December 20, 2012

Current and Old Lao Flags

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 the typical communist symbolic stars or hammer and sickle.

The Flag of the Former Royal Kingdom of Lan Xang

This flag was used during the monarchial times in Laos (pre-1975). The image was that of 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 and Cambodian). 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 color, albino-like elephants. To this day, the current Lao government still keep a few for special occasions 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.


  1. what about the flags before that. I need to know. I am doing a school project

    1. There are minor variations of the Lan Xang flag that you'd be able to find online.

      Prior to that when the Lao kingdoms were separate, they likely had their own flags. Google Kingdom of Champassak, Vientiane and Luangprabang separately and you'll find more examples, though not many.

      Additionally, because these were Buddhist kingdoms they likely would have also utilized the Buddhist flag during celebrations or ceremonies similar to the ones seen today at the temples.

      Hope that helps!