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Angkor*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The main complex at Angkor Wat
State Party  Cambodia
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv
Reference 668
Region** Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1992  (16th Session)
Endangered 1992-2004
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Angkor (Khmer: អង្គរ) is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer empire, which flourished from approximately the ninth century to the thirteenth century. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara (नगर), meaning "city".[1] The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a "universal monarch" and "god-king", until 1431, when Ayutthayan (Thai) invaders sacked the Khmer capital, causing its population to migrate south to the area of Phnom Penh.

The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland to the north of the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap (13°24′N, 103°51′E), and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitor numbers approach two million annually.

In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an elaborate system of infrastructure connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1000 square kilometres to the well-known temples at its core.[2] The closest rival to Angkor, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, was between 100 and 150 square kilometres in total size.[3] Although its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported up to one million people.[4]

Contents

Historical overview

Map of the Angkor region
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Seat of the Khmer Empire

The Angkorian period may be said to have begun shortly after 800 A.D., when the Khmer King Jayavarman II announced the independence of Kambujadesa (Cambodia) from Java and established his capital of Hariharalaya (now known as Roluos) at the northern end of Tonle Sap. Through a program of military campaigns, alliances, marriages and land grants, he achieved a unification of the country bordered by China (to the north), Champa (now Central Vietnam, to the east), the ocean (to the south) and a place identified by a stone inscription as "the land of cardamoms and mangoes" (to the west). In 802, Jayavarman articulated his new status by declaring himself "universal monarch" (chakravartin) and, in a move that was to be imitated by his successors and that linked him to the cult of Siva, taking on the epithet of "god-king" (devaraja).[5] Before Jayavarman, Cambodia had consisted of a number of politically independent principalities collectively known to the Chinese by the names Funan and Chenla.[6]

In 889 CE, Yasovarman I ascended to the throne.[7] A great king and an accomplished builder, he was celebrated by one inscription as "a lion-man; he tore the enemy with the claws of his grandeur; his teeth were his policies; his eyes were the Veda."[8] Near the old capital of Hariharalaya, Yasovarman constructed a new city, called Yasodharapura. In the tradition of his predecessors, he also constructed a massive reservoir called a baray. The significance of such reservoirs has been debated by modern scholars, some of whom have seen in them a means of irrigating rice fields, and others of whom have regarded them as religiously charged symbols of the great mythological oceans surrounding Mount Meru, the abode of the gods. The mountain, in turn, was represented by an elevated temple, in which the "god-king" was represented by a lingam.[9] In accordance with this cosmic symbolism, Yasovarman built his central temple on a low hill known as Phnom Bakheng, surrounding it with a moat fed from the baray. He also built numerous other Hindu temples and ashramas, or retreats for ascetics.[10]

Over the next 300 years, between 900 and 1200, the Khmer empire produced some of the world's most magnificent architectural masterpieces in the area known as Angkor. Most are concentrated in an area approximately 15 miles east to west and 5 miles north to south, although the Angkor Archaeological Park, which administers the area, includes sites as far away as Kbal Spean, about 30 miles to the north. Some 72 major temples or other buildings are found within this area, and the remains of several hundred additional minor temple sites are scattered throughout the landscape beyond. Because of the dispersed, low-density nature of the medieval Khmer settlement pattern, Angkor lacks a formal boundary, and its extent is therefore difficult to determine. However, a specific area of at least 1,000 km² (386 square miles) beyond the major temples is defined by a complex system of infrastructure, including roads and canals that indicate a high degree of connectivity and functional integration with the urban core. In terms of spatial extent (although not in terms of population), this makes it the largest urban agglomeration in human history prior to the Industrial Revolution, easily surpassing the nearest claim, that of the Mayan city of Tikal.[2] In fact, in terms of its urban sprawl, medieval Angkor even approaches the size of modern Los Angeles.

Construction of Angkor Wat

The principal temple of the Angkorian region, Angkor Wat, was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II. Suryavarman ascended to the throne after prevailing in a battle with a rival prince. An inscription says that, in the course of combat, Suryavarman lept onto his rival's war elephant and killed him, just as the mythical bird-man Garuda slays a serpent.[11]

After consolidating his political position through military campaigns, diplomacy, and a firm domestic administration, Suryavarman launched into the construction of Angkor Wat as his personal temple mausoleum. Breaking with the tradition of the Khmer kings, and influenced perhaps by the concurrent rise of Vaisnavism in India, he dedicated the temple to Vishnu rather than to Siva. With walls nearly one-half mile long on each side, Angkor Wat grandly portrays the Hindu cosmology, with the central towers representing Mount Meru, home of the gods; the outer walls, the mountains enclosing the world; and the moat, the oceans beyond. The traditional theme of identifying the Cambodian devaraja with the gods, and his residence with that of the celestials, is very much in evidence. The measurements themselves of the temple and its parts in relation to one another have cosmological significance.[12] Suryavarman had the walls of the temple decorated with bas reliefs depicting not only scenes from mythology, but also from the life of his own imperial court. In one of the scenes, the king himself is portrayed as larger in size than his subjects, sitting cross-legged on an elevated throne and holding court, while a bevy of attendants make him comfortable with the aid of parasols and fans.

Jayavarman VII

Portrait of Jayavarman VII on display at Musee Guimet, Paris

Following the death of Suryavarman around 1150 A.D., the kingdom fell into a period of internal strife. Its neighbors to the east, the Cham of what is now southern Vietnam, took advantage of the situation in 1177 to launch a seaborne invasion up the Mekong River and across Tonle Sap. The Cham forces were successful in sacking the Khmer capital of Yasodharapura and in killing the reigning king. However, a Khmer prince who was to become King Jayavarman VII rallied his people and defeated the Cham in battles on the lake and on the land. In 1181, Jayavarman assumed the throne. He was to be the greatest of the Angkorian kings.[13] Over the ruins of Yasodharapura, Jayavarman constructed the walled city of Angkor Thom, as well as its geographic and spiritual center, the temple known as the Bayon. Bas-reliefs at the Bayon depict not only the king's battles with the Cham, but also scenes from the life of Khmer villagers and courtiers. In addition, Jayavarman constructed the well-known temples of Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, dedicating them to his parents. This massive program of construction coincided with a transition in the state religion from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism, since Jayavarman himself had adopted the latter as his personal faith. During Jayavarman's reign, Hindu temples were altered to display images of the Buddha, and Angkor Wat briefly became a Buddhist shrine. Following his death, a Hindu revival included a large-scale campaign of desecrating Buddhist images, until Theravada Buddhism became established as the land's dominant religion from the 14th century.[14]

