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Preah Vihear Temple

Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 meter long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.

Outstanding Universal Value

The Temple of Preah Vihear, a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis, is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment.

Criterion (i): Preah Vihear is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture. It is very ‘pure’ both in plan and in the detail of its decoration.

Authenticity, in terms of the way the buildings and their materials express well the values of the property, has been established. The attributes of the property comprise the temple complex; the integrity of the property has to a degree been compromised by the absence of part of the promontory from the perimeter of the property. The protective measures for the Temple, in terms of legal protection are adequate; the progress made in defining the parameters of the Management Plan needs to be consolidated into an approved, full Management Plan.

Historical Description

Originally Preah Vihear housed a hermit community; you can still see the caves in the cliffs where hermits lived, a feature of the Khmer landscape. The foundation of the chapel is often associated with the construction of a sanctuary by Prince Indrâyudha, son of King Jayavarman II, at the request of Shiva, in the early ninth century. Prince installed a large part of the Vat Phou linga. However, the origins of Preah Vihear were probably older. Indrâyudha the building was a modest wooden structure, located at the site of the existing stone building, and only minor changes have occurred under the Khmer lords who succeeded in the tenth century.

Khmer and Sanskrit inscriptions four provide a valuable dating good, and confirm that the king Suryavarman I was closely involved in the construction of the current set. This king erected pillars engraved (lingas) at different points of its vast territory, with his name and title Sûryavarmeshvara (Lord Suryavarman), and one of them was prepared Preah Vihear in the early eleventh century, there at the request of Shiva. This was located near the original temple, which was quickly rebuilt in sandstone during extension work of the temple.

By 1050, new buildings had reached the gopura No. 3, and then the work progressed more slowly, partly due to the difficult terrain and frequent landslides. The set was completed in the twelfth century, when King Suryavarman II entrusted the work to one of its best architects, Divâkarapandita.

Ownership of the property was the subject of intense negotiations in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century between French and Thai governments. A treaty of 1904 conferred on France, which Cambodia was a protectorate. It was claimed by Thailand in 1934 and served six years later. It was not until 1962 that the International Court of Justice in The Hague confirmed the property by the newly independent Cambodia.

The site was closed for more than twenty years in the 1970s because of the troubled history of Cambodia. Fortunately, his isolation allowed that Preah Vihear is slightly altered during this period, although it was undermined by the Khmer Rouge, who left the scene in 1998.

Historical Description

[In French only]

À l'origine, Preah Vihear abritait une communauté érémitique ; on peut encore voir dans les falaises les grottes où vivaient les ermites, une caractéristique du paysage khmer. La fondation de l'ermitage est souvent associée à la construction d'un sanctuaire par le prince Indrâyudha, fils du roi Jayavarman II, à la demande de Shiva, au début du IXe siècle. Le prince y installa une partie du grand linga de Vat Phou. Toutefois, les origines de Preah Vihear étaient probablement plus anciennes. Le bâtiment de Indrâyudha était une modeste structure en bois, située à l'emplacement du bâtiment en pierre existant, et seules quelques modifications mineures sont intervenues sous les seigneurs khmers qui se succédèrent au Xe siècle.

Quatre inscriptions khmères et sanskrites fournissent une précieuse datation du bien, et confirment que le roi Sûryavarman I fut étroitement impliqué dans la construction de l'ensemble actuel. Ce roi fit ériger des piliers gravés (lingas) à différents points de son vaste territoire, portant son nom et son titre Sûryavarmeshvara (Seigneur Sûryavarman), et l'un d'entre eux fut dressé à Preah Vihear au début du XIe siècle, là encore à la demande de Shiva. Celui-ci était situé à proximité du temple initial, qui fut rapidement reconstruit en grès à l'occasion de travaux d'extension du temple.

Vers 1050, les nouvelles constructions avaient atteint le gopura n° 3, puis les travaux progressèrent plus lentement, en partie en raison du terrain difficile et des fréquents glissements de terrain. L'ensemble ne fut terminé qu'au XIIe siècle, lorsque le roi Sûryavarman II confia les travaux à l'un de ses meilleurs architectes, Divâkarapandita.

La propriété du bien fit l'objet de tractations intenses au XIXe siècle et au début du XXe siècle entre les Français et les gouvernements thaïlandais. Un traité de 1904 la conféra à la France, dont le Cambodge était un protectorat. Il fut revendiqué par la Thaïlande en 1934 et occupé six ans plus tard. Ce n'est qu'en 1962 que la Cour internationale de justice de La Haye en confirma la propriété par le nouvel État indépendant du Cambodge.

Le site fut fermé pendant plus de vingt ans dans les années 1970 en raison de l'histoire troublée du Cambodge. Heureusement, son isolement permit que Preah Vihear soit peu altéré durant cette période, même s'il fut miné par les Khmers rouges, qui quittèrent les lieux en 1998.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation and all text above was copied from: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1224/

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