Thursday, 15 July 2010

Laotian Wonderland

This next place that I would like to share is quite unusual.  In 1958, not far from Vientiane, the capital of Laos, a most extraordinary garden of sculptures was created on the banks of the Mekong river.  The ideas behind the sculptures came from Buddhism and Hinduism, and drew inspiration from local artistic traditions.  But this was also combined with a strange and wonderful vision that included all manner of people and monsters, gods and demons.  This vision belonged to Bunleua Sulilat, a mystic artist.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

   Though he had no artistic training or background, he set himself the task of creating immense concrete sculptures to illustrate his interior creations, and spiritual beliefs.  He did not work alone on these sculptures, however.

Though there were those who believed him to be insane, there were many others who were deeply inspired by his vision, and for them, Sulilat became something of a spiritual leader.  It was because of these people's great belief in him that they donated their time and also the concrete needed to realize the sculptures.

   I wish I had more photos of these sculptures, with close-up shots of more of the statues, but the camera that we had at the time (four years ago, during the same trip as when we went to Korea) didn't have a lot of memory space, and it was so old that we couldn't even buy better memory cards for it.
   In the top two photos you can see, far off in the distance, what looks like a tree growing out of a ball, or a pumpkin.  I remember that it was possible to go inside that sculpture, by walking through the giant, open mouth of a red-eyed demon.  Inside there were three floors, and the bottom floor was Buddhist hell:

And here is a view of the garden from a window in the top floor of the sculpture:

   It is so inspiring to think of so many people coming together to create this bizarre, otherworldly place.  One can only imagine what passion they must have shared to dive into such a giant, daunting project without any training in sculpture.  Though it might not come across from the photos, many of these sculptures are immense, and as you can see, they are also beautifully made. On the day we went, we were alone except for a few cows, and it was truly like walking through a wonderland.


  1. Heisann!
    What an inspiring garden - some people run over by creativity and the rest of us can just enjoy the results.

    Thanks to you I discoverd IF ;:OD)
    Have a nice weekend ... I hope to read your post about Korea and the temples then!

  2. hello Jodi! Owwww! The photos are so cool! you're so lucky! thank you so much for your comment on my illustration... :D I have appreciated it a lot

  3. fascinating place! sculpture is such a fantastic medium, the giant topiary gardens, too? i love a place where you are dwarfed by objects of the mystical imagination :D

  4. Thank goodness people like this man dream large and are not afraid to bring life to their dreams even when they face the obstacles of not having the necessary skills or materials resulting in some people pointing the finger at insanity.

    Thanks for the link, he sounded like an interesting chap and I like the thought he rests bodily amongst his creations*!*