Zhou Daguan

The year 1296 marked the arrival at Angkor of the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan. Zhou's one-year sojourn in the Khmer capital during the reign of King Indravarman III is historically significant, because he penned a still-surviving account of approximately 40 pages detailing his observations of Khmer society. Some of the topics he addressed in the account were those of religion, justice, kingship, agriculture, slavery, birds, vegetables, bathing, clothing, tools, draft animals, and commerce. In one passage, he described a royal procession consisting of soldiers, numerous servant women and concubines, ministers and princes, and finally, "the sovereign, standing on an elephant, holding his sacred sword in his hand." Together with the inscriptions that have been found on Angkorian stelas, temples and other monuments, and with the bas-reliefs at the Bayon and Angkor Wat, Zhou's journal is the most important source of information about everyday life at Angkor. Filled with vivid anecdotes and sometimes incredulous observations of a civilization that struck Zhou as colorful and exotic, it is an entertaining travel memoir as well.[15]

End of the Angkorian period

The end of the Angkorian period is generally set at 1431 A.D., the year Angkor was sacked and looted by Thai invaders, though the civilization already had been in decline in the 13th and 14th centuries. During the course of the 15th century, nearly all of Angkor was abandoned, except for Angkor Wat, which remained a Buddhist shrine. Several theories have been advanced to account for the decline and abandonment of Angkor:

War with the Thai

It is widely believed that the abandonment of the Khmer capital occurred as a result of Siamese invasions. Ongoing wars with the Siamese were already sapping the strength of Angkor at the time of Zhou Daguan toward the end of the 13th century. In his memoirs, Zhou reported that the country had been completely devastated by such a war, in which the entire population had been obligated to participate.[16] After the collapse of Angkor in 1431, many persons, texts and institutions were taken to the Thai capital of Ayutthaya in the west, while others departed for the new center of Khmer society at Longvek further south, though the official capital later moved, first to Oudong (around 45 km from Phnom Penh, in Ponhea Leu District), and then to the present site of Phnom Penh.

Erosion of the state religion

Some scholars have connected the decline of Angkor with the conversion of Cambodia to Theravada Buddhism following the reign of Jayavarman VII, arguing that this religious transition eroded the Hindu conception of kingship that undergirded the Angkorian civilization.[17] According to Angkor scholar George Coedès, Theravada Buddhism's denial of the ultimate reality of the individual served to sap the vitality of the royal personality cult which had provided the inspiration for the grand monuments of Angkor.[18]

Neglect of public works

According to George Coedès, the weakening of Angkor's royal government by ongoing war and the erosion of the cult of the devaraja undermined the government's ability to engage in important public works, such as the construction and maintenance of the waterways essential for irrigation of the rice fields upon which Angkor's large population depended for its sustenance. As a result, Angkorian civilization suffered from a reduced economic base, and the population was forced to scatter.[19]

Natural disaster

Other scholars attempting to account for the rapid decline and abandonment of Angkor have hypothesized natural disasters such as earthquakes, inundations, or drastic climate changes as the relevant agents of destruction.[19] Recent research by Australian archaeologists suggests that the decline may have been due to a shortage of water caused by the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age.[20] LDEO dendrochronological research has established tree-ring chronologies indicating severe periods of drought across mainland Southeast Asia in the early 1400s, raising the possibility that Angkor's canals and reservoirs ran dry and ended expansion of available farmland.[21]

Restoration, preservation, and threats

The great city and temples remained largely cloaked by the forest until the late 19th century, when French archaeologists began a long restoration process. From 1907 to 1970, work was under the direction of the École française d'Extrême-Orient, which cleared away the forest, repaired foundations, and installed drains to protect the buildings from water damage. In addition, scholars associated with the school and including George Coedès, Maurice Glaize, Paul Mus, Philippe Stern and others initiated a program of historical scholarship and interpretation that is fundamental to the current understanding of Angkor.

Work resumed after the end of the Cambodian civil war and, since 1993, has been jointly co-ordinated by the French, Japanese and UNESCO through the International Co-ordinating Committee on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), while Cambodian work is carried out by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), created in 1995. Some temples have been carefully taken apart stone by stone and reassembled on concrete foundations, in accordance with the method of anastylosis. World Monuments Fund has aided Preah Khan, the Churning of the Sea of Milk (a 49-meter-long bas-relief frieze in Angkor Wat), Ta Som, and Phnom Bakheng. International tourism to Angkor has increased significantly in recent years, with visitor numbers reaching 900,000 in 2006; this poses additional conservation problems but has also provided financial assistance to the restoration effort.[22]

Water-table dropping

With the increased growth in tourism at Angkor, new hotels and restaurants are being built to accommodate such growth. Each new construction project drills underground to reach the water table, which has a limited storage capacity. This demand on the water table could undermine the stability of the sandy soils under the monuments at Angkor, leading to cracks, fissures and collapses.[23]

Looting

Looting has been an ever-growing threat to the Angkor archaeological landscape. According to APSARA, the official Cambodian agency charged with overseeing the management of Angkor, "vandalism has multiplied at a phenomenal rate, employing local populations to carry out the actual thefts, heavily armed intermediaries transport objects, often in tanks or armored personnel carriers, often for sale across the Thai border."[24]

Unsustainable tourism

The increasing number of tourists, which the Cambodian government hopes will reach three million by 2010, exerts pressure on the archaeological sites at Angkor by walking and climbing on the (mostly) sandstone monuments at Angkor. This direct pressure created by unchecked tourism is expected to cause significant damage to the monuments in the future.[25]

Religious history

Historical Angkor was more than a site for religious art and architecture. It was the site of vast cities that served all the needs of the Khmer people. Aside from a few old bridges, however, all of the remaining monuments are religious edifices. In Angkorian times, all non-religious buildings, including the residence of the king himself, were constructed of perishable materials, such as wood, "because only the gods had a right to residences made of stone."[26] Similarly, the vast majority of the surviving stone inscriptions are about the religious foundations of kings and other potentates.[27] As a result, it is easier to write the history of Angkorian state religion than it is to write that of just about any other aspect of Angkorian society.

