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Phase I : Pilot project in Luang Prabang

Training center

Project training center © UNESCO

As a direct result of the project activities, a training centre has been established.  Named the ‘UNESCO Training Centre for Laotian Traditional Arts and Building Crafts Luang Prabang’, this centre provides multi-level skills training in traditional temple arts and building crafts, therewith revitalizing almost lost skills. 

The project’s training centre is located, according to traditional practice, within the temple grounds in order to ensure that the monasteries, which form the core of the heritage of Luang Prabang, remain the principal institutions for training in traditional artisan skills within the community.  One of the kouti (monk’s quarters) of Vat Xieng Mouane, one of Luang Prabang’s core temples, was chosen as the site of the training centre.  Keeping the training within the monasteries reinforces the community’s social responsibility for the conservation of Luang Prabang as a World Heritage site, by placing this responsibility within the traditional Buddhist context of ethical practice coupled with practical skills training. In this training centre, monks, novices, traditional masters and teachers work on the survival and revival of (partly) lost traditional techniques used for temple decoration. The training centre provides classroom and hands-on training and functions as workshop for research and applied work.

Since the centre's inception, several monks and novices have - with satisfactory results - attended the training, with the effect that Luang Prabang now has its first trained monks artisans in many years.  This new generation of monk-artisans is now working on the (restoration of) the decoration of Luang Prabang’s temples, therewith reinvigorating their role as caretakers of the temples.

In addition, skilled monks are participating in the teaching.  Traditionally, the teachers and masters who trained the young monks and novices were monks themselves. It has been the goal of this project to revive this tradition. Because of the unavailability of monk teachers and masters, the project had to create this pool of skilled monks first. In order to do so, the project has hired teachers from the school of fine arts in Luang Prabang and some old masters who were trained in temple arts when they were a novice in one of the temples in Luang Prabang in the time the old training centers were still operating. By now, certified monks, trained under this project, are assisting in the teaching of the younger generation of trainees, therewith reinvigorating the tradition of master-apprenticeship. It is anticipated that within the next three years, sufficient monk teachers will be produced to - gradually - replace the non-monk teachers.  This will, in effect, revive the traditional system of fine arts and building crafts apprenticeship among the monks and novices of the Laotian Buddhist Sangha. [more...]