Thailand wins 2013 Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for temple restoration

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BANGKOK, Sept 6 – Thailand’s success in attempting to restore the principal chedi, the main sacred complex in Wat Prayurawongsawas Worawihan temple –popularly known as Wat Prayoon — in the Thai capital has won international recognition as a combined act of faith and modern engineering.

A chedi, or stupa — sometimes called pagoda in other places — is usually a solid structure and often is a repository for sacred objects.

Steel frames have been used as a supporting element added to the century-old central core of the stupa, which is said to house Buddhist relics. Construction techniques in the past included the use of sugarcane juice and natural glue combined with mortar in the brickwork to form a supportive central core.

Despite the stupa’s dramatic tilt since the last renovation took place seven years ago, the stupa remains a unique Bangkok landmark, identified as the Rattanakosin era’s first and only Lanka-style stupa with a supportive central core.

The successful restoration of the Wat Prayoon chedi draws together an outstanding combination of engineering challenges and strong faith in Buddhism of the Thai people. The attempt has been honoured with an Award of Excellence in the 2013 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Wat Prayoon was built in 1828 (Buddhist Era 2371) followed by the construction of its principle chedi 20 years later. The chedi was struck by lightning in 1871 (BE 2414) and remained broken for 47 years. A major renovation later took place in 2006 (B.E. 2549), during which relics of the Buddha and numerous antique amulets were discovered.

The rediscovering of the ancient Buddhist artifacts shows a prosperous time of Buddhism in the past and how the country upheld its national cultural heritage. Recognising the country’s effort as well as the outstanding social impact in this regard, UNESCO granted Thailand an award of excellence among 47 entries received from 16 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.