Several religious movements contributed to the historical development of religion at Angkor:

  • Indigenous religious cults, including those centered on worship of the ancestors and of the lingam;
  • A royal cult of personality, identifying the king with the deity, characteristic not only of Angkor, but of other Indic civilizations in southeast Asia, such as Champa and Java;
  • Hinduism, especially Shaivism, the form of Hinduism focussed on the worship of Shiva and the lingam as the symbol of Shiva, but also Vaishnavism, the form of Hinduism focussed on the worship of Vishnu;
  • Buddhism, in both its Mahayana and Theravada varieties.

Pre-Angkorian religion

The religion of pre-Angkorian Cambodia, known to the Chinese as Funan (first century A.D. to ca. 550) and Chenla (ca. 550 - ca. 800 A.D.), included elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and indigenous ancestor cults.[28]

Temples from the period of Chenla bear stone inscriptions, in both Sanskrit and Khmer, naming both Hindu and local ancestral deities, with Shiva supreme among the former.[29] The cult of Harihara was prominent; Buddhism was not, because, as reported by the Chinese pilgrim Yi Jing, a "wicked king" had destroyed it.[30] Characteristic of the religion of Chenla also was the cult of the lingam, or stone phallus that patronized and guaranteed fertility to the community in which it was located.[31]

Shiva and the lingam

The Khmer king Jayavarman II, whose assumption of power around 800 A.D. marks the beginning of the Angkorian period, established his capital at a place called Hariharalaya (today known as Roluos), at the northern end of the great lake, Tonle Sap.[32] Harihara is the name of a deity that combines the essence of Vishnu (Hari) with that of Shiva (Hara) and that was much favored by the Khmer kings.[31] Jayavarman II's adoption of the epithet "devaraja" (god-king) signified the monarch's special connection with Shiva.[33]

Dedicated by Rajendravarman in 948 A.D., Baksei Chamkrong is a temple-pyramid that housed a statue of Shiva.

The beginning of the Angkorian period was also marked by changes in religious architecture. During the reign of Jayavarman II, the single-chambered sanctuaries typical of Chenla gave way to temples constructed as a series of raised platforms bearing multiple towers.[32] Increasingly impressive temple pyramids came to represent Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods, with the moats surrounding the temples representing the mythological oceans.[34]

Typically, a lingam served as the central religious image of the Angkorian temple-mountain. The temple-mountain was the center of the city, and the lingam in the main sanctuary was the focus of the temple.[35] The name of the central lingam was the name of the king himself, combined with the suffix -esvara, which designated Shiva.[36] Through the worship of the lingam, the king was identified with Shiva, and Shaivism became the state religion.[37] Thus, an inscription dated 881 A.D. indicates that king Indravarman I erected a lingam named Indresvara.[38] Another inscription tells us that Indravarman erected eight lingams in his courts and that they were named for the "eight elements of Shiva".[38] Similarly, Rajendravarman, whose reign began in 944 A.D., constructed the temple of Pre Rup, the central tower of which housed the royal lingam called Rajendrabhadresvara.[39]

An 11th- or 12th-century Cambodian bronze statue of Vishnu

Vaishnavism

In the early days of Angkor, the worship of Vishnu was secondary to that of Shiva. The relationship seems to have changed with the construction of Angkor Wat by King Suryavarman II as his personal mausoleum at the beginning of the 12th century A.D. The central religious image of Angkor Wat was an image of Vishnu, and an inscription identifies Suryavarman as "Paramavishnuloka," or "he who enters the heavenly world of Vishnu."[40] Religious syncretism, however, remained thoroughgoing in Khmer society: the state religion of Shaivism was not necessarily abrogated by Suryavarman's turn to Vishnu, and the temple may well have housed a royal lingam.[37] Furthermore, the turn to Vaishnavism did not abrogate the royal personality cult of Angkor. by which the reigning king was identified with the deity. According to Angkor scholar George Coedès, "Angkor Wat is, if you like, a vaishnavite sanctuary, but the Vishnu venerated there was not the ancient Hindu deity nor even one of the deity's traditional incarnations, but the king Suryavarman II posthumously identified with Vishnu, consubstantial with him, residing in a mausoleum decorated with the graceful figures of apsaras just like Vishnu in his celestial palace."[41] Suryavarman proclaimed his identity with Vishnu, just as his predecessors had claimed consubstantiation with Shiva.

Face towers of the Bayon represent the king as the Bodhisattva Lokesvara

Mahayana Buddhism

In the last quarter of the 12th century, King Jayavarman VII departed radically from the tradition of his predecessors when he adopted Mahayana Buddhism as his personal faith. Jayavarman also made Buddhism the state religion of his kingdom when he constructed the Buddhist temple known as the Bayon at the heart of his new capital city of Angkor Thom. In the famous face towers of the Bayon, the king represented himself as the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara moved by compassion for his subjects.[42] Thus, Jayavarman was able to perpetuate the royal personality cult of Angkor, while identifying the divine component of the cult with the bodhisattva rather than with Shiva.[43]

Hindu restoration

The Hindu restoration began around 1243 A.D., with the death of Jayavarman VII's successor, Indravarman II. The next king, Jayavarman VIII, was a Shaivite iconoclast who specialized in destroying Buddhist images and in reestablishing the Hindu shrines that his illustrious predecessor had converted to Buddhism. During the restoration, the Bayon was made a temple to Shiva, and its image of the Buddha was cast to the bottom of a well. Everywhere, cultist statues of the Buddha were replaced by lingams.[44]

Religious pluralism

When Chinese traveller Zhou Daguan came to Angkor in A.D. 1296, he found what he took to be three separate religious groups. The dominant religion was that of Theravada Buddhism. Zhou observed that the monks had shaven heads and wore yellow robes.[45] The Buddhist temples impressed Zhou with their simplicity. He noted that the images of Buddha were made of gilded plaster.[46] The other two groups identified by Zhou appear to have been those of the Brahmans and of the Shaivites (lingam worshippers). About the Brahmans, Zhou had little to say, except that they were often employed as high officials.[46] Of the Shaivites, whom he called "Taoists", Zhou wrote, "the only image which they revere is a block of stone analogous to the stone found in shrines of the god of the soil in China."[46]

Theravada Buddhism

During the course of the 13th century, Theravada Buddhism coming from Siam (Thailand) made its appearance at Angkor. Gradually, it became the dominant religion of Cambodia, displacing both Mahayana Buddhism and Shaivism.[47] The practice of Theravada Buddhism at Angkor continues until this day.

