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Phuphrabat Historical Park

Date of Submission: 01/04/2004
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Prof. Dr. Adul Wichiencharoen National World Heritage Committee of Thailand
Ref.: 1920

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Designated as Phuphrabat Historical Park, the site is the landscape of a wooded sandstone hill adorned with patches of huge bare rocks in spectacular overhanging positions, some balanced on pedestals of oddity. This scenic and awesome beauty of nature has had, over the millennia since prehistoric times, a compelling spiritual effect on humans in the neighbourhood to associate the site with sanctity, as evidenced by the presence of visual arts of different cultural periods. The scenic Phuphrabat associative cultural landscape is unique in that this single site contains authentic cultural treasures that represent major cultures of different periods of the region, effectively epitomizing the continuum of the whole cultural history of mainland Southeast Asia. All together, the site incorporates separate 68 cultural locations, most of which contain rock paintings of the prehistoric period as well as the stylised, religious icons of the successive cultural periods. The iconic representations comprise sculptures in low and high relief as well in the round, representing the earliest Buddhist Dhvaravadi civilisation as well as the successive Hindu Khmer and Buddhist Lanchang cultures. It is significant that both Dhvaravadi and Khmer images carried the unmistakable native characteristics typical of the Laotian trait, which finally developed and established itself as what is known as the Lanchang Buddhist culture paralleling the art style of Ayuthaya in central Thailand. Significantly, among the religious representations on Phuphrabat hill, there are also two symbolic footprints of Lord Buddha of carved stone at ground level in the Lanchang art style. It is for this reason that the hill is known as "Phuphrabat", which means the Hill of Buddha's Footprints. There exists up to this day a small, unobtrusive monastery, which houses one of the Buddha's Footprints in a small, proportionate stupa. All this added to the uniqueness of Phuphrabat and harmonised with its overall cultural landscape and its significance as a sacred and ceremonial place. Phuphrabat hill is a disconnected ridge on the eastern edge of Phu Phan Range. The hill is about 352 metres above mean sea level, 9 km long from North to South, and 2 km wide. Surrounded by greenery, Phuphrabat is bordered to the west by an escarpment sloping down towards the east. The forest area on the hill and in the adjacent lowland surroundings is a mix of dry evergreen forest, dry dipterocarp forest and dry mixed deciduous forest all in undisturbed state. The historical park proper, which includes the wooded area on the hill, as gazetted in April 1981, covers an area of 3430 rais (548.8 hectares), accommodating 81 cultural locations, all associated with the exposed patches of bare rocks on the hill. In addition to this associative physical connection between nature and culture, an age-old Laotian legend had also added another cultural dimension to the cultural context of the Phuphrabat hill and the associated groups of wondrous formations of the exposed bare rocks. Their individual imagination-inspiring identities had been ascribed to and named after the mythical figures of the Usa-Baros dramatic legend of ancient Vientiane's origin It should be noted that no evidence or trace has been found to suggest that people at any time had ever lived on Phuphrabat hill; they went up there only to conduct religious or other solemn ceremonies as evidenced by the presence of religious images and representations. The whole landscape of Phuphrabat hill, including the forest park and the historical park, will be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List.