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World Heritage Convention

Decision 38 COM 8B.28
Pyu Ancient Cities (Myanmar)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC-14/38.COM/8B and WHC-14/38.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Pyu Ancient Cities, Myanmar, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The Pyu Ancient Cities provide the earliest testimony of the introduction of Buddhism into Southeast Asia almost two thousand years ago and the attendant economic, socio-political and cultural transformations which resulted in the rise of the first, largest, and longest-lived urbanized settlements of the region up until the 9th century. The Pyu showed a striking capacity to assimilate the Indic influences and swiftly move into a significant degree of re-invention. They created a special form of urbanization, the city of extended urban format, which subsequently influenced urbanization in most of mainland Southeast Asia. These earliest Buddhist city-states played a seminal role in the process of transmitting the literary, architectural and ritual traditions of Pali-based Buddhism to other societies in the sub-region where they continue to be practiced up to the present. 

    Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra together as a Serial Property jointly testify to the several aspects of the development of this new model of urban settlement for the Southeast Asian region. Together the three cities provide evidence for the entire sequence and range of Pyu urban transformation from ca. 2nd century BCE to the 9th century CE: Pyu script, Buddhist monastic communities, distinctive mortuary practice, skillful water management and long distant trade.  At all three city sites, the irrigated landscape of the Pyu era is still impacting on the rural livelihoods of the modern population of all three Pyu ancient cities. 

    Criterion (ii): Due to interaction between indigenous Pyu societies with Indic cultures from the 2nd century BCE, Buddhism achieved its first permanent foothold in Southeast Asia among the Pyu cities, where it was embraced by all classes of society from the ruling elite to agrarian labourers. Marked by imposing memorial stupas and other sophisticated forms of brick ritual structures, the Pyu Ancient Cities provide the earliest evidence of the emergence of these innovative architectural forms in the region, some of which have no known prototypes. The development of Pyu Buddhist urban culture had widespread and enduring impact throughout Southeast Asia, providing stimulus for later state formation after the 5th century CE following the onward transmission of Buddhist teaching and monastic practice into other parts of mainland Southeast Asia. 

    Criterion (iii): The Pyu Ancient Cities marked the emergence of the first historically-documented Buddhist urban civilization in Southeast Asia. The establishment of literate Buddhist monastic communities arose in tandem with the re-organization of agricultural production, based on expert management of seasonally-scarce water resources and the specialized production of manufactured goods in terracotta, iron, gold, silver and semi-precious stones both for veneration and for trade. Buddhism underpinned the construction of religious monuments in brick through royal and common patronage, marking the shift to permanent materials from earlier timber building techniques. The Pyu developed unique mortuary practices using burial urns to store cremated remains in funerary structures. Trading networks linked the Pyu ancient cities with commercial centres in Southeast Asia, China and India. Through this network Buddhist missionaries carried their Pali-based teaching into other areas of mainland Southeast Asia. 

    Criterion (iv): Technological innovations in resource management, agriculture and manufacturing of brick and iron at the Pyu Ancient Cities created the preconditions leading to significant advances in urban planning and building construction. These innovations resulted in the rise of the three earliest, largest, and most long-lived Buddhist urban settlements in all of Southeast Asia.  The Pyu cities’ urban morphology set a new template of extended urban format characterized by massive gated walls surrounded by moats; a network of roads and canals linking urban space within the walls with extensive areas of extramural development; containing civic amenities, monumental religious structures defined by towering stupas and sacred water bodies. At or near the center of each Pyu city was the palace marking the cosmic hub of the political and social universe. 


    The Pyu Ancient Cities are archaeologically intact, as seen in the standing monuments, the in-situ structural remains, the undisturbed unexcavated remains and the still functioning agrarian terrain. The urban footprint of each city, demarcated by the well-preserved moated city walls, remains highly legible two millennia after their initial construction. The property contains all the key attributes of ancient Pyu civilization, as delineated by the three criteria of outstanding universal value under which the property is inscribed. The completeness and reliability of dated archaeological sequences from the site, with the radiocarbon dates derived from intact architectural features dating back to 190 BCE, provide scientific proof of the entire one-thousand year period of occupation of the cities, and reinforces palaeographic dates provided by inscriptions in Pyu script on artifacts excavated at the site. The landscape engineering of the three cities also remains intact with the manmade structures such as canals and water tanks remaining in continuing use for on-going agricultural process. As a serial property, the three cities together provide evidence – in the form of in-situ monumental and archaeological features and excavated artifacts – of the complete development trajectory of Pyu culture. 