Archaeological sites

The area of Angkor has many significant archaeological sites, including the following: Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Baksei Chamkrong, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Samré, Banteay Srei, Baphuon, the Bayon, Chau Say Tevoda, East Baray, East Mebon, Kbal Spean, the Khleangs, Krol Ko, Lolei, Neak Pean, Phimeanakas, Phnom Bakheng, Phnom Krom, Prasat Ak Yum, Prasat Kravan, Preah Khan, Preah Ko, Preah Palilay, Preah Pithu, Pre Rup, Spean Thma, Srah Srang, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Ta Som, Ta Keo, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Thommanon, West Baray, West Mebon.

Terms and phrases

  • Angkor is a Khmer term meaning "city". It comes from the Sanskrit nagara.
  • Banteay is a Khmer term meaning "citadel" or "fortress" that is also applied to walled temples.
  • Baray means "reservoir".
  • Esvara, or Isvara, is a suffix referring to the god Shiva.
  • Gopura is a Sanskrit term meaning "entrance pavilion" or "gateway".
  • Jaya is a prefix meaning "victory".
  • Phnom is a Khmer term meaning "mountain".
  • Prasat is a Khmer term meaning "tower". It comes from the Sanskrit prasada.
  • Preah is a Khmer term meaning "sacred" or "holy". (Preah Khan means "sacred sword".)
  • Srei is a Khmer term meaning "woman". (Banteay Srei means "citadel of women".)
  • Ta is a Khmer term meaning "ancestor" or "grandfather". (Ta Prohm means "Ancestor Brahma". Neak ta means "ancestors" or "ancestral spirits".)
  • Thom is a Khmer term meaning "big". (Angkor Thom means "big city".)
  • Varman is a suffix meaning "shield" or "protector". (Suryavarman means "protected by Surya, the sun-god".)
  • Wat is a Khmer term, derived from the Sanskrit vattaram, meaning (Buddhist) "temple". (Angkor Wat means "temple city".)

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.4.
  2. ^ a b Evans et al, A comprehensive archaeological map of the world's largest preindustrial settlement complex at Angkor, Cambodia, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, August 23, 2007.
  3. ^ "Map reveals ancient urban sprawl," BBC News, 14 August 2007.
  4. ^ Metropolis: Angkor, the world's first mega-city, The Independent, August 15, 2007
  5. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp.53 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.34 ff.
  6. ^ Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.26; Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.4.
  7. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp.63 ff.
  8. ^ Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.40.
  9. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.10.
  10. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.60; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.38 f.
  11. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp.112 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.49.
  12. ^ Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.50 f.
  13. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp.120 ff.
  14. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.116.
  15. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp.134 ff.; Chandler, A History of Cambodia, pp.71 ff.
  16. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.32.
  17. ^ Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.78 ff.
  18. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, pp.64-65.
  19. ^ a b Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.30.
  20. ^ AAP (14 March 2007). "Climate change killed ancient city". NEWS.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21380223-1702,00.html. Retrieved 12 November 2009.  
  21. ^ Nelson, Andy (10 November 2009). "The secret life of ancient trees". Christian Science Monitor. http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/11/10/the-secret-life-of-ancient-trees/. Retrieved 12 November 2009.  
  22. ^ "Tourist invasion threatens to ruin glories of Angkor," The Observer.
  23. ^ Sharp, Rob (14 March 2008). "Heritage Site in Peril: Angkor Wat is Falling Down". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/heritage-site-in-peril-angkor-wat-is-falling-down-795747.html.  
  24. ^ Perlez, Jane (March 21, 2005). "Siem Reap Journal; A Cruel Race to Loot the Splendor That Was Angkor". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E06E3DA1E3CF932A15750C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1.  
  25. ^ Watson, Paul (July 19, 2008). "Too Much Adoration at Cambodia's Angkor Temples". Los Angeles Times. http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-trw-angkor20-2008jul20?page=1.  
  26. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.18.
  27. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.2.
  28. ^ Chandler, A History of Cambodia, pp.19-20.
  29. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.46.
  30. ^ Coedès, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, p.73f.
  31. ^ a b Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.20.
  32. ^ a b Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.57.
  33. ^ Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.34.
  34. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.9, 60.
  35. ^ Stern, "Le temple-montagne khmèr," p.615.
  36. ^ Stern, "Le temple-montagne khmèr," p.612.
  37. ^ a b Stern, "Le temple-montagne khmèr," p.616.
  38. ^ a b Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.63.
  39. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, pp.73ff.
  40. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.118.
  41. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.63.
  42. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.121.
  43. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.62.
  44. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.133.
  45. ^ Higham, The Civilization of Angkor, p.137.
  46. ^ a b c Chandler, A History of Cambodia, p.72.
  47. ^ Coedès, Pour mieux comprendre Angkor, p.19.

References

External links

Coordinates: 13°26′N 103°50′E / 13.433°N 103.833°E / 13.433; 103.833


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Angkor Archaeological Park article)

From Wikitravel

Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor Wat Temple
Angkor Wat Temple
Pre Rup, one of the many temple ruins within the Angkor Archaeological Park
Pre Rup, one of the many temple ruins within the Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor Archaeological Park, located in northern Cambodia, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.

Understand

Stretching over some 400 square kilometers, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the largest pre-industrial city in the world. The most famous are the Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.

Angkor Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. At the same time, it was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to looting, a declining water table, and unsustainable tourism. UNESCO has now set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

Angkor itself has no accommodations and few facilities; the nearby town of Siem Reap is the tourist hub for the area.

