The Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Cultural Heritage Administration have been promoting the conservation and restoration of Hong Nang Sida (Laos) since 2013, as a part of the Korea’s first Official Development Assistance (ODA) for overseas cultural heritage.
Hong Nang Sida, registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape in 2001, had collapsed and been neglected for a long time, requiring urgent repairs. Laos, however, experienced limitations in its capability to repair its heritage, needing exigent support from other nations. The Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation have supported the urgent rehabilitation of Hong Nang Sida to strengthen Korea’s global positioning, while helping the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and the Vatphou World Heritage Office of Laos to establish sustainable systems of preserving cultural heritage by enhancing their capability to preserve and restore cultural heritage.
The Foundation has conducted various multidisciplinary studies including humanities, engineering, and natural sciences to restore Hong Nang Sida, where only few research had been carried out previously to systematically restore its cultural heritage.
Beginning with archaeological research in 2014, we have performed historical investigation on traditional folklore, architecture, art history, and conservation environment, as well as scientific analyses of structure, ground, physical exploration, and excavated artifacts.
When the Foundation began the project, there was no proper road to access Hong Nang Sida, making it difficult for vehicles to approach the site; the infrastructure needed for the conservation of cultural heritage was in poor condition as well.
n order to improve such conditions, we reconstructed an approach road to the site and built the Stone Hospital.
We have trained local experts through academic training (master’s course at Korea National University of Cultural Heritage), invitational training, and local training for those in charge in related organizations.
These local experts go into the site with the Korean counterparts to participate in the entire process of conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, applying the acquired knowledge to practice.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Although the saying may be a cliché, we are helping to build a virtuous cycle of cultural heritage ecosystem with which they can conserve their cultural heritage for themselves.
The basic principle of repair and restoration of Hong Nang Sida is to restore it not by assumption but by using the members of framework of the time. For two years from 2017 to 2018, we collected a total of 675 members which had been buried in the ground for a long time since the temple collapsed. From 2019, we performed a restoration work with the collected members, by dismantling the main shrine. The restoration was carried out with various engineering and scientific techniques such as lightwave survey, 3D image modeling, and stone conservation. In February 2019, we unearthed a gilt-bronze yoni for the first time in Laos during the dismantling work, a significant academic material that is useful in investigating the ancient history of Khmer and consequently received lots of attention from related experts and the people of both countries.
Although we make it a top priority to restore Hong Nang Sida as its original form, we will only restore parts that can be clearly ascertained if it is difficult to reveal the original form.
These sincere efforts for restoration are well received by stakeholders including the UNESCO.
The first project of the conservation and restoration of Hong Nang Sida began in 2013 and will be completed in 2020. The level of completion increased with time as we have exchanged technical skills and know-how accumulated so far with local experts in Laos. In the second project planned to be performed from 2021 to 2025, we will show more advanced cultural heritage ODA.