Sunday, October 21, 2012

Alternate Lao History

It's been a little while since we've done a discussion on Steampunk, alternate history and secret history especially from a Lao perspective. There are some perennial questions about the value of creating alternate histories when the real histories as seen from the perspectives of those who lived it are so hard to find to begin with.

So, if I tell you that in 2488, the Lao perfected a six-legged chicken but got bought out by a visiting Colonel Sanders who was serving in an advisory capacity for a foreign agricultural aid program with Pearl Buck, do I as a fiction writer need to feel responsible if someone believes that or spends time trying to debunk the idea?

Or: You haven't read Shakespeare until you've read him in the original Lao. That's always a great tall tale.

How interesting Lao American literature might become if we opted for the "Balderdash" approach to teaching our culture. To present utterly outrageous claims so often that we can only really hold onto our culture by doing enough research to know how and why those claims ARE outrageous.

Given how much the average Lao person knows of their own history right now, a 'straight' telling of our journey certainly hasn't gotten us very far.

In the meantime, here's something that may be of help for emerging Lao writers.

Largely adapted from the Martin Stuart Fox chronology of Lao history, and assuming the standard Asian zodiac, for those of you writing historic Lao fiction and other stories, the following can serve as a helpful guideline to get your chronological bearings.

The first year listed is the Lao year, the second year is the European/American calendar year:

1896: Foundation of Lan Xang by Fa Ngum. 1353, Year of the Snake.

2022: Vietnamese invade Lan Xang. 1479, Year of the Pig.

2091: Xetthathirat briefly unifies kingdom of Lan Xang and Lan Na. 1548, Year of the Monkey.

2103: Capital moved to Viang Chan from Luang Prabang. 1560, Year of the Monkey.

2106 to 2118: Burmese invasions of Lan Xang. 1563-75, Year of the Ox to Year of the Pig.

2181 to 2238: Reign of Surinyavongsa. 1638-95, Year of the Tiger to Year of the Pig.

2184 to 2185: First Europeans reach Viang Chan. 1641-42, Year of the Snake to Year of the Horse.

2250, 2256: Lan Xang splits into 3 kingdoms. 1707 and 1713,  Year of the Pig, Year of the Snake.

2322: All 3 kingdoms become tributaries to Siam. 1779, Year of the Pig.

2369 to 2371: Chao Anouvong’s war of independence.1826-1828, Year of the Dog to Year of the Rat.

2363 to 2383: Earliest Hmong migrations into Laos. 1820-40, Year of the Nak to Year of the Rat.

2404: French explorer Henri Mouhot arrives in Luang Prabang. 1861, Year of the Rooster.

2410: French Mekong Expedition maps rivers through Lao territories. 1867, Year of the Rabbit.

2430: Auguste Pavie, first French vice-consul arrives in Luang Prabang. 1887, Year of the Pig.

2436: French seize Lao territories east of Mekong, ceded by Siam.1893, Year of the Snake.

2442: Administrative reorganization of Laos under Resident Superieur 1899, Year of the Pig.

2444 to 2450: ‘Holy Man Revolt’ in Southern Laos. 1901-07, Year of Ox to Year of the Goat.

2450: Franco-Siamese Treaty establishes modern Lao borders. 1907. Year of the Goat.

2451 to 2453: Leu insurrection in Northern Laos. 1908-10, Year of the Monkey to Year of the Dog.

2457 to 2459. Leu revolt in Luang Namtha and Ho Tai revolt in northeast. 1914-16, Year of the Tiger to Year of the Nak.

2462 to 2465: Hmong insurrection in Northern Laos. 1919-22, Year of the Goat to Year of the Dog.

2466: First session of Indigenous Consultative Assembly. 1923, Year of the Pig.

2484: Franco-Thai war leads to Loss of Lao territories on the West Bank of Mekong. 1941, Year of the Snake.

2488: Lao independence declared. 1945, Year of the Rooster.

2493: US recognizes Laos as an independent state. 1950, Year of the Tiger.

2507 to 2516. Secret bombings of Laos. 1964 to 1973, Year of the Nak to Year of the Ox

2518: End of the War for Laos. 1975, Year of the Rabbit.

2555: Present day. 2012, Year of the Nak.

No comments: