Vat Phou and Associated
Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape (2001)
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Back to index
||The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou Temple complex, is a
remarkably well-preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old.
It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km.
Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao mountain.
The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.
|Wat Phou (Vat Phu) is a ruined Khmer
temple complex in southern Laos.
It is located at the base of mount Phu Kao, some 6 km from the Mekong river in
province. There was a temple on the site as early as the 5th century, but the surviving structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries.
The temple has a unique structure, in which the elements lead to a shrine where
a linga was
bathed in water from a mountain spring.
The site later became a centre of Theravada Buddhist worship, which it remains today.
Wat Phou was initially associated with the city of Shrestapura, which lay on the bank of the Mekong directly east of mount Lingaparvata (now called Phu Kao) By the latter part of the 5th century the city was already the capital of a kingdom which texts and inscriptions connect with both Chenla and Champa, and the first structure on the mountain was constructed around this time.The mountain gained spiritual importance from the linga-shaped protuberance on its summit; the mountain itself was therefore considered the home of Shiva, and the river as representing the ocean or the Ganges River. The temple was naturally dedicated to Shiva, while the water from the spring which emerges directly behind the temple was considered sacred.
Wat Phou was a part of the Khmer empire, centred on Angkor to the southwest, at least as early as in the early 10th century. Shrestapura was superseded by a new city in the Angkorian period, located directly south of the temple.In the later period, the original buildings were replaced, re-using some of the stone blocks; the temple now seen was built primarily during the 11th century. Minor changes were made during the following two centuries, before the temple, like most in the empire, was converted to Theravada Buddhist use. This continued after the area came under control of the Lao.
Sources and links:
Other World Cultural Heritage Properties in Laos (on this web site). For more information about the individual properties, please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Laos-section.
Back to index
Click the banner to return to Heindorffhus
Revised 21 jul 2006