Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thailand - Historic City of Ayutthaya

Nobody knows how the head ended here

Ruins of
Wat Mahathat

In about 1625 the top portion of the prang broke off; it was rebuilt in 1633 some 4 metres higher than before. Later it collapsed again, and only the corners survived.
In 1956 a secret chamber was uncovered in the ruins; among the treasures found inside were gold jewelry, a gold casket containing a relic of the Buddha, and fine tableware.
The temple's prang, at 46 m (150 ft) high, is one of the old city's most impressive edifices. With its picturesquely ruined stupas, Wat Mahathat is a great place to be at sunset.
Scattered around the temple are some important remains of variously shaped prangs and chedis, in particular an octagonal chedi with a truncated spire in the Ceylonese style.

Ruins of Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat is believed to be one of Ayutthaya’s oldest temples, possibly built by King Boromaraja I (1370-88). Its central prang, of which only the base remains, once rose to a height of 165 feet. Traces of the original stucco decorations can still be seen on some of the surrounding chedis.

The image was believed to have been made between 1448 to 1602

According to our guide,a Burmese delegation visited the area and paid for the restoration of the Wat which was completed in 1956

This chapel is located to the south of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. A large bronze seated Buddha image (Phra Mongkhon Bophit) was originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace to the east. It could be dated to the 15th century and was originally intended to stand in the open air. Later, King Songtham commanded it to be transferred to the west, where it is currently enshrined and covered with a Mondop. In the reign of Phra Chao Sua, the top of the Mondop was burnt down by a fire due to a thunderbolt. The King then commanded that a new building be built in the form of a big sanctuary (Maha Wihan) to cover the image in lieu of the former Mondop. During the second fall of Ayutthaya, the building and the image were badly destroyed by fire. The present Viharn and Buddha image have been reconstructed and renovated. The open area located east of the Viharn was formerly Sanam Luang, where royal cremation ceremonies took place.

The royal palace was located here from the establishment of
Ayutthaya in the reign of King Ramathibodi 1 (1350 A.D.) to the reign
of King Sam Phraya (1448 A.D.). Later King Borommatrailokanat
ordered a wat to be built on this site in 1448 A.D. to be used as a
monastic area.

After the reign of King Borommatrailokanat, his son King Ramathibodi II,
ordered the construction for two chedis, one of which was kept the
ashes of his father and the other those of his brother, King Borom-
marachathirat III. Another chedi was built by order of King Borom-
rachanophuttangkun. It was similarly used to house royal remains
those of King Ramathibodi II.In 1499, a principal viharn was built. The following year, in 1500 A.D.,King Ramathibodi II commanded the casting of a standing Buddha image 16 meters high and covered with gold. This image, Phra
Buddha Chao Si Sanphet was the main object of veneration in the
royal viranra (hall of worship). After that time the ashes of members
of the royal family other than the kings were placed in small chedis
constructed at the site.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the royal chapel and as such did not
have a Sangavasa (no monks dwelt there). It was used for royal

When Ayutthaya was sacked in 1767 A.D. the gold which covered
was taken by the invaders. During his reign King Rama I (1782 -
1809 A.D.) of the Ratanakosin Period ordered the transfer of the
inner core of Phra Buddha Chao Si Sanphet from Ayutthaya to Wat
Phra Chetuphon in Bangkok, and had it placed in a chedi specially
built for the purpose. Another Buddha image of importance called
Phralokanat was also brought to this wat at about the same time.

The ruins of the Royal Palace and Wat Phra Si Sanphet

The city of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong and became the second capital of what was then known as Siam.
Over the next 417 years it was ruled by 33 kings and repelled 23 Burmese invasions, before the Burmese finally succeeded in razing it to the ground.The Burmese obliterated almost everything in 1767 -- even melting Buddha images down for their gold.
At its height, Ayutthaya was surrounded by a 12-kilometre-long wall which was five metres thick and six metres high and boasted 99 gates, brick and clay roads and canals to transport water into the city.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Phillippines - Church of San Augustin- Intramuros

Close up shot of a wall mural

These Chinese Stone lions were placed outside the church in the old days to attract Chinese converts

The design is derived from Augustinian churches built in Mexico and is an almost exact copy of Puebla Cathedral in Puebla, Mexico.This is the only church in Intramuros to survive WWII bombardment

Baroque Churches of the Philippines

Date of Inscription: 1993
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Church of San Augustin: District of Intramuros, City of Manila