Symbolism

The temples of Angkor are highly symbolic structures. The foremost Hindu concept is the temple-mountain, where the temple is built as a representation of the mythical Mount Meru: this is why so many temples, including Angkor Wat itself, are surrounded by moats, built in a mountain-like pyramidal shape and topped by precisely five towers, representing the five peaks of Mount Meru. The linga (phallus), representing the god Shiva, was also critical and while the lingas themselves have largely gone, linga stands (carved, table-like blocks of stone) can be found in many if not most rooms in the temples. There was also a political element to it all: most kings wanted to build their own state temples to symbolize their kingdom and their rule.

While early Angkor temples were built as Hindu temples, Jayavarman VII converted to Mahayana Buddhism c. 1200 and embarked on a prodigious building spree, building the new capital city of Angkor Thom including Bayon, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and many more as Buddhist structures. However, his successor Jayavarman VIII returned to Hinduism and embarked on an equally massive spree of destruction, systematically defacing Buddhist images and even crudely altering some to be Hindu again. Hinduism eventually lost out to Buddhism again, but the (few) Buddha images in the temples today are later Theraveda additions.

One element that continues to mystify archeaologists is the baray, or water reservoir, built in a grand scale around Angkor: for example, the West Baray is a mind-boggling 8 km by 2.3 km in size. While it has long been assumed that they were used for irrigation, some historians argue that their primary function was political or religious. Today, the moat around Angkor and the West Baray still contains water, but the rest have dried up.

Motifs

As you tour the temples, you will see certain mythical figures and other motifs cropping up repeatedly.

Fierce battles in the reign of Jayavarman VII, Bayon
Fierce battles in the reign of Jayavarman VII, Bayon

Angkor is hot and sticky throughout the year, but the peak season is November to February, when the weather is dry and temperatures are coolest (25-30°C). The flip side is that the temples are packed, especially around Christmas/New Year's, and hotel rates are at their highest. March to May is brutally hot, with temperatures reaching 40°C. June to October is the rainy season, and outlying temples and the roads leading to them can turn into quagmires of mud. However, this is also when the temples are at their quietest, and it's still often possible to do a good half-day round of sightseeing before the rains start in the afternoon.

Central tower, Angkor Wat Temple
Central tower, Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor is located about 20 minutes to the north, by car or motorbike, from central Siem Reap. See the Siem Reap article for details on getting there.

Get around

Tour buses feature guided, air-conditioned comfort but also are subject to large crowds and lack of options. Be sure you know which temples are being visited as some of the larger buses only go to the 2 or 3 main tourist attractions, and leave out important "secondary" sights. The cost is ~US$25-$70/day including driver and guide.

Cars with drivers can be hired for single or multiple days. While all drivers are familiar with the area and happy to suggest good routes, most speak little English and are not actual tour guides. The charge varies from US$25 per day to US$50 for a driver and English speaking guide. It is customary for the drivers to ask for US$5-US$10 extra for trips to further temples such as the those of the Big Circuit, Banteay Srey and more for remote sites like Beng Mealea .

Motorbikes (with drivers) can be arranged through any guesthouse for about US$6-$8/day. Again, drivers might ask for more to visit remote ruins. Some drivers can speak a bit of English, and can give you information about Angkor and Cambodian life. Drivers are required to be licensed and must wear their gray numbered vest while traveling within the confines of the Angkor park. The rental of motorbikes without a driver to foreigners in Siem Reap is prohibited; however foreigners can ride motorbikes they've rented elsewhere (e.g., Phnom Penh).

Tuk tuks can be arranged through guesthouses, offering space for one or two travelers. Figure on US$12 for the main Angkor temples, and more for outlying temples. Like the motorbike drivers, they must be licensed, may speak some English, and must wear gray numbered vests while traveling within the park.

Bicycles are another option, though you will spend more time getting from place to place and will have a limited range. They are probably best for visitors planning on returning for several days. Bring sun screen, a good hat, lot of water and a scarf to keep the sun off your neck. The rental is around US$2-$3 per day, and quality does vary. As of 2006, there is also an electrical bicycle renting agency near the road to the Angkor. The battery can be exchanged free of charge at several places inside the Angkor. [2008-11-08 update: the electrical bike rental service doesn't seem to be operating anymore]

Horse carriages and even elephants are also available within the park, but only from specific points. For example, elephants travel the route between Bayon and the nearest gate of Angkor Thom.

Electric cars will take you to certain areas for a round-trip price of only $2. They can be found in front of Angkor Wat and the Terrace of the Elephants.

Helicopter flights are another way of seeing Angkor Archaeological Park. You can also visit outlying temples like Banteay Chhmar, Boeng Mealea, Koh Ker, Rolous Group, Phnom Bok & Tonle Sap floating village. Sokha Helicopters [1] have prices starting from US$110 per person for the basic Angkor Wat, Prasart Kravan, Bat Chum, Sras Srang, Pre Rup, Eastern Mebon & Ta Som 12 minutes tour. Flights depart daily next to the Sokha Yellow Balloon on the road from Siem Reap International Airport to Angkor Wat main entrance. Bookings essential and can be made through hotels or travel/tour agents or direct on +855 12 449 555.

Location of Angkor Archaeological Park and main sites
Location of Angkor Archaeological Park and main sites

Passes are required to enter the Angkor area. They are on sale at the front gate for 1-day ($20), 3-day ($40), or 7-day ($60) intervals. The 3-day pass is valid for any 3 days within a week, while the 7-day pass is valid for any 7 days within a month. Cambodians can enter for free — you shouldn't need to buy a pass for your guide or your driver. If you buy a pass in the evening, you can enter the park after 5:00PM to view the sunset without it counting as use of a day on your pass. The passes are non-transferable. You will have a photograph taken and printed on your pass to make sure they are non-transferable. Regular checks for the pass are performed at almost all sites within the park, so carry your pass with you at all times, and be certain to buy the passes only from the official Apsara Authority counters, not from other vendors, and definitely not second-hand.

Guides can be hired for about US$20 a day and are available for most major languages. Hiring a guide for at least the first day can help you get orientated to the temples and are particularly useful for finding and explaining the bas-reliefs, which can otherwise be rather overwhelming and/or difficult to understand.

