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is rooted in the local language and people with the name being called "Muang
Lao" or "Pathet Lao" for centuries, both of which mean "Lao
country." The origin of the name Lao is unknown, but refers to the people.
ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ
Laos is a mountainous country, a geography that has limited
the population and in many ways isolated the country. There are numerous rivers
flowing from the north into the Mekong River in the south. Most of the people live
in these river valleys as foods grow easily and rice paddies are seen nearly everywhere.
This geography dictated the culture and way of life in the past and still dictates
most people's lives in the present. Farming is still a common occupation and
most of the people continue to live near these numerous rivers. While these villages
are growing and many are becoming towns or even cities, most of the population continues
to live as they have in the past: dependent on the land.
Through most of history, Lao culture has changed little
due to their isolation from outsiders (even when the people fell under the rule
of a foreigner, they always fell on the periphery of their empire and had little
influence on the local Lao culture). The only sea access is via the Mekong River
and the mountains isolate the people. Due to this, little has changed over time
and when an introduction has fully taken hold it seems to stay. This is the case
in Buddhism, which has dominated Lao culture and life since about the 1500s, if
not earlier. This simple life of living off the land and being a people dedicated
to Buddhism changed little until recent history.
With the arrival of foreigners and outside thoughts, the people of
Laos were thrown into the unknown as most people continued living as they
always have, while others sought western life and clung to newly introduced political
ideologies. This led the peaceful people to divide quickly as war rushed in.
Today the people of Laos, their culture, and way of life
are in flux as most people have changed little since the communist takeover and
continue to live their lives as farmers in villages and the countryside. However,
there has also been a rapid process of industrialization and the growth of cities,
creating a new culture with new technology and communication, which are slowly expanding
from the cities to the countryside.
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