Sacred Caves of Tam Ting (Pak On), Luang Prabung, Laos: Mystery, Splendor, and Desecration is the story of the eaves, of the collabora¬tive international conservation project, and of what happened after the project closed in 1997. It places the caves in context and explains their significance and beauty. The book is both a cautionary tale about the importance and fragility of material cultural heritage, and a message of hope for the future of heritage conservation in the region.
The Tam Ting (Pak Ou) Caves, are located some twenty-five kilometers north of the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang (Laos). In 1992, as Laos was beginning to open up to the world, the University of Canberra and the Department of Information and Culture of the Lao People's Democratic Republic began a five-year collaboration on the conservation of the two caves and on the hundreds of Buddha statues that were found there. The many old. beautiful Buddha images, some life size, were conserved, the infrastructure of the caves rebuilt, the Lao professional staff trained, and site signage erected. The team conducted all work to the highest standards permitted by the circum¬stances. But ten years after the close of the conservation project, many of the beautiful Buddha figures were gone, taken from their home and yet to be recovered.