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Photisarath I
King of Lan Xang
Phra That Phanom 02.jpg
That Phanom, then part of Lan Xang, enhanced by Photisarath in 1539 during a pilgrimage
Coronation 1520
Predecessor Visoun
Successor Setthathirath I
Muang Sua, Lan Xang
Xieng-Mai Nhotnakorn Palace, Vientiane, Lan Xang
SpouseQueen Yot Kham Tip (Lan Na)
Unnamed Queen (Ayutthaya)
Unnamed Queen (Khmer)
Queen Kong Soi
Queen Keng (Muang Phuan)
Queen Pak Thuoi Luong
IssuePrince Setthavangso
Prince Lankarnakaya
Prince Tharua
Prince Phya Asen
Princess Keo Koumane
Princess Taen Kam Lao
Princess Kamagayi
Princess Dharmagayi
Regnal name
Samdach Brhat-Anya Budhisara Maha Dharmikadasa Lankanakuna Maharaja Adipati Chakrapati Bhumina Narindra Raja Sri Sadhana Kanayudha
Dynasty Khun Lo
Father Visoun
Religion Therevada Buddhism

Photisarath (also spelled Phothisarath, Phothisarat, or Potisarat, Lao : ພະເຈົ້າໂພທິສະລາດ, 1501–1547) son of King Visoun of Lanxang, is considered to be the most devout of the Lao kings. He banned spirit worship and built temples upon the sites of spirit shrines. His elephant fell and crushed him while he sought to display his prowess to the diplomatic corps. His son Setthathirath returned from Chiang Mai to succeed him to the throne of Lan Xang.


Phothisarath was ruler (1520–47) of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang whose territorial expansion embroiled Laos in the warfare that swept mainland Southeast Asia in the latter half of the 16th century. King Chairachathirat of the Ayutthaya Kingdom invaded Vientiane with a large army in 1540, captured Muang Khouk and crossed the Mekong, but succumbed to a rout at the battle of Sala Kham, the remnants fleeing for their lives and leaving enormous casualties behind. Phothisarath himself allied himself with Burma, sent out 3 campaigns against the Ayutthaya Kingdom: the first to Phitsanulok in 1535, the second one to Vieng Prangarm in 1539, and third was sent in 1548 to Vieng Prab (now Sawangaburi) where he brought back 20,000 families to settle in the Lan Xang kingdom.

In 1548, following the ascension of King Maha Chakkraphat and queen Suriyothai to the Ayutthaya Kingdom throne, Burmese king Tabinshwehti planned an attack, starting the Burmese–Siamese War. Tabinshwehti asked Phothisarath to attack Ayutthaya from the North which eventually resulted in the famous death of Suriyothai in defense of her husband.

Phothisarath was a pious Buddhist who worked to undermine animism and Brahmanic religious practices and promote Buddhism. In 1527, Phothisarath issued a decree proscribing the worship of animism as groundless superstition, and ordering their shrines to be destroyed and their altars thrown into the river. [1] He resided much of the time not in the capital at Luang Prabang but in Vientiane, which was located farther south and maintained better communications with the major states of the region. Phothisarath married a princess from Chiang Mai (now part of northern Thailand), and when his father-in-law Mueangketklao, the ruler of Lan Na or Chiang Mai, died in 1546 without male issue, Phothisarath's own son Setthathirath placed on the Chiang Mai throne. When Phothisarath died the following year, after a fatal accident while hunting wild elephants, Setthathirath succeeded him and joined together the two kingdoms—which were soon embroiled in Burmese–Siamese wars that would devastate much of the region over the next half-century.


  1. Queen Yudhi Karma Devi (Yot Kam Tip), Nang Nhot-Kham - (m. 1533) daughter of Brhat Muang Ket Klao Setharaja, King of Lanna
    1. Prince Jaya Setha Varman (Setthavangso), (Phya Uppayao), (Sai Setthathirath I) - King of Lan Na (r. 1546-1551) and Lan Xang (r. 1548-1571)
  2. a princess of Ayutthaya - killed by Phya Sri Sadharmatilaka on ca. 1550
    1. Prince Lankarnakaya (Phra Lancharng) - Seized the territories south of Chiengkarn after the death of his father, 1550. Defeated and taken prisoner, together with his mother, by Phya Srisa Dharmatilaka ~1550. Pardoned by his brother and appointed as Governor of Saenmuong
    2. Prince Dharuva (Tharua), Brhat Vora Varman (Phra Vorawong) - Seized Luang Prabang and the territories north of Chiengkarn, after the death of his father, 1547. Defeated and expelled by his eldest brother, King Setthathirath
  3. a daughter of Prince Kuvanadeva (Khua-Thepha)
  4. Nang Kong-Soi
  5. Nang Keng - niece of Prince Kama Setthadhananga (Kham Xat Tha Nang), Prince of S’ieng Wong S’ieng Wang (Xieng Khoang)
  6. Nang Pak Thuoi Luong - (m. 1534)
  7. by unknown women
    1. Prince Brhatasena (Phya Asen) (Vorawongse I) - King of Lan Xang (r. 1575-1579)
    2. Princess Kaeva Kumari (Keo Koumane)
    3. Princess Taen Kam Lao
    4. Princess Kamagayi (Kam Khai)
    5. Princess Dharmagayi (Kham Khai) - m. Brhat Varapitra (Vorapita) (d. 1604), regent for his son (1596-1602) Voravongsa II
      1. Thammikarath Vorouvongsa II - King of Lan Xang (r. 1596-1621)

See also

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Nakhon Noi briefly occupied the throne of Lan Xang from 1582–1583 on the death of his father Sen Soulintha, who himself had been appointed as a vassal to the Toungoo Empire from 1580-1582. Nakhon Noi took the regnal name Samdach Brhat Chao Samdach Brhat Chao Negara Nawi Raja Sri Sadhana Kanayudha. Little is known about his brief rule, it does not appear in the sources that the Burmese were at the origin of his selection to succeed Sen Soulintha and were instead informed belatedly. If he had supporters in the royal court of Lan Xang they were few and quickly became unhappy with his rule. Within the year the royal court had petitioned King Nanda Bayin for his removal. According to various versions of the chronicles it is cited that Nakhon Noi “did not rule with fairness,” or keep to the religious and behavioral precepts which were traditionally required by a sovereign. Other versions record that he simply had made enemies at court, or was perceived as illegitimate because he was of common origins. Either at the hands of the royal court, or the Burmese, Nakhon Noi was deposed, arrested, and returned to Pegu. After Nakhon Noi was deposed a period of interregnum occurred from 1583-1591 which historian Paul Le Boulanger describes as a period of “absolute confusion,” among the factions at court. The chronicles again agree that it was only after the period of succession crisis that a petition was finally sent in 1591 to Nanda Bayin by the Lao sangha and Lan Xang court asking for Prince No Muang, the son and legitimate heir of Setthathirath, to be appointed as king. Nanda Bayin confirmed the request and Prince No Muang would take the throne as Nokeo Koumane and reign Lan Xang from 1591-1596.

Chao Kingkitsarat, also known as Kitsarat or Kitsarath, was the king of Luang Phrabang.


  1. John Holt (2009). Page 60. Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture. University of Hawaii Press.
Preceded by
King of Lan Xang
Succeeded by