Symbols of Laos

Flag of Laos

Flag of Laos

Laos Khene

Laos Khene

Dok Champa

Dok Champa



The Current Lao PDR Flag

The current Lao flag became official at the same time the republic was created (1975). The white circle is said to represent the sunrise over the Mekong River. It is also sometimes described as the unity after the struggle from imperialism. This flag is also one of the few that represents a communist country without having any symbolic stars or hammer and sickle.


The Flag of the Former Royal Kingdom of Lan Xang


This old flag was used during the monarchial times. The image was the three headed elephant on top of a stand with an umbrella (or parasol) on top.


The three headed elephant image is Buddhist/Hindu in origin – it is called Airavata (or Erawan in Thai & Cambodia). According to Buddhist/Hindu beliefs the elephant has always been a symbol of greatness, wisdom and a vehicle.


Many former Lao kings prized these large animals, especially the light colour/albino-like elephants. To this day, the current Lao government still keep a few for special occassions and celebrations. Coincidentally, the three headed mythic elephant symbol had the same number as there were principalities. Thus the three heads came to represent the former Kingdoms of Vientiane, Luangprabang, and Champassak. However among Lao scholars there is controversy over whether the three headed elephant meant to represent the unity of the three kingdoms or just the Kingdom of Luangprabang.


The umbrella also has certain meanings. In Sri Lanka and India, Buddhist temples were in the shape of huge domes and on top of the dome there would be a small umbrella (or parasol) surrounded by square railings. The highest point of the dome or pillar, the umbrella, represents the Buddhist cosmological myth of Mt. Meru being the center of the universe.


The background color of the flag, red, represents the blood of the people. The stand on which the elephant is standing on represents the laws of the country/kingdom.



Dok Champa – “Champa Flower” – also known as plumeria. This is also another official symbol of Laos. It is found in cities throughout Laos. It represents sincererity and joy in life. In particular the trees bearing these beautiful flowers are mostly found growing near the temples as well.




The That Luang, in Vientiane, is somewhat of an un-official national symbol of the country. However, its image is used on the embassy seal. This shows how deep rooted Buddhism is throughout Laos.


Use of the image is symbolic of Laos’ long historical affiliation with Buddhism. A religion that entered Laos over several centuries ago. It is estimated that over 70% of Lao people are followers of this religion. The That Luang is one of the oldest, most visibly impressive and original Buddhist that or chedi in Laos.


The National Emblem

The Lao emblem contains several images. If you look really close you can actually see writing on the bottom and at the sides. All text written in Lao: It has some words written to the left and right. However the most important features included are at the bottom where it reads Sathalanalat Pasathipatai Pasason Lao which is the official name of the country – Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Additionally you can see that the two curves at the right and left are actually rice stalks which of course reflects Laos’ main agricultural item and its primary staple food. Furthermore, there is the forever-present That Luang image in between the two stalks. The That Luang, a religious Buddhist temple, is often described as Laos’ (unofficial) national symbol.


The emblem has been adjusted about two or three times since its creation back in the 1970s. These changes were usually in the text or words and images included on the emblem. For example they removed the word ‘socialism’ and the communist symbols, hammer and sickle.

This emblem is also used on the embassy seal. However in these cases it has been observed without the text appearing on the left and right sides.


The Khene

Often described as Laos’ national instrument. The Khene is made up of several pieces of bamboo.


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