In several parts of Asia, a continent that has produced some of the world's greatest civilizations, symbols of a glorious past are threatened with disintegration. Victims of erosion and neglect, these monuments are in urgent need of restoration if they are to retain their cultural luster.
Splendid as many of them are, they are not widely known. How many Americans, for instance, who have stood at the foot of the Parthenon or felt the enchantment of Notre DAme have ever heard of the imposing Borobudur Buddhist shrine in central Java or the serene beauty of the Katmandu valley?
A major international campaign to alert public opinion has been launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
both the financial and technical commitment, which the monument-bearing countries could not have undertaken themselves, proved considerable. To save Borobudur, for example, nine years and $15 million will have been required by the time the project is completed in 1982.For the projects, too, investments will run into the millions of dollars. But many observers believe humanity would be much poorer if these monuments were lost.
The great Buddha of Borobudur was built in the Javanese jungle some 1,200 years ago. It looks like a sculpted mountain. On a 147-square-yard base, four terraces etched with 1,460 bas-reliefs and 432 statues rise in the shape of a pyramid. Three more circular terraces complete the monument. They are edged with 72 bells (Stupas) made of perforated stone, each containing a statue of Buddha. Atop the pyramid a single Stupa, empty and closed, symbolizes the contemplation of truth.
It took some 600 technicians and laborers aided by experts from Europe and the United States to dismantle and subsequently rebuild the monument. Each stone had to be registered, cleaned, and treated. Carved stones were restored. Watertight layers were constructed behind the walls.