The conservation of cultural heritage sites should not be limited to the protection of buildings and relics, cultural heritage site protection activists told a two-day forum that concluded in Taipei on Saturday.
Such conservation work should also focus on intangible cultural heritage such as oral history, the performing arts, social customs, festivals and traditional handicrafts, said Etienne Mathieu, president of the Paris-based Oriental Cultural Heritage Sites Protection Alliance, which organized the forum.
Titled “From South Asia to Taiwan: Cultural Heritage, History’s Memories, Buddhist Art,” the forum was held to forge long-lasting academic ties between Taiwan and the Oriental Cultural Heritage Sites Protection Alliance, and to call on Taiwanese to preserve cultural heritage sites, the local host of the event said in a statement.
Mathieu said that economic development, urbanization, industrialization and the increased ease of travel in recent decades had damaged some precious cultural relics, but added that his alliance is making efforts to preserve some of those sites.
The alliance is working with UNESCO to support a project in Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha, and another in a site in Bhutan, and hopes to take on -projects in China and India, Mathieu said.
Fu Chao-ching (傅朝卿), a professor at National Cheng Kung University, said that the Taiwanese authorities often focus on the “architectural” aspects of cultural sites like Buddhist temples, instead of their historical, artistic and cultural values.
History, immigrant culture, rituals and music are also important values to consider when determining the value of a Buddhist site, he said.
University of Paris-Sorbonne researcher Roland Lin (林志宏) called attention to the destruction of priceless Buddha statues in Afghanistan a decade ago. The two monumental statues in the Bamiyan Valley had stood for 1,500 years before being demolished by the Taliban, who saw them as idols.
“It was not only a destruction of artifacts, but also a blow to the [relationship between] different ethnicities in Afghanistan,” Lin said.
Lin said that UNESCO had made efforts to preserve the Bamiyan ruins over the past 10 years and that the involvement of local experts in such projects was vital to guaranteeing sustainable -management of the sites.
University of Tokyo vice president Yukio Nishimura discussed how his team enhanced the conservation and management of the archeological remains in Lumbini.
The lessons to be learned from Lumbini were how to “integrate world heritage sites into regional contexts,” and to reach a balance between improving local people’s lives and protecting the sites, he said.
A total of 22 academics from more than eight countries presented their papers at the forum.
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