wah cantt - A three-month-long Gandhara antiquities exhibition that was held in Seoul Korea aimed not only to promote the soft image of Pakistan but also help fetch religious Buddhist tourists to Pakistan, Secretary-General Gandhara Art and Culture Association Dr Kyo Soon Park said while talking to media at Taxila Museum on Sunday.

He said that the exhibition was a landmark event in highlighting cultural relations between Pakistan and Korea.

The three-month long exhibition titled “The rise of Gandhara” of 40 artifacts from Peshawar Museum was organized by the Gandhara Art and Culture Association and the Korean Inter Art Channel in collaboration with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Directorate of Archaeology and Museums and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage Pakistan, supported by Korean embassy in Pakistan. According to Dr Park, the exhibition and all the artifacts presented in Seoul from Pakistan brought a message of globalization that took place in 384 AD when Monk Maranatha from the city of Swabi visited Korea and spread Buddhism there which still endures to this day. 

She was of the view that the exhibition will help attract international religious tourists as the rich archaeological treasure trove of the Gandhara Civilization was showcased at the exhibition. Dr Park said that “we have many ideas to promote Gandhara in the world. For example, we made for the first time digital hologram of the ‘Fasting Buddha’ and showed it during the exhibition in Korea.  Being a digital period, this is the best way to show to the world that Pakistan possesses such a great masterpiece of art and also send a message of peace to the world in a current trendy way.” 

She said that the evidence was that the exhibition attracted a lot of children and students.  “We are now using this material in schools for teaching purposes. Similarly, we can make holograms of important Gandhara sites and objects for promotional and educational purposes,” she said.

“Since most of Gandhara Buddhist heritage sites are lying in Pakistan, we can make a ‘Mecca for Buddhists’ in this region. For this, the KP government is already very active, so if we work together with private sector and the KP government, we will achieve a lot for this purpose,” she said.

Dr Parker was of the view that the Korean monk Hyecho came to Gandhara in 726 AD for pilgrimage and left very precious memoir about the Gandhara region, and also famous Chinese monk Xuan Zang came here in the 7th century. 

“Therefore, in this 21st century, we can revive the pilgrimage link between Pakistan, China, and Korea similar to the CPEC project which will boost religious tourism,” she said

“The aim behind the exhibition of Gandhara artifacts is to show the world that Pakistan has great religious tolerance and Buddhist religious places in the region are safe and there is no threat to them.”  She said that the Gandhara Art and Culture Association also organized a photographic Gandhara art exhibition in Seoul in 2011 and now the Gandhara artifacts exhibition in 2017 to present the Buddhist historical legacy to the Korean people. Answering a question, she said that the KP government was very supportive in holding the exhibition.

Director KP Directorate of Archaeology and Museums Dr Abdul Sammad said that 40 artifacts belonging to the ancient Gandhara Civilization were temporarily exported to Korea and have now been returned safely and are already put back on display at the Peshawar Museum.

Dr Samad said that exhibition will also help in attracting donations for further archaeological excavations and the preservation of archaeological sites.