Be sure and get to the temples early. You can enter the park beginning at 5:00AM; the temples open at sunrise. There are fewer visitors early in the morning, and the sun isn't at full force. Arriving at the temples at 8:00AM instead of 9:00AM can make all the difference in staying one step ahead of the crowds.

The temples can broadly be categorized into four groups:

  • Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the grandest temple of all and the ancient capital next to it
  • Little Circuit (Le Petit Circuit), taking in major sites to the east of Angkor Thom
  • Big Circuit (Le Grand Circuit), taking in major sites north and further out east
  • Roluos group, 15 km east from Siem Reap along National Highway 6
  • Outlying temples, located over 20 km for Angkor Wat

You can, of course, mix and match freely, but as distances are fairly long, it makes sense to plan ahead and pick sites connected by road. Most car, tuk-tuk or moto drivers will have an itinerary ready if you don't have one in mind, and their expertise may come in handy for arriving at sites a step ahead of the big tour groups.

Central courtyard, Angkor Wat
Central courtyard, Angkor Wat
Plan of Angkor Wat
Plan of Angkor Wat

History

Located six kilometers north of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is one of the largest of Khmer monuments. Built around the first half of 12th century by King Suryavarman II, the temple's balance, composition and beauty make it one of the finest monuments in the world.

Though 'Wat' is the Khmer (Cambodian) word for temple, the westward orientation of the structure is atypical of temples. Scholars believe that the architecture and sculptures are that of a temple where Lord Vishnu was worshipped but it was also built as a mausoleum for the king after his death.

How to explore

The size of the monuments makes it look overwhelming when one encounters it for the first time. The following is one of the suggested plan to explore Angkor Wat. Enter through the west entrance. When you reach the entry tower, walk to the right to get a glimpse of all the five towering gopuras.

Passing the tower and the libraries on both sides of the walkway, climb down the steps towards the left side and get to the water basin. You can catch a glimpse of the temple and its reflection in the water. Go past the basin and reach the left end of the temple.

You would by now have reached the starting point of the famous bas reliefs depicting scenes from various mythological stories and historic events. Walking from left to right you will come across scenes from battle of Ramayana, battle of Mahabharata, army of Suryavarman II, scenes from judgement by Yama (the supreme judge), churning of ocean by demons and gods to get Amrita — the nectar of immortality, Vishnu's victory over demons, victory of Krishna over Bana and other scenes of battle between gods and demons.

Climb the steps to reach the second tier. One can reach the third tier and the central courtyard within by climbing the steps oriented towards any of the four cardinal points. However, it is suggested that the steps on the south (right) be taken, as these have now been fitted with a handrail — particularly useful when descending.

When to visit

The sight of the grand monument towering over the landscape is breath-taking at any time of day. However, to maximise the effect it is suggested that the first trip to Angkor Wat be made in optimal lighting conditions, usually around 1~2 PM. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is a also great sight to witness. Hence most of the tourists tend to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, then explore other ruins in the morning and then return to Angkor Wat later in the afternoon. The sun rises behind Angkor Wat and the best colors are seen just before the sun climbs into view. As the position of the sun as it rises varies according to the time of year, do position yourself accordingly. For example, in November-December time when you are facing Angkor Wat, the sun rises on your right hand side. Hence grab a place to the extreme left of the entry tower to see the sunrise. Sunset at Angkor Wat is best viewed either on the top tier or outside the main temple structure.

One of the 216 stone faces that adorn the towers of Bayon
One of the 216 stone faces that adorn the towers of Bayon
Plan of the Bayon
Plan of the Bayon

History

Built in the latter part of the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon is one of the most widely recognised temples in Siem Reap because of the giant stone faces that adorn the towers of Bayon. There are 54 towers of four faces each, totaling 216 faces. There is still a debate as to who is being depicted in the faces. It could be Avalokiteshvara, Mahayana Buddhism's compassionate Bodhisattva, or perhaps a combination of King Jayavarman VII and Buddha.

How to explore

Bayon's plan can be divided into three levels — the first two are bas-reliefs and the uppermost consists of the central sanctuary. The outer gallery depicts scenes from everyday life and historical events, while the second inner gallery depicts mythical figures and stories. In total, there are more than 1km of bas-reliefs to be viewed in the Bayon.

Enter Bayon from the east. The outer gallery comes into view first. The second gallery is on the next higher level. The third level is where you will encounter many of the famous faces (and tourists). The fact that these stones are exposed to direct light makes it easy to shoot pictures throughout the day, though mid-day sun eliminates shadows. You will find fewer tourists too during this time of day. Elephants are also available to take you from the gate into Bayon for $10 per person (seats are limited and often already pre-booked by the tour groups, but still worth checking out!)

When to visit

The surrounding and the tall towers makes Bayon a bit dark and flat for study and photography near sunrise and sunset. Hence, it is best to visit Bayon when there is plenty of light. 10 AM in the morning to around 4 PM in the evening is the stretch most people prefer.

Baphuon

Located to the northwest of the Bayon, the Baphuon is supposed to represent Mount Meru (sacred to Hinduism), and was one of the largest and grandest structures in Angkor. Built into the western face of the Baphuon is a giant reclining Buddha, added in the 15th century after the region converted from Hinduism to Buddhism.

Archaeologists had dismantled the Baphuon to perform renovation when they were interrupted by the civil war; the records for piecing the temple back together were subsequently lost or destroyed. Today it is undergoing painstaking reconstruction work, so visitors can only walk across the long terrace leading up to the main structure and around the outside base. Completion is estimated for 2010.

Other Angkor Thom sights

The Bayon and Baphuon temples form only part of what was formerly the giant city of Angkor Thom, once thought to hold a population of one million.

In addition to the Bayon and Baphuon temples, the ancient city of Angkor Thom holds a number of other sites of interest:

  • The Elephant Terrace.
  • The Terrace of the Leper King.
  • Five entrance gates, one at each ordinal compass point and the Victory Gate in the east wall. The western and the northern gate are free from tourists, and climatic. Each of the gates is topped by the face of Avalokitesvara. There is a path on top of the walls, and one along the outside wall, that can be followed to walk from gate to gate. The total walk is around 13km, about 3.5 hours long.
The Elephant Terrace
The Elephant Terrace
  • Phnom Bakheng. The first temple-mountain constructed in Angkor, with a commanding hilltop location. Extremely popular (and crowded) spot for sunsets: allow half an hour for the sweaty hike to the top, and leave early or bring a flashlight for the way back. The final climb to the top of the temple is steep and dangerous at dark. Elephants will carry you to the hilltop for $20 per person (as of 2008-11-08), but you still have to climb the temple stairs on your own. Note that the sun does not set over Angkor if seen from here, and any visible temples are in fact quite far away. An elephant ride back down the hill will cost $15.

