History of Muang Sing Town

Muang Sing is a region of historical significance as a crossroad for trade, known as the “Tea Horse Trail”, taking mule caravans through Laos to China and Tibet. Among the three major routes, the most difficult but most direct ran from Houai Xay through Vieng Phoukha to Muang Sing town before continuing to Yunnan Province in China.

Muang Sing District was historically known as a principality of Xieng Khaeng(which later changed its name to Muang Sing) that stretched along the Mekong River and was ruled by ethnic Tai Lue people.  The earliest documents mentioning a settlement in the plains of Muang Sing date from 1792. Located between the rival kingdoms of Myanmar and Siam, the people settling in the plains were threatened by punitive expeditions or deportation and deported in 1805/06 and 1812/14 to Nan area in northern Thailand. For almost sixty years the plains lay vast. Only on the high slopes of the mountains hill tribes started to settle, arriving from the Province of Yunnan.

In 1887 the ruler of Xieng Khaeng, Cao Fa Sili Nò, transferred the old capital to the plains of Muang Sing and he founded Muang Sing, the first stable city in the plains. But in 1889 Siamese soldiers captured the city and Cao Fa Sili Nó was forced to pay tribute to King Chulalongkorn of Siam. British troops, coming from Myanmar, invaded the satellite state in 1895. After a secret Franco-British treaty over territorial issues in the region failed, the French took control of Muang Sing and the city became part of the French protectorate of Luang Prabang. In 1916 the French dismissed the last Lord Protector of Xieng Khaeng and Muang Sing thus came under the direct rule of the colonial administration Under French rule Muang Sing prospered and a street to China, a fort and the market were built.

Yunnanese traders caravanned through Muang Singto and from China, Burma and Siam, and the area was known for its colorful and lively local markets filled with people of different ethnic groups. The trade through Sing district persisted during the French colonial administration much to its dismay, and continued until the late 1940s when the Communist took over China and restricted cross border trade. In 1946 the Chinese Kuomintang launched an attack on the city destroying its market and city walls. During the Indochina wars trade and livelihoods were disrupted as it became a major battlefront. In 1962 during fights between the Pathet Lao and the royal government troops one of the city’s vats was destroyed. The Indochina wars decimated the population of the region and only after 1975 when Laos became a socialist country, the region was repopulated.

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