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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia

The National Gallery of Art's online tour of Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia: Millennium of Glory uses interactive web software to create an exhibit that shares the history, culture, and religious
iconography of the Khmer civilization through text, video, and audio files. The majority of the artwork in the exhibit comes from the National Museum of Cambodia (Phnom Penh) and the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet (Paris).

Each major era of Khmer art has a hyperlink to a page with two or three short paragraphs describing the era, a QuickTime video link that allows you to move around the exhibit and click on artwork for its description, and RealPlayer audio links for selected artwork that gives supplementary information about the work and its place in Khmer civilization. The text, audio, and video elements of the exhibit bring different information together to create an appealing new kind of museum experience for the online visitor.

The exhibit introduction page describes the conditions that set the stage for the rise of Khmer power and its monumental art complexes and sculpture between the sixth and sixteenth centuries C.E. Most importantly, the Mekong River system provided the transportation network allowing for commerce to generate building funds. Secondly, trade routes between China and the Middle East brought traders and travelers, who introduced Khmer society to Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the early Khmer period and up to the twelfth century, the Khmer rulers adopted Hinduism as their religion while allowing Buddhism and its art to coexist with Hinduism. The Pre-Angkor Period section of the exhibit provides a succinct description of the central tenets of Hinduism and names the principal Hindu deities that figure in much of Angkor's art:

Brahma (the creator)

Shiva (the destroyer)

Vishnu (the preserver)

Khmer rulers identified themselves with either Shiva or Vishnu until Buddhism became the state religion.

If you click on the photo of Vishnu from the Pre-Angkor Period page, you can see the swaying hips, broad shoulders, and fleshy, naturalistic modeling of the body that distinguishes the art of this early period.

Buddhist art from the Pre-Angkor period also manifests the naturalistic forms seen in Hindu sculpture until the eighth century C.E. when Khmer art becomes more formal and distant, commanding respect on the part of the viewer.

The Pre-Angkor Sculpture page provides easy-to-understand explanations regarding:

• The central tenets of Buddhism

• Why and how Prince Siddharta became Buddha

• What Bhodisattvas are and what they do

Buddhism's day as the state religion of the Khmer civilization would come in the late 12th century.

The monarchy that would make Angkor famous began in 8092 C.E. when Jayavarman II unified Cambodia. (Varman, as one of the audio segments points out, means "protector" and figures in the name of all the Angkor monarchs.) However, it was Indravarman (r.877-886) who began the building program that would make Angkor and its environs famous. Indravarman commissioned the first "temple-mountain" built, which was called Bakong. Bakong and later temple-mountains symbolized Mount Meru, the Hindu home of the Gods. Indravarman also commissioned the building of a reservoir that provided water to the temple moats as well as for agricultural needs during the dry season; the Angkor complex served spiritual as well temporal needs.

A statue of Vishnu from Jayavarman II's reign that you can select from the photo reflects the values of the new ruler: Vishnu stands in a rigid pose signaling the new distance between rulers and ruled. The symbols justifying this distance are portrayed with Vishnu: the staff, globe, disk, and conch shell. The audio description which accompanies the sculpture details what each symbol means, but the important element to retain is that the rulers were the earthly embodiments of the deities, commanding obeisance.

Indravarman's son Yasovarman (r.899-early 10th century C.E.) commissioned the first reservoir and temple-mountain complex called Bakheng at the actual site of Angkor and continued the monumental, regal, and austere style of his father. The exhibit continues to provide historical information on the Tenth Century and the Art of Koh Ker and Banteay Srei as well as the Eleventh Century Art of the Kheleang and Baphuon.

In the early twelfth century C.E., Vishnu became all important as a deity during the reign of Suryavarman II (r.1113-at least 1145) when the monarch chose this deity to represent him. The bronze torso and head fragment of Vishnu from what was once a monumental sculpture must be one of the treasures displayed in this online tour. This sculpture originally showed a sleeping Vishnu (the preserver) on the back of the serpent of eternity with water flowing out of Vishnu's navel. When Vishnu wakes from his sleep a golden lotus bearing Brahma (the creator) will emerge from his navel.

