Lanten Manuscripts from Northern Laos

This collection of manuscripts constitutes a resource of unique cultural value in Lanten society. Lanten (also known as Lao Huay and Yao Mun) are classified as one of the 39 ‘ethnic minorities’ of northern Laos that are officially acknowledged by the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.

Written in Classical Chinese supplemented with lexemes from Lanten language, these manuscripts mediate the transfer across the generations of the religious knowledge and verbal and non-verbal expertise enabling ritual experts to communicate with the Deities of the Lanten pantheon. To that end the manuscripts contain instructions for rituals of healing, marriage, death, ordination, and exorcism, specifying the sacrificial procedures and the Deities involved.

Each file contains at least one manuscript contained within a protective external cover. This protective covering may include animal skin, cuts of Daoist paintings, or pages from older texts. Not all these covers include a title. And even when it does contain a title, this may be general (for various texts that have been bound together), incomplete, or misleading (e.g. the cover belonged to another - usually older - manuscript that has been preserved by these means). For this reason, the main title of each file refers to the title of the first text within the manuscript binding (where such a title exists) rather than to the title on the external cover.

The digitised manuscripts belong to 34 different owners located in northern Laos. These are all, with a few exceptions, ritual experts, namely Daoist priests. To help protect the original manuscripts, the owners have been anonymised. The digital collection has been divided into 34 series in order to represent the different holdings of the 34 anonymous private owners.

Extent and format of original material: 768 manuscripts.