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Java, Indonesia (Yogyakarta or Solo)
9th Century
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Creative Commons image by cranrob

Lost to the jungle for over 700 years, this gigantic Buddhist stupa was reclaimed from the jungle in 1814 by Thomas Stamford Raffles, the then-governor of Java. When the locals reported about some ruins on a hill, little that Raffles realise that the entire hill was the archaeological site itself!

Built in the 9th century by the Sailendra Dynasty, this massive pyramid is comprised of four circular terraces on top of six square ones. Estimates say the entire structure was built over a 70-year period, a massive undertaking considering that the monumental stones weigh 100kg each!

Pilgrims would ascend the stupa in a clockwise, circumambulatory route. They would be flanked by reliefs depicting Buddhist teachings: the Jataka tales and the life and wisdom of Buddha. Here, the reliefs tell us as much about daily life in ancient Java as it does of Buddhist teachings. The meditation was as much about the walk as it was the final destination – but it’s still unsure if pilgrims were allowed all the way up or if access were only restricted to the elites and religious. Today, however, it’s a proud symbol of the past – despite most of the population’s conversion to Islam.

For more information about Borobudur:
The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)
The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
The Mysteries of Borobudur: Discover Indonesia Series by J. N. Miksic
Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas (Periplus Travel Guides) by J. Miksic
Borobudur by J. L. Nou
Borobudur (Images of Asia)

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One Reply to “5 Southeast Asian archaeology sites to visit (that are not Angkor)”

  1. I am not sure what archeologists think of the restoration done in Trowulan archeological site, but its good to see that they really try to preserve and protect the sites, even with limited resources. It is a pity though as its not part of the tourist candi trail.

    In contrast, from what i saw 3 years ago…MySon as well as the Cham museum get a lot of tourists but seems to be struggling with restoration and maintenance. Really surprising to see. I did notice that there were 3 related museums there (the on-site one, the nearby one that probably never sees visitors, the Champa museum in Danang with its so few exhibits), so is it a case of spreading resources thin?

    Anyway, it is quite understandable for Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia to have to spread its resources among many many sites. But for Vietnam (and also Malaysia), I really wonder why, especially noting their huge tourism budgets and how the few sites they have can possibly bring in more tourists. Its probably not about availability of funds.

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