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Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang
Birthplace of Bhutan's monarchy

On watchlist of World Monument Fund

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Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang
The palace is one of Bhutan's most important cultural heritage sites

The Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang is now on the watchlist of the World Monument Fund for endangered heritage sites.

This means that any funds raised towards restoration of Wangduechholing palace will receive matching funds from the World Monuments Fund, which will also provide technical expertise.

It will also create a lot of visibility, as well as draw attention to its need for restoration.

"The Wangduechhoeling Palace is the birthplace of Bhutan's monarchy and in need of immediate attention, after remaining with minimal upkeep for over 50 years," states a news release from the Bhutan Foundation. "The Bhutan Foundation looks forward to working on this project with the WMF and, with their technical support and guidance, the foundation hopes to restore and rehabilitate one of Bhutan's most important cultural heritage sites."

In an earlier interview, the BF president, Dr Bruce Bunting, said the Wangduecholing palace would be restored to its former glory, and established as a museum and centre for cultural activities in Bumthang.

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The foundation submitted a nomination to WMF for watch listing earlier this year. Last year, WMF included Phajoding lhakhang in the watchlist.

The foundation, based in Washington D.C., has already started work on securing funds for the project in the United States and other countries, and the government has committed to match funds, Dr Bruce Bunting had said in an interview in April.

The three-year project, to be carried out in two phases, is estimated to cost more than USD 5.3M. The first phase of the project includes survey, documentation, condition assessment, meeting with stakeholders, preparation of restoration and project proposals, approvals from authorities and establishment of project team. It will cost USD 0.28M.

The second phase, which includes restoration work on the structures, landscaping, establishment of management plan and opening of the museum, is estimated to cost about USD 5.1M.

The division of conservation of heritage sites of the home ministry will coordinate and manage the project.

The initiative to restore the Wangduecholing palace, Dr Bunting said, was taken to preserve the aura and the grandeur of the palace that has remained neglected for over 50 years.

The report stated that the stunning carvings and paintings on the fa├žade of the palace, and the timber frames of the windows and walls have deteriorated, and are in danger of being damaged beyond repair. "New development, including hotels, that are being built right next to the palace, has created challenges to the significance and beauty of the site," states the project document.

The Wangduecholing palace was constructed in 1857 as a private mansion by Jigme Namgyel, who unified the feudal regions of Bhutan, and laid the grounds for the election of his son Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan.

The location of the palace in the Jakar valley is said to be on the very grounds of one of his most famous battle camps. Born in this mansion, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck established the first historic offices and courts when he became the first King in 1907.

The palace is one of the most beautiful and significant representatives of 19th century Bhutanese architecture and craftsmanship that continues to influence design even today. Built mainly as a residential mansion, the palace is also unique compared to similar monuments in Bhutan that were usually designed as fortresses. The layout and design of the rooms are fascinating reflections of the lives of the first monarchs.

The central temple in the courtyard built by the first King is a treasure trove of ancient murals, texts, sculptures, and textiles, and an exceptional museum in its own right.

Contributed by Rinzin Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, October 2011

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Bhutan Foundation

Washington, DC (October 5, 2011)

The Bhutan Foundation and the World Monuments Fund is pleased to annouce that the Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang, Bhutan has been selected for the World Monuments Fund's 2012 World Monuments Watch Sites. The Watch intends to call international attention to the challenges facing cultural heritage sites around the world. The Wangduechhoeling Palace is the birthplace of Bhutan's monarchy and is in need of immediate attention after remaining with minimal upkeepfor over 50 years. The Palace is one of the most powerful symbols of Bhutan and represents a very fascinating period in the history of the country where the Wangchuck dynasty arose.

The 2012 World Monuments Watch Sites will create a lot of visibility as well as draw attention to the Wangduechhoeling Palace's need for restoration. The Bhutan Foundation looks forward to working on this project with thetechnical support and guidance of the World Monuments Fund and TsAO & McKOWN Architects, PC. The Bhutan Foundation hopes to seek financial support from interested organizations.

Source: Bhutan Foundation, October 2011

The Bhutan Foundation was established in the United States to support government and non-governmental organizations in Bhutan towards the conservation of the natural environment, sustainable development (education and youth, health care, economic opportunity etc), good governance, and the preservation and promotion of culture and art. To further promote the understanding of Bhutan in the US, the foundation seeks to increase the mutually beneficial association between Bhutanese and U.S. organizations in both the public and private sectors.

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