Malaysia: Large 1,200 Years Old Buddhist Temple Structure Unearthed in Bukit Choras

The Buddhist Channel, 22 September 2023

YAN, Kedah (Malaysia) -- The National Heritage Department and Universiti Sains Malaysia's Global Archaeology Research Centre (GARC) proudly announce the uncovering of the largest Buddhist temple structure in Bukit Choras, with roots dating back 1,200 years.

Led by GARC's chief researcher, Dr. Nasha Rodziadi Khaw, the team has also unveiled two well-preserved life-sized statues crafted from stucco, bearing architectural resemblance to ancient artifacts from the Srivijaya Kingdom, found in Sumatra and West Java, Indonesia.

"This discovery is distinguished by the remarkable preservation of most artifacts and the temple's complete structural integrity," Dr. Khaw conveyed during a press conference held at the site today.

He continued, "Our aspiration is to unearth further historical treasures, enrich Kedah's heritage, and establish a novel archaeological tourism attraction within the state. This milestone marks the inaugural discovery under a pilot project initiated following a Memorandum of Understanding inked between the department and eleven local universities."

Present at the event were USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Ir Dr Abdul Rahman Mohamed, GARC director Professor Dr Stephen Chia, and Dr. Nasha.

Dr. Khaw also revealed that, as of September 8th, excavation efforts have unveiled the entire western wall of the temple, along with half of its northern and southern walls, in addition to the foundation's staircase structures.

"The team has also stumbled upon Pallava inscriptions and pottery fragments. Our findings point to an estimated construction period between the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., placing it within the same historical timeline as the Bujang Valley and Srivijaya era," Dr. Khaw explained.

He further noted that the statues and unearthed artifacts would be transported to GARC USM for preservation and extensive research.

The second phase of excavation to unearth the remaining temple structure is slated to recommence in December.

USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Ir Dr Abdul Rahman Mohamed affirmed the university's commitment to collaborate with the National Heritage Department in conducting further excavation activities at archaeological sites, with the aim of expanding the range of archaeological tourism offerings.

"There are numerous sites awaiting exploration in the Bujang Valley, necessitating more time for excavation work. Most significantly, these discoveries will allow us to reevaluate the historical accounts chronicled by Western historians," Prof. Mohamed emphasized.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nasha articulated that the findings had sparked fresh inquiries into the cultural connections between Lembah Bujang and other ancient civilizations in Southeast Asia.

"This site holds exceptional significance since the majority of archaeological sites in the Bujang Valley are situated south of Gunung Jerai, along Sungai Merbok and Sungai Muda," Dr. Khaw remarked.

He added, "Bukit Choras stands as the sole site located north of Gunung Jerai, entirely isolated. The revelation of this colossal ancient Buddhist temple hints at a substantial population residing near this hill, which was once a cape before the sedimentation process shifted the coastline some 8 kilometers away from its current location. We eagerly anticipate the unveiling of more treasures in the near future."
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