Little Circuit

In clockwise order, exiting Angkor Thom by the Victory Gate:

  • Ta Keo. An incomplete, largely undecorated temple built by Jayavarman V. The stairs at the east side of the monument are least steep and the easiest way to reach the top level.
The famous empty doorway of Ta Prohm — there's usually a queue of people lining up to be photographed here!
The famous empty doorway of Ta Prohm — there's usually a queue of people lining up to be photographed here!
  • Ta Prohm. Built during the time of king Jayavarman VII and is best known as the temple where trees have been left intertwined with the stonework, much as it was uncovered from the jungle. It might be considered in a state of disrepair but there is a strange beauty in the marvelous strangler fig trees which provide a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork. This is one of the most popular temples after Angkor Wat and the Bayon because of the beautiful combinations of wood and stone. Black and white film photographers especially love this site because of this and most of the stunning postcard shots of Angkor's trees come from here; pop culture fans, on the other hand, may recognize a few scenes from Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider. While the temple is very popular, most visitors follow a central route and the sides of the complex can be surprisingly quiet. Note that large sections of the temple are unstable rubble and have been cordoned off, as they are in real danger of collapse.
  • Banteay Kdei. Sprawling monastic complex in the style of Ta Prohm. In poor shape, but slowly being restored.
  • Sras Srang. Terrace leading to a pond. Located right across the road from Banteay Kdei.
  • Prasat Kravan. A little temple to end the little circuit.
Crushed by the weight of history, Preah Khan
Crushed by the weight of history, Preah Khan

In clockwise order, exiting Angkor Thom by the North Gate:

  • Preah Khan. Jayavarman VII's first capital, before the completion of Angkor Wat. Large and atmospheric, yet somewhat overshadowed by Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, this temple is partly in disrepair with strangler figs crawling up the walls, but has some excellent carvings and less visitors, and is well worth a visit. The temple is some 3 kilometers north of Angkor Thom.
  • Neak Pean.
  • Ta Som.
  • East Mebon. Located on what was an island in the now dry East Baray, this is a large, three-story temple-mountain crowned by five towers, like a miniature Angkor Wat. Originally built by Rajendravarman II in the 10th century, many structures are in poor shape, but the temple is best known for its massive (restored) elephant statues.
  • Pre Rup. A temple-mountain close to and quite similar in style to East Mebon, and constructed only a decade later. A favorite spot for viewing the sun set into the jungles and rice paddies of the Cambodian countryside.

Roluos group

The ruins here are from the ancient capital of Hariharalaya, dating from the late 9th century and thus predating Angkor itself.

  • Bakong. A five-terraced pyramid in the mountain-temple style.
  • Lolei. An island temple constructed in a baray, now dry.
  • Preah Ko. The first temple to be built here, dating from the 9th century.
  • Banteay Srey, 37 km north of Angkor Wat. This red colored temple is well known for its intricate carvings, and is worth a half day trip on its own, since it is a bit further from Siem Reap than the main Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat areas. Car and motorcycle drivers will charge a bit extra ($10 USD) to take you to the temple.
  • Kbal Spean. After the man-made monuments of the temples, it can be nice to get back to nature for a while at Kbal Spean. Although it is the site of numerous carvings made into the live rock of the river bed and surrounding areas, this lies at the end of a 1.5km walk through some Cambodian rainforest. There is a small but attractive waterfall that drops to a picturesque pool, all surrounded by precariously perched boulders and creeping vines. Best combined with a trip out to Banteay Srey, as this is a further 5km or so along a rough road. Expect to pay a few extra dollars to drivers who take you this far.
  • Beng Mealea , 80 km east of Siem Reap. Along with Ta Phrom and others, this is a temple which has been left to nature, but unlike Ta Phrom it has not been cleared at all. The result is the visitor clambering over ruined walls (exactly the sort of thing you are asked not to do at other ruins!) and through windows to get access to areas where nature is running riot. Lots of trees growing out of walls, and creepers hanging over ruined buildings, and consequently great for some atmospheric photos. Much of the standard walk is along wooden decking for those who don't want to clamber. This can be taken in as part of a trip to the Roluos Group, or a long day trip with Banteay Srey and Kbal Spean, though this will entail about 5 hours travelling in total on some very rough roads. There is a $5 entry fee to Beng Mealea. Be wary of custodians bearing Äspara Authority" armbands and local kids following you in an attempt to extract guide fees.
  • Phnom Krom, 12 km southwest of Siem Reap. This hilltop temple was built at the end of the 9th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman. The gloomy atmosphere of the temple and the view over the Tonle Sap lake make the climb to the hill worth while. A visit to the site can be conveniently combined with a boat trip to the lake. Obviously, the Angkor passport is needed to enter the temple so do not forget to bring your passport along when heading to Tonle Sap.

Buy

Souvenirs are also sold in front of all temples. Bargain, but not too hard: many souvenir sellers live within the park and, being banned from farming on their own land, have to resort to this to make a living. Please do not encourage children who pester tourists in the temples themselves to give money or buy postcards.

There are several decent souvenir shops around the old market.The one of the shops called 'Black Garuda' has some original key holders and mobile straps and they donate some of your purchase to land mine victims.

Eat

Despite a ban on development or commercial zoning, dozens of small noodle and snack shops have sprung up near the major attractions of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. If you're in the mood, some shopkeepers may be willing to bargain - during summer low season, you can bring the price of a good lunch down to as low as $1 for a dish and $0.50 for a drink. (Their flocks of five year old emissaries aren't likely to hold price-cutting authority, though.) You'll also find some local people selling fresh pineapples and mangoes (beautifully cut) for about $1 a piece.