This identification of the Khmer rulers with deities made the rulers omnipotent. Even the Buddhist sculpture of the 12th century C.E. shows Buddha asking with a crown, earrings and distended earlobes, and jeweled belt. While the exhibit describes this kingly aspect of Buddha as the "later Khmer conception of Buddha as King," there is a historical basis for this representation. Prince Siddharta (who later became Buddha) was born into the Ksatriya caste in the Hindu religion. The Ksatriyas form the princely and warrior caste of Hinduism. As part of this caste, it would be expected for Siddharta to wear jewels and a crown. Once he renounced his princely birth, he set upon the path to becoming enlightened as Buddha.

Buddhism would find its place as state religion in the Khmer Empire when Angkor reached its zenith under Jayavarman VII (r.1181-1218). Jayavarman VII extended the Khmer Empire by conquering the Chams of central Vietnam and extracting tribute money from most of Thailand and Laos.

The audio recording that describes the photo of the sculpture of the head of Jayavarman VII records the devout Buddhist as saying, "The suffering of the people is the pain of Kings." The sculpture of Jayavarman VII's head depicts as sharing Buddha's characteristics - the long distended earlobes caused by wearing heavy earrings as a price in his youth and eyes closed to the "Illusion of earthly things" as the audio informs online visitors. The Buddhist Bayon Temple built in the center of Angkor Thom is his contribution to Angkor.

The Cambodian capitol moved to Phnom Penh in 1431 when the Thai Kingdom captured Angkor. After this period, wood sculptures predominated alluded to for several reasons in the exhibit text. If you click on the photo of the wooden Worshipper sculpture from the Post-Angkor Section of the online tour, you will discover its description as a Theravada Buddhist work, focusing on spiritual humility rather than metaphysical speculation. Theravada remains the predominant form of Buddhism in Cambodia to this day.

If you have never participated in an online tour of an exhibit, Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia: Millennium of Glory will impress you with its content and composition. The direct link to the exhibit follows:

Luxury Cambodia Tours
Explore Angkor Wat and beyond in utmost comfort, luxury and style
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Cambodia Reap Siem
Know Before You Go. Read Reviews from Real Travelers.
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French Museum Collection
Unprecedented Access to Prints from The Louvre & 400+ French Museums!
www.Art.com


Mekong Cruises
Luxury Cruises on the Mekong River Pandaw River Cruises
www.pandaw.com
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Thai, Cambodia Foreign Ministers To Meet Friday

Foreign Ministers, Hor Namhong, right, of Cambodia, and Kasit Piromya, left, of Thailand, shake hands before a meeting in the Foreign Ministry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010.


The foreign ministers of Cambodia and Thailand will meet in Siem Reap on Friday, for already scheduled bilateral discussions, but there is no specific plan to discuss recent escalation of border tensions, an official said Thursday.

Both sides only recently relaxed a major military build-up along the border of Preah Vihear province, but the December arrests of a Thai delegation for illegally crossing the border and Cambodia’s refusal to lower its flags from a contentious pagoda have rekindled border concerns.

“There is no topic about this,” Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday, referring to the pagoda. “The Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda is legally and fully located in Cambodian territory.”

Thai officials have maintained that the pagoda sits in disputed territory, according to a map that differs from a version draw under French colonial administration, which Cambodia adheres to. They have asked that Cambodia stop flying its flag over the pagoda, located near Preah Vihear temple, a Unesco World Heritage site and a source of nationalistic fervor on both sides.

Earlier this week, Phnom Penh warned Bangkok to avoid war rhetoric, after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted in local media saying the “use of force” would be a last resort.

The Bangkok Post reported Thursday that Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will bring a message to Cambodia Friday saying Thailand has no intention of war.

The Bangkok Post also reported Thursday a high-level Thai delegation had arrived Thursday to discuss with Prime Minister Hun Sen the “strained relationship” between the two countries. Cambodian officials were unable to confirm such a meeting.

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Prison Department Drafting a Reform Policy

The Ministry of Interior’s prison department is preparing to reform its visitation and other policies, to allow inmates to meet with family members on special occasions and gain skills ahead of their release, officials said Thursday.

