Thailand recently celebrated the stone inscriptions in Wat Pho as registered “Memory of the World” by UNESCO.
The 10-day celebration took place from 24 December 2011 to 2 January 2012 at Wat Pho on Sanam Chai Road in Bangkok with a series of activities, such as the khon masked drama, a demonstration of the Thai way of life during the early Rattanakosin period, an exhibition on Wat Pho, and folk arts and games. The event also formed part of the celebrations of His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday and Her Majesty the Queen’s 79th birthday.
Her Majesty the Queen presided over the opening ceremony on 24 December 2011 in presence of the Director of UNESCO Bangkok, Gwang-Jo Kim.
The event was organized jointly by the Ministry of Education, the Thai National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of Culture, and Wat Pho.
UNESCO has registered 1,431 stone inscriptions at Wat Pho as Memory of the World in 2011.
Memory of the World, a list of library collections and archive holdings of world significance, was established in 1992 to promote documentary heritage of universal value. The Programme is intended to protect documentary heritage, and helps networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for preservation of and access to documentary material.
The Thai National Memory of the World Program submitted the Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho for listing on the Memory of the World International Register in January 2011. The 10th meeting of the International Advisory Committee for the Memory of the World Program of UNESCO, held on 27 May 2011 in Manchester, England, agreed to register the epigraphic archives as a Memory of the World, as proposed by Thailand.
The stone inscriptions are in the Thai language and script. Made between 1831 and 1841, they cover both religious and secular subjects. They represent a wide range of Thai and Asian knowledge of over five centuries of exchange in trade, politics and culture within Asia and beyond.
Known among foreigners as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho was built in the reign of King Phetracha, who ruled the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1688 to 1703. It underwent a major renovation during the reign of King Rama I of the Rattanakosin period.
In 1830, the temple was renovated again at the royal command of King Rama III, who intended to turn this temple into a major source of knowledge for all people, regardless of their social status. King Rama III ordered the collection of knowledge from wise men and the collection of arts and sciences on such subjects as traditional medicine, archeology, literature, and poetry.
These subjects were inscribed on thousands of stone tablets on the walls and columns of cloisters around the temple.