  • The modern Angkor Cafe lies just outside Angkor Wat's main entrance, and also doubles as a crafts shop, with fine works from the Artisans d'Angkor shop, where they train locals in the arts. Their prices are on the high side for Cambodia but very reasonable for Western pockets (mainly $3-5) with excellent food, nice decor and air conditioning.

Drink

Soft drinks are hawked by stalls in front of practically every temple. As you might expect, prices are inflated: $1 for a can of soft drink or a cold 1L plastic bottle of water is more or less standard, although this can easily be bargained down to half or less.

Sleep

The area has seen a large increase of hotels and guest houses in 2003, with many new 3 to 4 star places opening up on the road between the airport and Siem Reap. See Siem Reap for hotels and hostels. Camping is not allowed.

Respect

Some of Angkor's sites were originally built as Hindu temples, while some were built as Buddhist temples, and yet others were converted over the years. Today, most of Angkor's major temples house at least a few Buddha statues (nearly all added later) and draw a steady stream of monks and worshippers. You may be approached for donations, but you are under no obligation to pay unless you actually choose to accept incense sticks or other offerings.

Because these are still holy spaces for the Khmers (Cambodian people), it is best to follow the dress code of "long pants/skirt and covered shoulders." This is the dress code that the Khmers follow when visiting any temple or holy space. Most Khmers are non-confrontational so this rule is not strictly enforced, but wearing inappropriate clothing sends a message of disrespect. A good rule of thumb is "Would I wear this to my own house of worship?" If not, it may be poor etiquette to wear it to someone else's holy site. As an added benefit, long pants and covered shoulders provide better protection from the sun, insects, and brambles when walking around and between the sites.

Stay healthy

Touring the temples is a hot and sweaty job, so bring sunblock and keep yourself well hydrated. Some of the temples, notably the uppermost level of Angkor Wat, require climbs up very steep staircases and are best avoided if you suffer from vertigo or are not fully confident of being able to keep your footing.

Malaria is endemic in the areas around the temples, and has resistance to some medications. As always, seek medical advice before you travel.

Don't feed or approach the monkeys who lurk around some sites: many are ill-tempered and will bite at the slightest provocation.

Stay safe

By local regulation, motorcycle and tuk-tuk drivers must at all times wear a numbered vest when on the job, which goes a long way towards preventing hassles and scams. However, a disturbing number of rapes continue to happen, especially after dark and in the more secluded temples, so it's unadvisable for women to travel alone.

Whilst visiting the temples, beware of off-duty police officers, who are in uniform, that start walking beside you and start showing you around the temples. At this point either say that you would like to see the temples yourself, or agree on a price at the start. Several people have been requested for a fee of over $10 at the end of the temple tour and you are not going to argue with a member of the police force! The official wage for a police officer is very low, so they can easily double their salary by being tourist guides.

Whilst at the temple beware of anyone offering you incense. They will hand you the incense and then "teach" you a blessing. They will then ask for a donation (generally about $10) for the monks and the upkeep of the temple. None of the funds will make it to either of these causes, so it's best just to say a quick "No thank you" when they try to give you the incense in the first place.

This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information about the park including attractions, activities, lodging, campgrounds, restaurants, and arrival/departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ANGKOR, an assemblage of ruins in Cambodia, the relic of the ancient Khmer civilization. They are situated in forests to the north of the Great Lake (Tonle-Sap), the most conspicuous of the remains being the town of Angkor-Thom and the temple of Angkor-Vat, both of which lie on the right bank of the river Siem-Reap, a tributary of Tonle-Sap. Other remains of the same form and character lie scattered about the vicinity on both banks of the river, which is crossed by an ancient stone bridge.

Angkor-Thom lies about a quarter of a mile from the river. According to Aymonier it was begun about A. D. 860, in the reign of the Khmer sovereign Jayavarman III., and finished towards A.D. 900. It consists of a rectangular enclosure, nearly 2 m. in each direction, surrounded by a wall from 20 to 3 o ft. in height. Within the enclosure, which is entered by five monumental gates, are the remains of palaces and temples, overgrown by the forest. The chief of these are: (1) The vestiges of the royal palace, which stood within an enclosure containing also the pyramidal religious structure known as the Phimeanakas. To the east of this enclosure there extends a terrace decorated with magnificent reliefs.

(2) The temple of Bayon, a square enclosure formed by galleries with colonnades, within which is another and more elaborate system of galleries, rectangular in arrangement and enclosing a cruciform structure, at the centre of which rises a huge tower with a circular base. Fifty towers, decorated with quadruple faces of Brahma, are built at intervals upon the galleries, the whole temple ranking as perhaps the most remarkable of the Khmer remains.

Angkor-Vat, the best preserved example of Khmer architecture, lies less than a mile to the south of the royal city, within a rectangular park surrounded by a moat, the outer perimeter of which measures 6060 yds. On the west side of the park a paved causeway, leading over the moat and under a magnificent portico, extends for a distance of a quarter of a mile to the chief entrance of the main building. The temple was originally devoted to the worship of Brahma, but afterwards to that of Buddha; its construction is assigned by Aymonier to the first half of the 12th century A.D. It consists of three stages, connected by numerous exterior staircases and decreasing in dimensions as they rise, culminating in the sanctuary, a great central tower pyramidal in form. Towers also surmount the angles of the terraces of the two upper stages. Three galleries with vaulting supported on columns lead from the three western portals to the second stage. They are connected by a transverse gallery, thus forming four square basins. Khmer decoration, profuse but harmonious, consists chiefly in the representation of gods, men and animals, which are displayed on every flat surface. Combats and legendary episodes are often depicted; floral decoration is reserved chiefly for borders, mouldings and capitals. Sandstone of various colours was the chief material employed by the Khmers; limonite was also used. The stone was cut into huge blocks which are fitted together with great accuracy without the use of cement.

See E. Aymonier, Le Cambodge (3 vols., 1900-19041; Doudart de Lagree, Voyage d'exploration en Indo-Chine (1872-1873); A. H. Mouhot, Travels in Indo-China, Cambodia and Laos (2 vols., 1864); Fournereau and Porcher, Les Ruines d'Angkor (1890); L. Delaporte, Voyage au Cambodge: l'architecture Khmer (1880); J. Moura, Le Royaume de Cambodge (2 vols., 1883).


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