Gandhara cultrual heritage research center opens in Islamabad

Rana Tahir Shahbaz

The Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea (CHA) and the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation (KCHF) executed the inauguration ceremony of the Gandhara Cultrual Heritage Research Center (Center) in the Islamabad Museum on Thursday.

During this event, from the Korea side, Administrator (Minister level) H.E. Mr. CHOI Eungchon of CHA and the president (Secretary level) Mr. CHOI Youngchang of KCHF, Ambassador H.E. Mr. SUH Sangpyo of the Korea embassy in Islamabad and from the Pakistan side, Honorable Engr. Amir Muqam Advisor to the Prime Minister, federal secretary Ms. Farina Mazhar of the National Heritage & Culture Division (NH&CD) and Director General Dr. Abdul Azeem of the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM), NH&CD attended the event. The main event included plaque unveiling, handing ceremony of the donation plate, ribbon cutting and visit to the Center.

Engr Amir Muqam on the occasion said that Gandhara Cultural Heritage Center at Islamabad was established with the generous technical and financial support of the Government of the Republic of Korea. “It will help to establish a systematic approach for preservation and conservation of the Buddhist Cultural Heritage of Gandhara in particular and the overall cultural heritage of Pakistan in general. Pakistan is a unique country, strategically located giving it a highly important place not only in the past but also in the present era, and will continue to enjoy the same status for all the times to come,”. He further added that he was thankful to the Government of the Republic of Korea for taking keen interest and continuous support for the cultural heritage of Pakistan, adding that especially for the preservation and promotion of the Buddhist Heritage of Gandhara. Ms. Farina Mazhar said that Pakistan and South Korea has warm cultural relations deep routed in our history. Especially, the ties become stronger due to the peace-loving religion of Buddhism which was introduced in Korea from Gandhara in 4th century A.D. The spread of Buddhism in Korea from Gandhara has created a sense of brotherhood between the two countries. This common religious feature of our glorious past is of particular importance for further cementing our cultural and religious relations.

She further added that if we look behind, our cooperation with the South Korean Institutions in the fields of cultural heritage is spread over three decades. Department of Archaeology and Museums, National Heritage and Culture Division has persisting cooperation with the Korean counterparts in the fields of archaeological research, museums, and conservation of culture heritage.

Korean institutions frequently offer training programs for Pakistani professionals in the field of cultural heritage. We also had a joint archaeological research project with the Dongguk Buddhist University of Korea for archaeological excavations on the Buddhist site of Taxila in 2002. The Buddhist Art of Gandhara is the most fascinating subject for the overwhelming Buddhist population of Korea. We have sent exhibitions of the Gandhara Art to South Korea in 1999, 2002 and 2017, which remained very successful and admired largely by the visitors. Holy places of Buddhism in Pakistan are a great source of inspiration for the Buddhists all over the world, especially, the Buddhist Monks from Korea frequently visit these holy places to attain spiritual edification.

This project is a glaring example of cooperation between Korea and Pakistan. The assistance of the Government of Korea includes funding, technical support, and capacity building for the Gandhara Research Center, as well as trainings and fellowships for professionals, researchers and students in the fields of cultural heritage.

It also involves the transfer of knowledge, skills, and technology from Korea to Pakistan, in areas such as conservation, digitization, and museum management.

Ms Farina Mazhar concluded her speech by stating that the assistance of the Government of Korea reflects its commitment to cultural heritage preservation, international cooperation, and sustainable development. It also demonstrates the power of culture to bring people and countries together, and to foster mutual understanding and respect. She expressed gratitude to the Government of Korea for its generous official assistance for the project.

Administrator (Minister) of Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, Dr. CHOI Eungchon said this historic opening day of the Gandhara Cultural Heritage Research Center will add to the year of the celebration of 40 years of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Korea. Since 2021, the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration and the Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation have made an effort to protect the great cultural heritage of Pakistan and Gandhara for future generations. “Pakistan and Korea have a deep historic connection for the vast amount of priceless Buddhist heritage of Pakistan”, he added.

Korean Ambassador, SUH Sang Pyo said that Pakistan was home to the largest number of Buddhist sites and that the promotion of religious tourism can greatly stabilize the economy of Pakistan. He termed Pakistan as a friendly nation for Korea and said the ancient cultural and religious artifacts in Pakistan were very unique. As per its contract with the Pakistan government, he said, Korea will provide modern equipment for the discovery of precious artifacts and cultural sites in Pakistan.