Survey of Lao Manuscripts in Vientiane and two neighbouring provinces (EAP1319)

Aims and objectives

This project will survey manuscript holdings and manuscript cultures in the capital city of Vientiane, Laos, and in the two neighbouring provinces of Vientiane and Bolikhamsay. Some 18,500 manuscripts (in approximately 135 known collections) were catalogued in these areas during previous surveys in the 1980s and 1990s, following which only isolated inspections have taken place. There is now a need to revisit the previously surveyed collections, using these records as a baseline to reveal changes over the past 25-30 years, as well as to survey smaller collections not previously included but which may also hold valuable manuscripts.


The project surveyed the manuscript holdings of 166 temples within Vientiane using data from previous surveys as a baseline to reveal changes. As anticipated based on prior isolated inspections, the project confirmed significant manuscript losses had taken place over the past 20-35 years (depending upon the date of the previous surveys). The overall findings show that out of total of 21,383 manuscripts based on previous survey records (and in some cases including newly added manuscripts), only 12,457 remain in 2022, i.e. the number of manuscripts lost is 9,179 or 42.93% of the expected total. The overarching reason for this very significant loss is neglect, compounded by termites, rain damage, fire, etc. This project highlighted the need to reconsider existing policies and practices for manuscript preservation in Laos.

In addition to a detailed comparison of previous records with current holdings, the project also built on the basic manuscript catalogue data to include information at the repository level, conservation data, records of microfilming or digitisation, contact details of resource persons for the production and use of manuscripts, a photographic record of conditions before and after preservation work, and causes of manuscript loss. The resulting database provides the foundation for a comprehensive ‘national database of Lao manuscript cultures’ to be used as a tool for future preservation, digitisation, and research efforts.

A sample of 28 manuscripts (3,108 images) from 4 locations were digitised during the survey project, with dates from 1770 to 1973. The records have been catalogued as:


READ ME for EAP1319 Survey Data

EAP1319 Locations

The following temple surveys were submitted as part of the project outputs: