Laos the name of the mountain tribes in Farther India who inhabit the country between China, Assam, Burmah, Siam, and Tonquin, and are dependent upon Siam. Like the Shaus of Burmah, they belong to the race of the Thai, which extends through the Ahom as far as Assam. The Laos and their descendants, scattered through the northern provinces of Siam and their own country, are estimated at two to three millions. The Laos are divided into two subdivisions. The western tribes tattoo themselves like the Burmese and the Shaus, and are on that account called Lao-punydam, or black-bellied Laos; the eastern tribes, which do not tattoo themselves, are called Lao-pung-khao, or white-bellied Laos. The western Laos form the principalities of Labong (founded in 574 after Christ), Lamphun, Lagong, Myang Preh, Myang Nan, Chiengrai, and Chiengmai or Zimmay. The last- named was formerly an independent kingdom, which frequently carried on wars with Pegu. Of the principalities of the eastern or white Laos, Viengkhan has been almost wholly (1828), and Myang Phuen for the greater part, destroyed by the Siamese; Myang Lomb pays a tribute to Siam, and Myang Luang Phrabang, which was formerly governed by three kings, is dependent not only upon Siam, but upon Cochin China. As the Laos have no maritime coast, they have for a long time remained unknown to the Europeans. Chiengmai was for the first time visited by the London merchant, Ralph Fitch, who arrived there in 1586 from Pegu. After the occupation of Maulmain in 1826 by Great Britain, new expeditions were sent out, and the meeting with Chinese caravans suggested the first idea of an overland road to Yunnan, The first European who visited the eastern Laos was Wusthof, an agent of a Dutch establishment in Canmbodia, who in 1641, amid the greatest difficulties, sailed up the Mekhong. The Laos possess several alphabets which are derived from the Cambodian form of the Pali. The name of Free Laos is usually given to the mountain tribes of the Radeh. Between the language of the Laos and that of the Siamese there is only a dialectic cifference, which has chiefly been caused by the fact that the savage mountaineers neglect or misapply the rules of accentuation. On the other hand, the Laos surpass the Siamese in musical taste. The religion of the Laos is Buddhism, which, however, they do not hold so strictly as the Siamese. The first Christian mission among the Laos was commenced in 1867 at Chiengmai (on the river Quee Ping, 500 miles north of Bankok), by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The first missionary, Mr. M'Gillivray, was welcomed on his arrival at Chiengmai both by the people and by the princes, who had provided a native house for him until he was able to build one more suitable to his wants and tastes. In 1869 the missionaries were even presented by the king with a beautiful lot, but subsequently a spirit of opposition and persecution manifested itself.
According to the report of the Board of Foreign Missions of May, 1871, no congregation had yet been organized. (A.J.S.)