A Truly Unique Find
Prayer Flags are found outside and inside temples. In Luang Prabang I would often see one outside the back of Wat Visoun, fluttering gently from a bamboo pole. It wasn’t until I visited the many Taileu temples in Muang Sing I saw a proliferation of prayer flags hung from the roof in the main prayer room. The sections, delineated by bamboo sticks being woven into the cloth, are considered the steps to heaven, a way for the soul.
This prayer flag was a bit of a discovery. I was working on a project helping young Hmong women with small businesses in a town about 2 hours from Luang Prabang. We were scoping the vegetable market in the area, looking for opportunities, one of which we knew was mushrooms. We went to interview a lady who was growing mushrooms, and I saw she had cotton on a loom, I knew in this area it was most likely she was Taileu. She ended up being a sister of a weaver I knew well. She pulled out the prayer flags and said she had had an order for these but the buyer had not picked them up. Over 2m long, they are impressive, and with the bamboo they hang beautifully, immediately we hung one in the shop, receiving positive feedback from our customers.
These particular flags have the siho, a mythical elephant lion beast depicted with the ancestor spirit riding on his back. This is a creature often found in textiles of the Tai groups.
The colours are made from natural dyes. Most prayer flags you see in Laos today are not handwoven, which makes these very special.