountain range. He hunts the elephant in Xayaboury, the wild pig in Kham Muon region; fishes with hooks in Savannakhet, with fish traps in Khone water falls. This could reflect irrigated cultivation and hunting & fishing livelihood.


Area where performed

The Poo Nheu Nha Nheu dance is only performed in Luang Prabang, not in Vientiane nor in Savannakhet. It is the only place in which the 4-faced Brahman and his 7 daughters appear in the Char Festival at Lao New Year. The dancers are selected by the people of Wisun village, where the ancestor mask and fiber bark dress are kept all year around until next New Year.


Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance


Detailed explanation

The Char Festival used to be a parade of elephants in the past which is why the procession is also named Haevo or Haevoy. It is not known when the Poo Nheu Nha Nheu procession originated, but it could have been along with the introduction of Buddhism at the foundation of Lan Xang in 1353.

The epic story of the duel between the old orthodox Kabinlaphom ( Kapilabrahman ), symbolising Brahmanism, and the young Dhammaban ( Dhammaparakummara )is recounted in ancient Indian texts. The struggle was won by Dhammapala, and his opponent the Brahman was beheaded as a sacrifice. So it appears that the procession signifies the emergence of Buddhism in India.

But the question is, why was the loser of the battle celebrated? Perhaps this is in line with the Lao concept of the heroic literary age, when the anti-hero was described in fine detail. So the sacrificed Brahma and his seven daughters are resurrected each year in the New Year procession. At the head of the procession dance Poo Nheu Nha Nheu, the mythical Lao Ancestors, and their son, the lion. The latter is a zoomorphic representation of the phantasmagoric giant who created the Mekong River by digging it out with his toe, and who ploughed the earth and laid clods which became the mountain ranges of Laos.

The procession takes place in Luang Prabang at the Lao New Year. The Poo Nheu Nha Nheu is said to have been performed since the beginning of the 20th century according to an interpretation of an old text dating from the foundation of Lan Xang (1353)in which the events of the beginning of the Buddhist Era (543 B.C.)was mentioned.


Publication and textual documentation

N/A


Audio documentation

Some data and information are in the Institute documentation service.


Visual documentation

Some data and information are in the Institute documentation service.


Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

- Institute for Cultural Research, Ministry of Information and Culture
- Provincial Cultural Service, Luang Prabang Province
- World City Cultural Heritage


Data provider

Mr. Khampheng Kettavong
Vice Director, Institute for Cultural Research
Institute for Cultural Research, Ministry of Information and Culture
Address: N/A