Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Historic Center of Macau

The Historic Center of Macau is a collection of over twenty locations that witness the unique assimilation and co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau, a former Portuguese colony. It represents the The Historic Center of Macau architectural legacies of the city's cultural heritage, including monuments such as urban squares, streets-capes, churches and temples.

In 2005 the Historic Center of Macau was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, making it the 31st designated World Heritage site in China. It was described by UNESCO as: "with its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the historic centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West," and "...it bears witness to one of the earliest and longest-lasting encounters between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade."

Most of the items (buildings) are owned by the Macau Special Administrative Region(SAR) and managed by various departments or authority. Cultural Institute of the SAR Government manages the Mandarin's House, the Ruins of St. Paul's, the Section of the Old Wall, Mount Fortress and Guia Fortress (includes the Lighthouse and Chapel).

Leal Senado Building is managed by the Provisional Municipal Council of Macao while the two government-owned temples, A-Ma Temple and Na Tcha Temple are managed by the Board of A-Ma Temple Charity Association and Management Board of Na Tcha Temple respectively. The Moorish Barracks is managed by the Macao Harbour Administration Building. The rest of the items are owned and managed by the respective institutions. St. Joseph's Seminary Building and Church is owned by St. Joseph's Seminary and managed by the Catholic Diocese of Macao. The Holy House of Mercy Building is owned and managed by Holy House of Mercy Charitable Foundation. Dom Pedro V Theatre is owned and managed by the Management Board of Dom Pedro V Theatre.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beijing's Summer Palace

The Summer Palace literally means "Gardens of Nurtured Harmony" is a palace in Beijing, China. The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water. The central Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was entirely man made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill. In the Summer Palace, one finds a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.

The Summer Palace started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750 (Reign Year 15 of Qianlong Emperor). Artisans reproduced the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. Kunming Lake was created by extending an existing body of water to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou. The palace complex suffered two major attacks—during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860 (with the Old Summer Palace also ransacked at the same time), and during the Boxer Rebellion, in an attack by the eight allied powers in 1900. The garden survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. In 1888, it was given the current name, Yihe Yuan. It served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted 30 million taels of silver, said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy (Beiyang Fleet), into the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace.

In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value." It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Durbar Square in Kathmandu

Kathmandu Durbar Square is the plaza opposite the old royal palace in the three main cities in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The square is filled with temples, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Durbar square is surrounded by spectacular architecture and vividly showcases the skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen over several centuries. The royal palace was originally situated at Dattaraya square and was only later moved to the Durbar square location.

The Kathmandu Durbar Square holds the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city. Along with these palaces, the square also surrounds quadrangles revealing courtyards and temples. The square is presently known as Hanuman Dhoka, a name derived from the statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, near the entrance of the palace. The preference for the construction of royal palaces at this site dates back to as early as the Licchavi period in the third century. Even though the present palaces and temples have undergone repeated and extensive renovations and nothing physical remains from that period, names like Gunapo and Gupo, which are the names referred to the palaces in the square in early scriptures, imply that the palaces were built by Gunakamadev, a king ruling late in the tenth century.

When Kathmandu City became independent under the rule of King Ratna Malla (1484-1520) the palaces in the square became the royal palaces for its Malla kings. When Prithvi Narayan Shah invaded the Kathmandu Valley in 1769, he also favored the Kathmandu Durbar Square for his palace. Other subsequent Shah kings continued to rule from the square until 1896 when they moved to the Narayan Hiti Palace. However, the square is still the center of important royal events like the coronation of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1975 and King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2001.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Japan's Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera, officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site. (It should not be confused with Kiyomizu-dera in Yasugi, Shimane, which is part of the 33-temple route of the Chūgoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage through western Japan.)

Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period. The temple dates back to 798, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, during a restoration ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water. It was originally affiliated with the old and influential Hossō sect dating from Nara times. However, in 1965 it severed that affiliation, and its present custodians call themselves members of the "Kitahossō" sect.

