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Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

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.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Monuments historiques de l'ancienne Nara

Nara a été la capitale du Japon de 710 à 784. Durant cette période, la structure du gouvernement national s'est consolidée et la capitale, très prospère, est devenue la source d'inspiration de la culture japonaise. Les monuments historiques de Nara – temples bouddhiques et sanctuaires shintoïstes , ainsi que les fouilles du grand palais impérial – offrent une image frappante de ce que fut la capitale du Japon au VIIIe siècle, période de profond changement politique et culturel.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

النصب التاريخيّة في نارا القديمة

كانت مدينة نارا عاصمة اليابان من العام 710 حتى العام 784. وفي خلال هذه الفترة، ثبُتَت بنية الحكومة الوطنيّة وأصبحت العاصمة التي كانت مزدهرةً جدًا في ذلك الوقت مصدر الوحي للثقافة اليابانيّة. وتدلّ الآثار التاريخيّة في نيارا من معابد بوذيّة ومزارات شنتويّة، بالاضافة إلى حفريّات القصر الامبراطوري الكبير، على الصورة المذهلة لما كانت عليه عاصمة اليابان في القرن الثامن، وهي الفترة التي شهدت التغيّر السياسي والثقافي الكبير.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Памятники исторической части города Нара

Нара была столицей Японии в 710-784 гг. В этот период произошла консолидация системы государственного управления, а Нара процветала и была источником развития японской культуры. Исторические памятники города – буддийские храмы, синтоистские святилища и раскопанные остатки большого императорского дворца - дают наглядную картину жизни японской столицы в VIII в., т.е. во времена коренных политических и культурных изменений.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Monumentos históricos de la antigua Nara

Nara fue la capital de Japón entre los años 710 y 784, época en la que la consolidación de la estructura del gobierno nacional dio una gran prosperidad a la ciudad, haciendo de ella el foco de la cultura japonesa. Sus templos budistas y santuarios sintoístas, así como los vestigios del palacio imperial, son monumentos históricos que ofrecen una vívida imagen de lo que fue la capital del Japón en el siglo VIII, un periodo de hondos cambios políticos y culturales.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Historische monumenten van oud Nara

Nara was de hoofdstad van Japan van 710 tot 784. Tijdens deze periode werd het kader van de nationale overheid geconsolideerd en kende Nara grote welvaart. De stad ontpopte zich als de bron van de Japanse cultuur. De historische monumenten die Nara bezit – Boeddhistische tempels, shinto heiligdommen en de opgegraven overblijfselen van het grote Keizerlijke paleis – geven een levendig beeld van het leven in de Japanse hoofdstad tijdens de 8e eeuw, een periode van diepgaande politieke en culturele veranderingen. De monumenten weerspiegelen ook de ontwikkeling van Japanse architectuur en kunst, als gevolg van de culturele banden met China en Korea.

Source: unesco.nl

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara bear exceptional witness to the evolution of Japanese architecture and art and vividly illustrate a critical period in the cultural and political development of Japan, when Nara functioned as its capital 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.   

Located in the modern city of Nara, the property includes eight component parts composed of seventy-eight different buildings covering 617.0 ha, which is surrounded by a buffer zone (1,962.5 ha) and the “historic environment harmonization area (539.0 ha)”.

The site of Heijô-kyô was carefully selected in accordance with Chinese geomantic principles. A grand city plan, based on Chinese examples such as Chang'an, was laid out, with palaces, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, public buildings, houses, and roads on an orthogonal grid. The palace itself, located at the northern end of the central avenue, occupied 120 ha. It comprised the official buildings where political and religious ceremonies took place, notably the Daigokuden (imperial audience hall) and Chôdô-in (state halls), and the imperial residence (Dairi), together with various compounds for administrative and other purposes.

The component parts include an archaeological site (the Nara Palace Site), five Buddhist temples (the Tôdai-ji, the Kôfuku-ji, the Yakushi-ji, the Gangô-ji and the Tôshôdai-ji), a Shinto shrine (the Kasuga-Taisha) and an associative cultural landscape (the Kasugayama Primeval Forest), the natural environment which is an integral part of all Shinto shrines. Together, these places provide a vivid and comprehensive picture of religion and life in the Japanese capital in the 8th century, a period of profound political and cultural change. 

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.


Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara include the group of buildings of the Buddhist temples representing this historic city, the harmonious cultural landscape of the sacred forest and the Shinto shrine, demonstrating traditional worship in Japan, and an archaeological site. These essential component parts of the property illustrate Japanese political structure and cultural tradition in the 8th century. Each component part has an adequate buffer zone, and thus the integrity of the property is ensured in the contexts of both wholeness and intactness.

Since the World Heritage Committee expressed concern in 2003 about the negative impact on the buried cultural resources at Nara Palace Site caused by changing groundwater levels due to the Yamato-Kita Road highway construction, government intervention and monitoring has been ongoing. The State Party is currently addressing the visual impact of the planned new visitor facilities at Nara Palace site.  


Restoration work on the buildings of ancient Nara began in the late 19th century after the enactment of the Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Law (1897). The Kasuga-Taisha Shinto shrine has maintained its tradition of routine reconstruction.

The level of authenticity of the various buildings on the property is high from the view of form and design, materials and substance, traditions and techniques, and location and setting. Japanese conservation principles have ensured that replacement of damaged or degraded architectural elements has respected the materials and techniques used by the original builders. The archaeological site of the Nara Palace Site, protected for a long period under cultivated rice fields, has also a high level of authenticity in form, materials and substance, and location and setting. Unearthed archaeological remains have been reburied for protection.

There has been some reconstruction of the gate, the study hall, and the garden at the Nara Palace Site. The continuity of traditional architecture in Japan and the substantial amount of data recovered by archaeological excavation has ensured that the reconstructed buildings have a high level of authenticity in form and design. The State Party is currently addressing how to best maintain that continuity in ongoing reconstruction work emphasizing the need for a clear rationale and justification for all interventions.

The Kasugayama Primeval Forest has been preserved as a sacred forest where no hunting or tree-felling has been permitted since 841. Thus it retains a high level of authenticity in location and setting, and spirit and feeling.

Protection and management requirements

All the component parts are designated as National Treasures, a Special Natural Monument, a Special Site, and etc. under the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

The places of worship (the Buddhist temples and the Shinto shrine) are owned by their respective religious communities, and the state of conservation is strong. Nara Prefecture has the responsibility of managing and protecting the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, and the Nara Palace Site has been maintained in collaboration with the Japanese government and Nara Prefecture. In particular, the Nara Palace Site and its buffer zone have been parts of a National Government Park since 2008, and maintenance projects are continuously planed with the aim of appropriately protecting and utilizing the archaeological site.

There are clearly defined and adequate buffer zones around all the component parts. These are provided for in the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the Ancient Capitals Preservation Act, and various prefectural and municipal regulations.

There is no overall conservation and management plan for the property as a whole, although each component part is the object of a conservation and maintenance survey program that includes restoration activities. To ensure the long-term conservation and protection, management and conservation policies will need to be developed.