Global Recognition of Wat Pho in Thailand as a “Memory of the World” (08/04/2008)
The abbot of Wat Pho, Phra Dhammapanyabodi, has been presented with an official letter announcing that inscriptions at Wat Pho were registered as a “Memory of the World.”

The registration was announced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 21 February 2008. Deputy Education Minister Pongsakorn Unnopporn presented the registration to the Abbot of Wat Pho on March 31.

The Ministry of Education realized that the registration would contribute greatly to the preservation of Thai wisdom and national heritage. So a public relations campaign should be stepped up to make Wat Pho’s inscriptions better known among both Thais and foreigners.

The marble inscriptions, 1,360 in number, contain Buddhist teachings, literary works, and Thai wisdom, especially concerning traditional medicine, which can also be seen from hermit statues showing postures for muscle pain treatment. King Rama III of the early Rattanakosin period ordered experts in various fields to combine their knowledge, and in words and graphic presentations, it was inscribed on the marble tablets.

The official name of Wat Pho is Wat Phra Chetuphon, but it is popularly referred to as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This monastery is recognized as the temple of King Rama I, the first monarch of the Rattanakosin period and the founder of the Royal House of Chakri. It is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Thailand.

Originally built in the reign of King Phetracha, who ruled the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1688 to 1703, Wat Pho underwent a major renovation during the reign of King Rama I. The walls were inscribed with royal drug remedies. The King also established a royal dispensary there, much like the one in the Ayutthaya period. Wat Pho is regarded as Thailand’s first university and a center for traditional Thai massage, where people can learn techniques of various natural remedies for health.

Traditional Thai massage at Wat Pho is recognized worldwide, largely because it takes a holistic approach to healing. Each year, a great number of people attend traditional Thai massage courses provided by this temple. It is believed that Wat Pho will host more visitors following UNESCO’s recognition of its inscriptions. The registration is the second for Thailand after King Ramkhamhaeng’s inscription No. 1 from the 13th century, because Thailand’s first piece to be given the Memory of the World status by UNESCO in 2003.

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