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Tribal Religion in Laos


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While Buddhism is the dominant religion of Laos, prominently displayed via countless temples that are tourist attractions (see photos at bottom of post), Animism is the second most popular religion practiced by the Lao people— especially those in the Hmong tribe—with Christianity and Islam (which were outlawed for a time after the monarchy was overthrown and the Communist government took over after the Vietnam War— or as the Laos people call it, the American Secret War or the CIA War).

Compared to Buddhism, the average tourist may not readily learn about Animism if not for a guide like ours (Dee), whose family are from the Hmong tribe. Could this be because the Hmong tribe sided with the Monarchy and CIA during the Vietnam War? According to Dee, there are only 600,000 Hmong remaining in Laos, 4-5K in Thailand and about a million in Vietnam, and about 300,000 reside in the U.S.

According to Wikipedia, “Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and in some cases words—as animated and alive.” It is the belief system of the indigenous people of Laos and other Asian nations and still exists today.

Dee was gracious enough to share some of the traditions of Hmong tribal life through his own experiences and family photos, as well as tour us through a traditional Hmong village. (See https://gardenleave.travellerspoint.com/18/.)


Dee discusses the different sects of Hmong Tribes:

The main Animese holiday is the New Year, which is timed consistent with the Chinese New Year. This is when the Hmong people dress up in beautiful traditional clothing and gather to celebrate and play traditional games like “play the ball.” This tradition, in fact, is how many marriage matches are made.

Playing the ball:

Lao Temple photo dump from our trip:


Posted by GardenLeave 13:02 Archived in Laos Tagged buddhism laos islam vietnam_war christianity hmong_tribe animism american_secret_war play_the_ball

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