The main hall has a large veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. Large verandas and main halls were constructed at many popular sites during the Edo period to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims. The popular expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge". This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. Two hundred thirty-four jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited.

Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. Visitors can catch and drink the water, which is believed to have therapeutic properties. Drinking the water of the three streams is said to confer wisdom, health, and longevity. However, some Japanese believe that you must choose only two; if you are greedy and drink from all three, you invite misfortune upon yourself. The temple complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a god of love and "good matches". Jishu Shrine possesses a pair of "love stones" placed 6 meters/20 feet apart, which lonely visitors can try to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that a go-between will be needed. The person's romantic interest can assist them as well.

The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals (especially at New Year's and during obon in the summer) when additional booths fill the grounds selling traditional holiday foodstuffs and souvenirs to throngs of visitors. In 2007, Kiyomizu-dera was one of 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World. However, it was not picked as one of the seven winning sites.

Friday, May 20, 2011

South Korea's Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Because of its location east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung, with Changgyeonggung, is also referred to as the East Palace. The literal meaning of Changdeokgung is "Palace of Prospering Virtue".

Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many princes of the Joseon Dynasty and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the topography of the site instead of imposing upon nature. Changdeokgung, like the other Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, was heavily damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Currently, only 30% of the Palace structures remain.

Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The UNESCO committee inscribing the site stated the place was an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design" being exceptional because the buildings are "integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting" and adapted "to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Historic Town of Vigan

The City of Vigan is a 5th class city in the province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. It is the capital of the Province of Ilocos Sur. The city is located on the western coast of the large island of Luzon, facing the South China Sea.

It is a World Heritage Site in that it is one of numerous Hispanic towns in the Philippines, and is well-known for its cobblestone streets, and a unique architecture that fuses Philippine building design, and construction with colonial European architecture. According to the latest Philippines census, it has a population of 47,246 people in 9,193 households. Former Philippine president Elpidio Quirino, the 6th president of the Philippines, is born in Vigan, at the current location of the Provincial Jail (his father was a warden); and resided in the Syquia Mansion.

Vigan is an island which is separated from the mainland by three bodies of water: the Abra River, the Mestizo River, and the Govantes River. The city is unique in the Philippines because it is one of many extensive surviving Philippine historic cities, dating back to the 16th century.

Vigan was a coastal trading post long before the Spaniards arrived; Chinese traders sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Vigan (Island of Vigan) via the Mestizo River that surrounded the island. On board their ships were sea-faring merchants that came to trade goods from other Asian kingdoms in exchange for gold, beeswax, and other mountain products brought by the indigenous peoples from the Cordilleras region. In the book The Philippine Island (Vol. III, p. 276, Blair and Robertson) two letters from Governor General Guido de Lavezaris to King Philip II of Spain mention: "It seemed best to send Captain Juan de Salcedo with 70 or 80 soldiers to explore the coast of Los Ilocano on the shores of the river called Bigan." The Spaniards marched north from Manila on May 20, 1572 and arrived in Vigan on June 12, 1572.

Thus, after the successful expedition and the exploration of the North, Juan de Salcedo founded "Villa Fernandina de Vigan" in honor of King Philip II’s son, Prince Ferdinand, who died at the tender age of four. From Vigan, Salcedo rounded the tip of Luzon and proceeded to pacify Camarines, Albay, and Catanduanes.

As a reward for his services to the King of Spain, Salcedo was awarded the old province of Ilocos which consisted of the modern provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union and a part of Mountain Province as his hacienda (estate), and was accorded the title of "Justicia Mayor de esta Provincia de Ylocos" (Province Mayor of Ilocos). In 1576, Salcedo returned to the capital of his encomienda (trusteeship), Vigan, bringing with him his soldiers, and some Augustinian missionaries to pioneer the evangelization of the Ilocos region. He established a Spanish city for the purpose of controlling the neighboring country.

