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Treasures of the World: Eastern and Southeastern Asia
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The Great Wall, China

In about 220 B.C., under Qin Shin Huang, sections of fortifications which had been built earlier were joined together to form a united defense system against invasions from the north. Construction continued up to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when the Great Wall became the world's largest military structure. Its historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural value.
2017; 1996

The Forbidden City, China

Seat of supreme power for over five centuries, the Forbidden City, with its landscaped gardens and many buildings whose thousands of rooms contain furniture and works of art, constitutes a priceless testimony to Chinese civilization during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
2017; 1997

The Koguryo Graves, North Korea: Combat-Ready for All Eternity

The site includes several groups and individual tombs—totalling about 30 individual graves—from the later period of the Koguryo Kingdom, one of the strongest kingdoms in northeast China and half of the Korean peninsula between the 3rd century B.C. and 7th century A.D. The tombs, many with beautiful wall paintings, are almost the only remains of this culture. Only about 90 out of more than 10,000 Koguryo tombs discovered in China and Korea so far have wall paintings. Many of these tombs are located on this site, and they are thought to have been made for the burial of kings, members of the royal family and the aristocracy. These paintings offer a unique testimony to daily life of this period.
2017; 2006

Haein-Sa, South Korea: The Temple of the Black Art

The Temple of Haein-sa, on Mount Gaya, is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete collection of Buddhist texts, engraved on 80,000 woodblocks between 1237 and 1248. The buildings of Janggyeong Panjeon, which date from the 15th century, were constructed to house the woodblocks, which are also revered as exceptional works of art. As the oldest depository of the Tripitaka, they reveal an astonishing mastery of the invention and implementation of the conservation techniques used to preserve these woodblocks.
2017; 1997

Sokkuram, South Korea: The Cave of Enlightenment

Established on the slopes of Mount T'oham in the 8th century, the Sokkuram cave contains a monumental statue of Buddha looking at the sea in the bhumisparsha mudra position. With the surrounding portrayals of gods, bodhisattvas and disciples, realistically and delicately sculpted in haut-relief and bas-relief, it makes up a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East. The Temple of Pulguksa, built in 752, and the cave form a body of religious architecture of exceptional significance.
2017; 1997

The Rice Terraces of the Ifugao, Philippines: Steps Up to Heaven

For 2,000 years, the high rice fields of the Ifugao have followed the contours of the mountains. The fruit of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next, and the expression of sacred traditions and a delicate social balance, they have helped to create a landscape of great beauty that expresses the harmony between humankind and the environment.
2017; 2001

Luang Prabang, Laos: Old Royal City on the Mekong

This town reflects the exceptional fusion of traditional architecture and urban structures built by 19th- and 20th-century European colonial rulers. Its unique township is remarkably well preserved, illustrating a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.
2017; 2001

Itsukushima, Japan: The Voice of Nature

The island of Itsukushima, in the Seto inland sea, has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times. The first shrine buildings here were probably erected in the 6th century. The present shrine dates from the 13th century, and the harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill. The shrine plays on the contrasts in color and form between mountains and sea and illustrates the Japanese concept of scenic beauty, which combines nature and human creativity.
2017; 2001

Ayutthaya, Thailand: The Siamese Capital

Founded in about 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhotai. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by its prang or reliquary towers and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendor.
2017; 1999

Historic Center of Macao, China

Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade, was under Portuguese administration from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it came under Chinese sovereignty. With its historic residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the historic center of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West. The site also contains a fortress and a lighthouse, which is the oldest in China. The site bears testimony to one of the earliest and longest-lasting encounters between China and the West based on the vibrancy of international trade.
2017; 2007

The Yungang Grottoes, China

The Yungang Grottoes, in Datong City, Shanxi Province, with their 252 caves and 51,000 statues, represent the outstanding achievement of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Five Caves created by Tan Yao, with their strict unity of layout and design, constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.
2017; 2005

The Peking Man Site, China

Scientific work at the site 26 miles southwest of Beijing is still underway. So far, it has led to the discovery of the remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis, who lived in the middle Pleistocene era, along with various objects, and the remains of Homo sapiens sapiens, dating as far back as 18,000 to 11,000 B.C. The site is not only an exceptional reminder of the human societies of the Asian continent very long ago, but also illustrates the process of evolution.
2017; 1997

Qufu, China: Where Confucius Lived and Taught

The temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius—philosopher, politician and educator, 551-479 B.C.—is located at Qufu, in Shandong Province. The temple built in his commemoration in 478 B.C., destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries, today comprises more than 100 buildings. The cemetery contains Confucius' tomb, and the remains of more than 100,000 of his descendants. The small house of the Kong family has become a gigantic aristocratic residence, of which 152 buildings remain. This complex of monuments at Qufu has maintained its outstanding artistic and historic character due to the devotion of successive Chinese emperors over more than 2,000 years.
2017; 2000

Borobudur, Indonesia: Mountain of the Thousand Buddhas

This famous Buddhist temple, restored with UNESCO's help, is built in three layers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, a cone with three circular platforms and at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with bas-reliefs, covering a total surface of nearly 27,000 square feet. Around the circular platform are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of Buddha.
2017; 1997

Orkhon Valley, Mongolia

The 471-square-mile Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape encompasses an extensive area of pastureland on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological remains dating back to the 6th century. The site also includes Kharkhorum, the 13th- and 14th-century capital of Chingis (Genghis) Khan’s vast empire. Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centers while also reflecting the importance of the Orkhon Valley in the history of Central Asia. The grassland is still grazed by Mongolian nomadic pastoralists.
2017; 2006

Angkor Thom, Cambodia: The Great Temple City

Angkor is one of the main archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. Stretching over some 150 square miles, including forested area, the Angkor Archeological Park contains the splendid remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the famous temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon temple with its countless sculpted decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
2017; 1995

George Town and Melaka, Malaysia: City Centers of the Far East Trade

Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca, have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka demonstrates the early stages of this history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.
2017; 2010

Kyoto, Japan: Form and Emptiness, Emptiness and Form

Built in 794 A.D. on the model of the capitals of ancient China, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan, from its foundation until the middle of the 19th century. As the center of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto illustrates the development of Japanese wooden architecture, particularly religious architecture, and the art of Japanese gardens, which has influenced landscape gardening the world over.
2017; 2002

The Ruins of the Old Royal City of Sukhothai, Thailand

Sukhothai was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th centuries. It has a number of fine monuments, illustrating the beginnings of Thai architecture. The great civilization which evolved in the Kingdom of Sukhothai absorbed numerous influences and ancient local traditions; the rapid assimilation of all these elements forged what is known as the "Sukhothai style."
2017; 1999

The Terracotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, China

No doubt thousands of statues still remain to be unearthed at this archaeological site, which was not discovered until 1974. Qin (d. 210 B.C.), the first unifier of China, is buried—surrounded by the famous terracotta warriors—at the center of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the capital, Xianyan. The small figures are all different; with their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and also of great historical interest.
2017; 2005