Church of La Nuestra Senora de La Asuncion: Municipality of Santa Maria, Province of Ilocos Sur

Church of San Agustin: Municipality of Paoay, Province of Ilocos Norte

Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva: Municipality of Miag-ao, Province of Iloilo
N14 35 24 E120 58 12
Ref: 677

Brief Description
These four churches, the first of which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century, are located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao. Their unique architectural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Treasures of USA- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

United States of America

Date of Inscription: 1987
Criteria: (viii)
Property : 92934 ha
N19 24 3 W155 7 25
Ref: 409

Brief Description
This site contains two of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mauna Loa (4,170 m high) and Kilauea (1,250 m high), both of which tower over the Pacific Ocean. Volcanic eruptions have created a constantly changing landscape, and the lava flows reveal surprising geological formations. Rare birds and endemic species can be found there, as well as forests of giant ferns.

Property inscribed for both geological and ecological values under natural criterion N (ii) before 1994. Criterion N (i) [Operational Guidelines 2002] was added. For more details see Decision 30.COM 8D.1.
The Marine Programme: Related World Heritage Properties
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (U.S. World Heritage)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

World Heritage in the United States

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Treasures of Japan- Temples Of Nara

Kujo (Fujiwara) Kanezane was a nobleman and statesman in the 12th century and, in cooperation with the first shogun at Kamakura, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, led the government in Kyoto. Kujo is also famous for writing a diary called Gyokuyo, which provides us with precise records of those days. From the 25th day, 2nd month, 3rd year of the Angen era (March 26, 1177 by the Julian calendar) to the next day, he took his daughter for her first visit to Kasuga Shrine and other temples in Nara. In his diary, he wrote about an event during the visit as follows.

On our way to the shrine, many deer appeared in the morning darkness. This is a sign from the gods and a good omen. People say that when one encounters deer, he or she should get out of the carriage and bow to them.

— From Gyokuyo by Kujo Kanezane.

It is freaky but 900 years later if you have a piece of biscuit in your hands the deers will bow at you politely asking to be fed.

Date of Inscription: 1998
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Nara Prefecture
N34 40 32 E135 50 22
Ref: 870

Brief Description
Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. During this period the framework of national government was consolidated and Nara enjoyed great prosperity, emerging as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. The city's historic monuments – Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace – provide a vivid picture of life in the Japanese capital in the 8th century, a period of profound political and cultural change.

Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): The historic monuments of ancient Nara bear exceptional witness to the evolution of Japanese architecture and art as a result of cultural links with China and Korea which were to have a profound influence on future developments. Criterion (iii): The flowering of Japanese culture during the period when Nara was the capital is uniquely demonstrated by its architectural heritage. Criterion (iv): The layout of the Imperial Palace and the design of the surviving monuments in Nara are outstanding examples of the architecture and planning of early Asian capital cities. Criterion (vi): The Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines of Nara demonstrate the continuing spiritual power and influence of these religions in an exceptional manner.

Dec 2, 1998 UNESCO World Heritage Committee Adds 30 Sites to World Heritage List
May 31, 2007 Torch-Run Concert for World Heritage
View photos from OUR PLACE the World Heritage collection

Kasuga Taisha Shrine -a heritage site since 1998

This is the most famous shrine in Nara, with its large tabernacle painted in beautiful vermilion. The god of the shrine is worshiped as a provider of good fortune and protector of travelers. There are lines of stone lanterns along the front approach and bronze lanterns are hung along the cloister. At the Homotsu-den (treasury) various items are exhibited, including national treasures and important cultural properties. hn

The Kasuga Shrine (Japanese: 春日大社, Kasuga-taisha) is a Shinto shrine in the city of Nara, in Nara Prefecture, Japan. Established in 768 A.D. and rebuilt several times over the centuries, it is the shrine of the Fujiwara family. The interior is famous for its many bronze lanterns, as well as the many stone lanterns that lead up the shrine.

The architectural style Taisha-zukuri takes its name from the Kasuga Shrine.

Kasuga Shrine, and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest near the shrine, are registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara".

The enchanting path to Kasuga Shrine passes through Deer Park (where tame deer roam free). Over a thousand stone lanterns line the way. The Manyo Botanical Garden, Nara is adjacent to the shrine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

World Heritage List

The World Heritage List includes 878 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.

These include 679 cultural , 174 natural and 25 mixed properties in 145 State Parties. I hope to visit as many of these sites as possible in my lifetime