Laos was known for centuries as Lan Xang. Lan Xang, which translates as “The Land of One Million Elephants”, is the precursor kingdom to modern Laos. It dominated the Indochina region from the 14th to the 18th century. The Laotian monarchy provided 750 years of continuity for the traditions of Lan Xang through the the Khun Lo Dynasty ending in 1975, the concluding year of the Civil War, in which Communists came into power.
Elephants have long been associated with power and kingship and wealth in Indochina. In the 15th century, war broke out between Vietnam and Laos, Lan Xang, which has become known as the War of the White Elephant.
By the time of this sad 2012 article, elephants have been reduced vastly in number with an uncertain future.
The National Emblem adorns the front of our featured 1979 banknote, and is illustrated here. Left-center illustrates the electricity powering the nation, while right-center is the forest on the traditional paddy field; the road forward is between the two.
At left is the National Emblem of Laos on the front of a 2003 banknote. Much will be seen to be the same, and some changes are self-explanatory. The hammer and sickle, symbolizing the union of the industrial and agricultural workers, the great symbol of the Soviet Union, is, of course, absent. The rapid demise of the Soviet Union came with stunning surprise to the leaders of Laos, as indeed it came to much of the world. I am curious as to the alteration in the script wrapping the rice stalks on the right, as well as that below the gear at center. The script below the gear in the center is the name of the State, which apparently has not changed since 1975. If a reader has any insight on this, I would very much appreciate your contribution by way of comment or email.
In Myanmar, and throughout southeast Asia, the white elephant is symbol of good fortune and power, and especially political power. Vice President Agnew presented one to the King of Cambodia during the late 20th century. In historic Thailand, the white elephant was a symbol of royal power and any that were discovered were presented to the king. the prestige of kings was considered according to how many white elephants he possessed.
These buildings house the Assembly of the Union. Established in the 2008 constitution, The Assembly of the Union is the bicameral legislative body of Myanmar.
Elephants, a tree, and a safari vehicle in Kasungu National Park decorate the back of this banknote.
Kasungu National Park extends along the Zambian border. It averages 1000 meters in elevation and is covered with woodlands and bush and numerous grassy river channels running through it. It provides home for elephants and hippos, antelope, impala, zebras and buffalo. The illustration shows a safari vehicle in the foreground and an elephant nearby, but the perspective belies the true size of our beloved creatures.
Try this photo.
Our elephants can be 4 meters tall!
African elephants are very social beings. Both the men and women have tusks. The elephants illustrated in the 50 kwacha note are a mother and child. Herds are led by a matriarch, usually the oldest woman and consist of their daughters, sisters and their children. The boys remain with the herd through adolescence and then generally move on. The men tend to be loners but will sometimes congregate in smaller bachelor pods. Now for the tree.
If you look closely, them immensity of the tree trunk can be seen below baby’s neck and through mama’s legs. Yes, this appears to be none other than the wonderful Baobab! Please compare it to this photo from the field.
This baobab tree resides in Liwonde national Park, Malawi, which is just 250 miles are so, as the creatures roam, from Kasungu national park.
The baobab is also known as the “Tree of Life”.
As to why this particular tree is called the “Tolkein Tree”, well, that is a tale for another post.