Vientiane (/vjɛnˈtjɑːn/; French pronunciation: [vjɛ̃ˈtjan]; Lao: ວຽງຈັນ, Viang chan, IPA: [ʋíəŋ tɕàn]) is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion. Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic centre of Laos.
The estimated population of the city is 760,000 (2015). The city hosted the 25th Southeast Asian Games in December 2009 celebrating the 50 years of Southeast Asian Games.
The name of the city is derived from Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. Although the original meaning of the name of the city is "city of sandalwood", as shown by ancient Lao inscription which wrote according to etymology, unlike modern Lao which is written phonetically, in modern Lao, the meaning of the name Vientiane is ambiguous.
Many, if not most, Lao people claim that the city's name means "city of the moon", while many also claim correctly that the city's name means "city of sandalwood" because the words for "moon" (ຈັນ or ຈັນທຣ໌ from chandra चन्द्र in Sanskrit) and "sandalwood" (ຈັນ or ຈັນທນ໌ from chandana चन्दन in Sanskrit) are written and pronounced identically as "chan" in modern Lao. Most academic and historic Lao sources claim that the city's name does in fact mean "city of sandalwood", reinforced by the city's Thai (เวียงจันทน์) and Khmer (វៀងចន្ទន៍) names both retain the etymological spelling, which indicates "city of sandalwood".
Vientiane Province (also known as rural Vientiane) (Lao ວຽງຈັນ) is a province of Laos, located in the northwest of the country. As of 2004 the province had a total population of 373,700 people. Vientiane Province is a large province, covering an area of 15,927 square kilometres (6,149 sq mi) with 10 districts in mid north-western Laos. The province borders Luang Prabang Province to the north, Xiangkhouang Province to the northeast, Bolikhamxai Province to the east, Vientiane Prefecture and Thailand to the south, and Xaignabouli Province to the west. The principal towns are Vang Vieng and Muang Phôn-Hông. Several kilometres to the south of Vang Vieng is one of Laos's largest lakes, Nam Ngum. Much of this area, particularly the forests of the southern part, are under the Phou Khao Khouay National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area. The principal rivers flowing through the province are the Nam Song River, Nam Ngum River and the Nam Lik River.
In the mid-16th century, Vientiane under King Setthathirat's rule became prosperous. It became a major centre of Buddhist teachings and many wats were built. In 1989, the province was split into two halves — the Vientiane Prefecture containing the city Vientiane itself, and the remaining province.