Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lao Steampunk: Xang Mecha

Laos is historically known as the realm of a million elephants (xang) or nak.

As we continue our steampunk discussion, what might a society look like if it had access to mechanical automata designed to look like a xang, and what conditions are in place where the Lao would want to turn to such devices?

Would they resemble something similar to the steampunk elephants of the Gallery of the Machines de l’île in Nantes, France?


The Ile de Nantes is an area undergoing redevelopment located in the heart of the city along the banks of the Loire River. The 337-hectare Ile de Nantes project is one of the largest urban projects in Europe. Nantes Métropole wanted to give a new vocation to the site of the former shipyards while still respecting its past.

The Machines project highlights this essential component of Nantes’ history by blending technology and poetry to give it new life. What would it be like to see something similar in Laos?

Given the role of elephants in Lao society and Southeast Asia for centuries, one could see a steampunk society where the use of mechanical elephants is preferred during conflicts rather than risk them as assets irretrievably lost for construction, logging and agriculture projects. 

Of course, there are many questions that would arise regarding a society that used these.

A variety of weather and climate conditions would oblige us to ask how we would keep and maintain these mechanical xang in working condition.

Would they be made available for use by villages, or just for wealthy families in the society? Would their purpose be merely symbolic as a testament to a village's ingenuity, or practical, perhaps used to help define borders or serve as a beacon?

There are many possibilities to explore.

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