press release 2012
U.S. Supports Preservation Lao Cultural Heritage
Through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, the U.S. government has provided an additional $215,000 in support for a project started in 2011 to restore the iconic Wat Xieng Thong temple in the world heritage city of Luang Prabang. The new funding adds to the $115,000 previously committed to the renovations, making Wat Xieng Thong the biggest project ever supported in Laos by the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).
Ambassador Karen Stewart signed the paperwork making the grant official during a ceremony in Luang Prabang Sep. 14. Also participating in the ceremony was Luang Prabang’s governor, Dr. Khampheng Xaysompheng. Dr. Martin Perschler, the Program Coordinator of the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation in Washington, D.C., also attended.
The new funding will enable the Department of World Heritage in Luang Prabang to preserve the gold stenciling and other artwork on the sim of the Wat, and restore three other important buildings on the site. Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important and best known temples in Laos. In the past, it served as a royal temple and the traditional coronation site for Lao kings. Restoring the sim and other important buildings will preserve this important temple for future generations.
The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation was established by the U.S. Congress in 2001 to preserve cultural heritage in countries around the world. Through this fund, the U.S. government is helping more than 120 developing nations preserve historic sites and manuscripts, museum collections, and traditional forms of music, dance and language. In the past ten years, AFCP has supported 13 projects in Laos, including the newest one.
Previous AFCP projects in Laos include a program to map and document standing stone sites or menhirs; build displays and trails for tourists at the Menhirs Archeological Park in Huaphan province; train local staff in restoring the murals at historic Wat Sisaket in Vientiane; create an inventory of the artifacts in Wat Ho Prakeo; preserve the artifact collections at the National Museums in Vientiane and here in Luang Prabang; document the Taoist traditions in Laos, and the unique cultural traditions of the Katu people; preserve ancient palm leaf manuscripts throughout the country; conserve and restore artifacts in Wat Visoun; and restore the roof, mosaics, and stencil decorations of the sim at Wat Xieng Thong. In addition, the United States has also provided funding to UNESCO that has supported the creation of the Heuan Chan Cultural Museum in Luang Prabang, which enables visitors, both Lao and international and learn more about Laos’ rich cultural traditions.