Saturday 12 December 2009
The Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama, who died in Tokyo on 2 December aged 79, was a campaigner for the preservation of the world's cultural heritage known for his works on the Silk Road and Buddhism.
He was known for his efforts to preserve cultural treasures such as the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia, China's Mogao Caves and Afghanistan's Bamiyan Buddhist monuments, which were dynamited in 2001 by the Taliban. His goal, according to the UN cultural organisation, which made him a goodwill ambassador in 1988, was "to make people of all races and religions aware of the value of these human treasures, thus leading to mutual understanding and the promotion of world peace."
Hirayama, who suffered after-effects of radiation exposure later in life, having experienced the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima at the age of 15, was first recognised widely for his 1959 work "Bukkyo Denrai", depicting an ancient Buddhist monk who introduced the religion from India to China. He created a series of Buddhist-themed paintings of landscapes and ancient ruins through his frequent trips to sites along the ancient Silk Road.
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