    The authenticity of the Pyu Ancient Cities is to be found in the architectural form and design of unaltered and still-standing monumental structures and urban precincts; a continuous tradition of the use and function of property’s sites of Buddhist veneration; enduring traditions and techniques of agricultural and production management systems, the origins of which are visible in the historic landscape and which continue to be practiced among the local community; the original location and setting of the cities as verified by archaeological research and which remains largely unchanged since the end of historic urbanized settlement 1,000years ago; the materials and substance of the excavated artifacts from the sites, sourced locally and manufactured 0n-site, and the spirit and feeling of the three ancient cities which throughout the history of Myanmar and until the present day continues to inspire pilgrimage. 

    Protection and management requirements

    Formal measures for the legal protection and administrative management of the Pyu Ancient Cities have been institutionalized at central government, regional, district, and township levels. The Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library (DANML) of the Ministry of Culture has the primary responsibility for all aspects of protection and management of the three Pyu Ancient Cities. The site is gazetted as protected areas under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act (1904) of British India. The Pyu Ancient Cities are further protected by the Antiquities Act 1957 (Amended 1962), the Law on the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions 1998 (Amended 2009) and the Rules and Regulations of the Cultural Heritage Region Law 2011. 

    To ensure coordinated implementation of the provisions of the applicable laws at national and local levels, a number of mechanisms have been established. At the national level, there is the Central Committee for Myanmar National Heritage and the Myanmar National Committee for World Heritage. At the site level, to ensure the coordinated protection and management of the three ancient city sites, as well as to integrate the property’s conservation into local development planning, a Pyu Ancient Cities Coordinating Committee (PYUCOM) has been established.  The PYUCOM is central to the property management framework and is a key element of the Property Management Plan helping to ensure that local traditional systems are acknowledged and incorporated into the day-to-day management.  At each of the sites, PYUCOM convenes local consultative groups that bring together the concerns of multiple stakeholders: regional authorities, local government, village representatives and the sangha (monk body). 

    A Property Management Plan, endorsed by the PYUCOM, was approved by the Ministry of Culture on 18 January 2013.  Time-bound action plans provide the framework for the implementation of the provisions of the Property Management Plan.  The Property Management Plan can be strengthened in some areas such as risk preparedness, visitor management, capacity building for conservation, site interpretation, local community development and regulation of urban use and development.   The excavated and exposed archaeological remains, in particular the burial sites and hydrological landscape features, require continued and, in some cases, enhanced conservation.

  4. Notes that the State Party has provided documentation to clarify the scope and extent of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value of the three cities in relation to:
    1. The urban planning and the overall relationship of the various elements of the cities’ urban morphology revealed through archaeological excavation,
    2. Details of the Pyu hydraulic system, what survives, what is still in use, and what needs conserving and how the best preserved parts are included within the property boundaries,
    3. Sites of industrial production,
    4. Locations and details of monasteries,
    5. Locations of villages in the sites and buffer zones and details of those within the boundaries;
  5. Also notes that the State Party has provided a deeper justification for the inclusion of all three cities in terms of how they each contribute to the overall series;
  6. Further notes that the State Party has provided, in additional information, maps of the nominated sites (to a larger scale than those already provided in the dossier) that set out the attributes of the potential Outstanding Universal Value of the property and their relationship to each other;
  7. Notes furthermore that the State Party has an endorsed Property Management Plan to be complemented through the ongoing development of a risk preparedness strategy, a tourism management strategy/plan to prepare for an increase in visitors, and the addition of key priorities and an action plan that addresses ways to improve the living standards of local villages, and to manage an increased numbers of pilgrims;
  8. Recommends the State Party to develop and implement as soon as possible a conservation plan for the burial sites, allied to capacity-building in the conservation of these particularly fragile and vulnerable sites;
  9. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2015, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
Decision Code
38 COM 8B.28
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Properties 1
Report of the Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session (Doha, 2014)
Context of Decision