Governor General Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, in his Account of encomienda dated in Manila on May 31, 1591 states: "The town of Vigan called Villa Fernandina consisted of Spanish settlers; a priest; a Justice Alcalde Mayor (Governor); and a Deputy. The King collects 800 tributes (equivalent to 3,200 subjects)." During this period, Vigan was composed of 19 barrios (districts). Between 1645 to 1660, Vigan was divided into 21 Cavezas de Barrios (Town Mayors) as mentioned in the Libro de Casamiento (Book of Marriage); from the records of the parish house of Vigan found in its Archives. Separated from the indigenous population; the Chinese migrants were residents in a neighborhood called pariancillo, Los Sangleyes del parian (The Sangleyes of Parian); and the Spanish settlers were residents in a town called Los Españoles de la Villa (The Town of the Spaniards).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Paoay Church of Ilocos Norte

Paoay Church (also known as the St. Augustine Church in Paoay) is a historical church located in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. During the Philippine Revolution in 1898, its coral stone bell tower was used by the Katipuneros as an observation post. Paoay Church is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. It currently is a property of the Diocese of Laoag, Ilocos Norte.

Construction of Paoay Church was started by the Augustinian friars in 1694. It was completed in 1894 led by Fr. Antonio Estavillo and was re-dedicated in 1894.

A three-storey coral stone bell tower stands a few meters away from the church. The bell tower served as an observation post in 1896 for the Katipuneros during the Philippine revolution against the Spaniards, and again by the Filipino guerillas during the Japanese occupation in World War II. According to historians, the bell tower also served as a status symbol for the locals. The bell would ring more loudly and more times during the wedding of a prominent clan that it would during the wedding of the poor.

Portions of the church was damaged during the earthquakes in 1865 and 1885. During an excavation inside the church in 2000, a prehistoric human skeleton and fragmented ceramics were discovered and are now in display at the National Museum.

The Church is a unique combination of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental designs. Its facade reveals Gothic affinity, its gables show Chinese elements, while the niches topping the walls suggest Javanese influence (reminiscent of the famous Boroboudur Temple). Known as the “Earthquake Baroque” church in the Philippines, Paoay church was built of baked bricks, coral rocks, salbot (tree sap) and lumber, and has 24 carved massive buttresses for support. It is an architectural solution to the area's challenging, natural setting. Both sides of the nave are lined with the most voluminous stone buttresses seen around the islands. Large coral stones were used for the lower level while bricks were used for the upper levels of the church. The walls are 1.67 meters thick made of the same materials. Its bell tower, which is detached from its main building, is made of coral stone. It stands a safe distance away to spare the sanctuary in case of collapse. Originally, the church roof was thatched; and it is conjectured so that buttresses not only support walls but give roof access during fire and typhoon.

The rectangular facade of the church is supported by four pillasters which extend from the first to the second level outlining the arched doorway. Huge volutes or buttresses and low-relief lines are found on each side of the facade.

In Fr. Pedro Galende's book, he described the massiveness of the structure is balanced by its grace and fluidity. The church adapts the pyramidal design of the baroque style. Its details are inspired from by seal of Saint Agustine, the emblem of the king of Spain, the logo of the Pope, the “init-tao” or the sun god, and stylized Chinese clouds.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Colorano National Anthem Adopted 50th Anniversary Cover

Colorano full color “silk” cachet: e1151 #2 National Anthem Adopted 50th Anniversary is the Official ASDA Cover. The John Hoban President Continental Congress stamp is affixed and tied to the cover with a pictorial cancel: "200th Anniversary Surrender at Yorktown - 50th Anniversary National Anthem Adopted - National Postage Stamp Show ASDA Station New York Coliseum. A second pictorial cancel is added: "Historic Anniversaries National Postage Stamp Show N.Y. Coliseum". The silk cachet depicts Francis Scott Key witnessing the bombing of Fort Mchenry - the inspiration for the National Anthem of the United States of America. The cachet has a brilliant full color, the border of gold, the texture, the feel and look of the “silk”.

The envelope above was issued on November 19, 1981.