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Ho Phra Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

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Ho Phra Keo, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Vientiane, Laos.

Ho Phra Keo, also variously spelled as Haw Phra Keow, Ho Prakeo and Ho Phra Kaew, and commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy. The temple is now a museum and is no longer used as a place of worship.

Ho Phra Keo is situated just across Setthathirat Road from Wat Si Saket. King Setthathirat built it in 1565 to house the Emerald Buddha (indeed, the name Ho Phra Keo means Image of the Jewel Buddha) which he brought with him to Laos after his father, King Phothisarat died, and Setthathirat moved the capital from Lanna (in present day Chiangmai) to Vientiane.

The Emerald Buddha is actually made of jade. The original Emerald Buddha is no longer in this temple. It was taken by General Chakri (the future King Rama I) of Siam when he ransacked Vientiane in 1779, and today, it is installed at Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. During that invasion, Ho Phra Keo was damaged, but was rebuilt by the Siamese - only to be destroyed by them again during the next Siamese invasion, of 1828.

Ho Phra Keo was rebuilt between 1936 and 1942 in a Bangkok-rococo style, under the supervision of Prince Souvanna Phouma, a Paris-educated engineer and future prime minister of independent Laos. On its veranda are some of the most exquisite examples of Buddhist sculptures in Laos.

Ho Phra Keo now houses the museum which contains a gilded throne, Khmer Buddhist stelae, bronze frog drums, wooden carvings and palm-leaf manuscripts. The museum is open Tues-Sun from 8:00am-11:30am and 2:00pm-4:30pm.

Ho Phra Keo houses some of the best examples of Buddhist sculptures in Laos.

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