khmer empire

Welcome to the world of V-discovery Today, I will tell you the story of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat We call it Wugeku in Chinese. It is located in the north west of Cambodia. It means the ‘Temple of Pishinu’ and it was recorded as the ‘Temple with Fragrance of Mulberry’ in Chinese ancient books. It is the best-preserved temple of the Angkor historical sites and famous for the magnificent constructions and exquisite reliefs. It is also the biggest temple in the world. Angkor Wat was recognized as a world cultural heritage by the UN in 1992. The tourists around the world have been increasing and reached 2 million in 2007 from less than 10,000 in 1993. Angkor Wat has become a popular tourist attraction in Cambodia. Countries around the world have invested large amounts of money on maintaining Angkor, so as to protect Angkor Wat during the last century.

It has become the symbol of Cambodia and appears on the Cambodian national flag. Angkor Wat is the peak of the art of Khmer classical architectures. It combines two basic layouts of the architecture of Khmer temple, which are altar and corridor. The altar is composed of the three-story rectangular Sumeru units surrounded by corridors, which symbolize the Sumeru Mountain at the centre of the world in Indian mythology. Five pagodas stand on the top of the altar in quincunx, which symbolize the five peaks of Semeru Mountain. The temple is surrounded by a city moat, which symbolizes the Aral Sea that surrounds Semuru Mountain. Angkor Wat is basically built by stones. Suryavarman II, the king of Chenla set Angkor as the capital in the middle of the 12th century.

He embraced Pishinu and the lord priest of Brahman who crowned him designed this national temple for him to enshrine and worship Pishinu. So, Angkor Wat is called the temple of Pishinu. It took 30 years to build. Angkor Wat became the temple of Mahayana Buddhism in the middle of the 14th century because the king of Chenla, Jayavarman VII embraced Mahayana Buddhism as the national religion in the 13th century. Siam invaded Angkor at the beginning of the 15th century and Angkor Wat became the temple of Theravada Buddhism because it is the religion of the Siam.

From then on, Angkor Wat continued to be the temple of Theravada Buddhism until now. Siam captured Angkor, the capital of Chenla in 1431 BC and Chenla had to move the capital to Phnom Penh. In the next year, Angkor Wat was abandoned by the Khmer, and was gradually covered by the forests. Later, Some Khnorian hunters went into the forest to hunt and discovered the great temple by accident.

Some local Buddhists built their house and lived near the temple so as to worship conveniently, but the heritage of Angkor Wat still wasn’t known by the world. In 1586, the traveler Antonio da Magdalena travelled Angkor and reported what he had seen to the Portuguese historian Diogo do Couto. However, his report was laughed off by the world and treated as a ridiculous tale. In 1857, the French missionary Charles Emile Bouillevaux who stationed in Battambang wrote a book named Travelling to India, Annan and Cambodia from 1848 to 1856. He described the situation in Angkor, but the world still didn’t pay attention to it. In January 1861, the French biologist Henri Mouhot accidentally discovered the astonishing great heritage of the temple when he was searching for the tropical animals in the primeval forest. He published A Trip to Siam, Cambodia and Laos with descriptive words and vivid pictures and the world began to look at Angkor with a completely new attitude.

The experts have been doing archaeological researches of Angkor Wat and discovered that the Angkor Wat was built for imperial mausoleum of king Suryavarman II, but it still remained in argumentation. The evidences including: 1. Most of the temples in Angkor face east for sunrise, but Angkor Wat faces west for sunset. According to the research from the Netherland archaeologist Bosch, following the funeral traditions, all the tombs in India and Java face west and the temples for sacrifice face east.

2. The reliefs in the gallery are arranged anti-clockwise, which is the circling direction in the funeral of Hinduism. 3. The portrait of Suryavarman II in the gallery of Angkor Wat looks like Pishinu and it implies that Suryavarman II will become Pishinu when he passes and goes to heaven, he will stay in in the temple of Pishinu permanently. It is even proved by the Chinese ancient books that Temür, the second king of Yuan Dynasty sent Daguan Zhou on a diplomatic mission to Chenla. The whole group of envoys started the trip from Wenzhou and landed on Angkor after they had sailed across the Qizhou Sea Daguan Zhou and his group of envoys had stayed in Angkor for one year and he recorded the local conditions and customs of Angkor in his report Notes from Chenla when he came back. The architectures and daily life of Angkor were vividly recorded in his report in detail, especially the extravagant royal progress with escorts in front and behind was very impressive.

