Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Lao, a main branch of the Tai race [Tai], closely related to the Siamese, but largely intermixed with Indo-Chinese aborigines, hence presenting a great diversity of types, are variously divided: first, into three groups - white, who do not tattoo; black and green, who paint the face in these colours; second, into white and black Paunches (Lau-pangkab and Lau-pang-dun), the former in East Siam between Mount Deng-Phya-Phai and River Mekhong, the latter on River Menam above Bangkok, and thence to the Burmese frontier. These western Laotians are the same people as those collectively known as Shans, and ethnically the Lao, Shan, and Siamese are essentially one people, closely-related branches of the widespread Tai family. The Lao language is scarcely to be distinguished from the Siamese, except by its slower accentuation; it is little cultivated, and the writing system said to be peculiar to the Loatians is merely a modified form of the Cambojan. which is derived from the Pali introduced into Indo-China by the Buddhist missionaries from India. All the settled Laotians have long been Buddhists, governed by Siam either directly or through vassal native princes; but many have become French subjects (1893), now that the Mekhong has been chosen as the frontier between Siam and the French Indo-Chinese possessions. The so-called Lavas (Lawa, Lova) are pure or mi-xed Lao peoples, who have remained unaffected by Buddhist influences, and who are often scarcely to lie distinguished from the surrounding wild tribes (Khas). They are, in fact, regarded as such by the civilised communities, who raid them periodically to keep up their supply of slaves, domestic slavery being still a universal institution amongst the Laotians. The Lao and Shan states and provinces have anarea of not less than 160,000 square miles, with a total population vaguely estimated at'from.two to three millions.