Preservation of cultural monuments
Their Majesties The King and Queen have travelled on to Bagan, the site of many historical temples in the Mandalay region. Preservation of cultural heritage was the main focus of the third day of King Harald and Queen Sonja’s State Visit to Myanmar.
Bagan was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to the 13th centuries, and is one of the regions that ultimately became part of today’s Myanmar. At the height of the kingdom’s glory, over 10 000 Buddhist pagodas were built on the Bagan plains. The pagodas were originally an integral part of the city, which was constructed out of teak. The wooden houses disintegrated, while the many religious buildings built of stone remained. Some 3 100 of these are still standing today.
The vast array of temples make this area Myanmar’s leading tourist attraction, both due to its size and to its beautiful architecture. The addition of the Bagan temples to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List is an important aim of the Myanmar authorities.
Seminar on cultural heritage protection
King Harald and Queen Sonja began the day with a press conference at the Bagan Thande Hotel, followed by a working lunch and a seminar at the Bagan Archaeological Museum. The topic of the seminar was Norwegian-Myanmar cooperation on the protection of the natural surroundings and cultural monuments, and the seminar brought together representatives of local and regional authorities, UNESCO and the Norwegian delegation.
State Secretary Lars Andreas Lunde of the Ministry of Climate and Environment spoke on behalf of Norway. In his remarks he focused on the importance of safeguarding these priceless cultural treasures and having them designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
"(...) I was reflecting upon what the word “heritage” actually means: Heritage is that which is inherited from past generations, maintained in the present, and bestowed to future generations.
The unique heritage that Myanmar has to offer – cultural heritage and natural heritage – poses many opportunities. It attracts tourism, which we now see is increasing in large numbers. This again may spur social and economic development. However, in order to bestow to future generations, heritage must be preserved.
And today, a cooperation agreement between the Norwegian Embassy in Myanmar and UNESCO was signed, providing the necessary technical support to improve the management systems of seven selected sites.
Following the seminar at the museum, the Deputy Minister of Culture accompanied King Harald and Queen Sonja on a guided tour of the area. The King and Queen had a chance to take a closer look at three holy sites: the Ananda Temple, Shwe San Taw and Sulamani Temple.
The Ananda Temple was built in 1105 and is still a vital religious centre. The temple houses four standing Buddhas – one facing each cardinal direction – as well as a wide range of Myanmar art and crafts.
The Shwe San Taw Pagoda was built in an entirely different architectural tradition than the two others, with a golden stupa 88 metres high. Along with the two temples the King and Queen visited today, the pagoda attracts a large number of Buddhist pilgrims.
Known as “the jewel in the crown”, the Sulamani Temple from 1181 is one of Myanmar’s most frequently visited temples. Among other things, the King and Queen admired the ancient frescoes which have been painstakingly restored.
The King and Queen are now travelling by boat down the Irrawaddy River towards Mandalay, where they will conclude their State Visit with a visit to Mandalay Hill and the former royal palace, Mandalay Palace.
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.