However, the most important information was Angkor Wat was called the “tomb of Luban” in Notes from Chenla. It was said that the king was buried in the pagoda, so Angkor Wat was originally the imperial mausoleum. Perhaps the history of Angkor Wat remains in discussion, but the value of it’s art is beyond dispute. When Suryavarman II passed away, Angkor was in chaos and the flames of wars raged across the nation, devastating the whole country. Jayavarman VII expelled the invaders and ascended the throne in 1181 BC for more than 30 years. Jayavarman VII, which means Shengkai in Chinese, was born in 1125 and passed away in 1218, He was the most famous ruler of the ancient Cambodian. His father is Dharanindravarman II, His Queen was Sri Jayarajacudamni. After the Queen passed away, he married the Queen’s sister Indradevi. Both sisters were devout Buddhists. So Jayavarman VII became the only Buddhist Emperor and this had a direct impact on the Kingdom. Jayavaram spent his early years away from the Khmer capital. Jayavarman is Sanskrit for ‘Victorious Warrior’, with Jaya being Sanskrit for ‘Successful’. In 1177, the emperor of Cham , Jayavarman IV , invaded and killed the ruler and looted the capital. The 60 year old prince, Jayavarman VII started an army to fight the troops of Cham.

He used to live in Cham for many years, among the chaos of Khmer, the prince went back to Chenla it was claimed that he was more than one hundred kilometers east of the capital recruiting soldiers and buying horses. With his strong soldiers and horses, the troop attacked city. The Prince completely expelled the army of Cham out of Chenla, after his victory, he ascended the throne in 1181. In 1190, Jayavarman IV invaded Chenla again. Jayavarman IV appointed the Prince of Cham, Vidyanandana, as the General, he led the army and repelled the attack. He won the battle and captured the capital city of Cham then massacred and looted the city.

Jayavarman IV was captured. In 1203, Jayavarman VII occupied Cham again, making it a province and then opened up Chenla. Under his reign, the capital of Khmer dynasty was finally built, The current historical sites of Ankor were mostly built by him. When Jayavarman VII ’s ruling was closed to an end, he rebuilt Bayon. He rebuilt the Angkor Thom. Angkor Empire was in its prime during the rule of Jayavarman VII and constructed the tall and solid walls and the broad city moat. The Bayon Temple was another masterpiece of Angkor Wat which was famous for the “smile of Khmer” of the Erawan Shrine, which was carved on the base of the face of Jayavarman VII. The “smile of Khmer” is typical in the art of sculpture of Angkor Wat. It is mainly on the front gates of Ankor Thom and Bayon temples. Daguan Zhou also described these sculptures on his Notes from Chenla. “There were five giant heads of Buddha facing the four directions on the gates of Angkor Wat and the one in the centre was decorated by gold.” It illustrates that five heads of Buddha were carved on the gates, but we can only see the four of them.

49 giant stone pagodas stand inside the Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom. Each pagoda was carved with the four-face Buddha in nearly 45 metres height and 5 metres in distance with each other. They look like dense forest and every tourist will be shocked by its magnificence. Their half closed eyes slightly look down in peace, their serene mystery and smile brings people into broader and peaceful mind. The typical facial expression of these giant heads of Buddha is called “the smile of Khmer”, which symbolizes the art of sculpture in Angkor Wat and the culture of Cambodia. The relief of the Bayon Temple of Ankor Thom is another major type.

It represents the life of people, the militaries and natural environments in ancient Cambodia. This type of relief is characterized in integrating the sculptures of multi-angles, multi-styles, multi-spaces into the same layer. They are ingeniously and uniquely designed with unconventional but reasonable expressions in art. As for carving techniques, the heaven, the earth, the water, the space and the time are delicately combined to present the paradise originated from the men’s world. As for the composition of the picture, different images are in different groups and the carving outlines are sleek and graceful. The techniques within resemble that of modernism and the perspectives of the reliefs compose sections of multi-layers.

The sculptures which capture motions and emotions of life, are similar to that of Egyptian Frontality and the outlines are more for decoration. The ancient artists applied their understanding and attitude of life to the works of bas-relief, showing the Indian mythologies and customs of Cambodia. The reliefs are embellished by vivid and delicate images of animals and plants. To the Cambodians, Angkor Wat is not only the name of a place, a tourist attraction, a piece of history, but also the highland of their spirits and more importantly, their soul. The pattern of Cambodian national flag is the pagoda of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a piece of history, a book of culture, so it is superficial to regard it as merely a tourist attraction.

The information revealed by the exquisite architectures and reliefs include diverse contents, such as mythologies and legends, art of religion, scenes of wars, social manners and customs, imperial ruling and life of citizens. Walking into Angkor Wat is like opening an encyclopedia which has been forgotten by the world for many years and the early civilizations of ancient Khmer become vivid and clear. Thank you for watching V-discovery See you next time.

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