The reforms will allow prisoners visitation a day ahead of major holidays, such as the New Year, giving them more time with their families, Nouth Saan, secretary of state for the Interior Ministry, told VOA Khmer.

The initiative was discussed and approved during an annual meeting of the prison department last week.

Other reforms will include the development of skills training in areas like electronics repair and agriculture, said Kuy Bun Sorn, director of the prison department.

“This is a reform of prison policy, particularly in rehabilitation for prisoner integration, so that after they are freed they can go back to their communities with clear skills,” he said.

The reforms are aimed at preventing second offenses, he said.

Cambodia is facing an overcrowding of its jails, with an estimated 14,000 prisoners across the system in 2010, according to government statistics.

Chan Saveth, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said the draft policy showed some sympathy for prisoners, but many of their families are poor and live far from the provincial detention centers.

Still, overall it was a gain for prisoner rights, he said. “The prisoners have the right and freedom to meet and talk with their own family members, and their rights are to be respected.”

Am Sam Ath, head of investigation for the rights group Lichado, said the policy was an improvement and will lessen the sense of isolation experienced by many prisoners.

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Child Sponsorship Report 2010, from Siem Reap, Cambodia

Dear sponsor,

It is my pleasure to write to you and tell you more about the life at the SOS Children’s Village Angkor Siem Reap. We hope you enjoy reading and knowing more about the families and their lives at the village.

Up to date we have provided a family to 165 children who 8 of them have been embraced this year, Malina, Ratha, Raksa, Reasmey, Ty, Sokheng, Senheng and Touch. They have been provided with all necessary needs so they always feel belong to their family. They can later overcome the trauma of losing their environment, friends and family from where they come. They all have found in the SOS Children’s Village Angkor Siem Reap a loving home. The youngest child is about three year and the oldest girl is eighteen years old. We organise Karate-Do Training Programme every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The grade examination for 2009 of Karate-Do was held on December 17, 2009 at the village. Simultaneously the result 54 children were upgraded to brown belt. And we have also been organising Khmer Traditional Dance every Sunday.

The Youth House is now home for 23 youths. These youths have benefited adequate training from their various mothers at the village. The continuous psycho-social support from youth leader and other co-workers has helps them to develop self confidence and better life skills. One youth has moved to Phnom Penh to study Engineering at National Training Institute in the capital Phnom Penh and other 22 youths are in high school and secondary. At weekends they visit their SOS mothers and siblings. In the SOS Vocational Training Centre Angkor Siem Reap there are 23 teenagers that are facing the same challenge. They have chosen different skills. Until now, there are 92 boys who graduated from our Vocational Training Centre and have already got employment.

The SOS School and SOS Nursery Angkor Siem Reap are at the next to door of the village. The SOS School and Nursery provides education to our children and the children from the neighbourhood. At the SOS Nursery you can hear children laughing in every group. This is a place which is never quiet! Up to 105 children between the ages 3-6 attend SOS Nursery. The availability of suitable classrooms, game and toys ensures that the children are given the optimum conditions for developing their social, intellectual and creative skills and they are prepared for the primary school.

The mothers and Aunts from the SOS Children’s Village are regularly receiving literacy training Programme in order to help reinforce their level of understanding, improving their work and responsibilities and allowing them to better support their children’s care and education. They also received training on the SOS Village manual and Child Protection Policy for better understanding.

In order to make children more interested in their life, we always promote their developments, activities and events which organized within and outside the village.

On April 26th there was an event to commemorate 24th anniversary Ceremony of the founder Hermann Gmeiner. We invited the monks and offered the food to all the monks. We prayed and dedicated the food to the spirit of the founder Hermann Gmeiner on that day.

On the 1st June, International Children’s Day a joint entertaining activity was arranged at SOS Nursery in village. All mothers, children and co-workers participated in the event. All the children get up early to made up and dress up neatly. All children enjoyed playing with many games such as banana eating competition, pair running competition and dancing game competition. There were many questions relating to the rights of the children are prepared for the children. They can answer all the questions. The children also received the gifts from the committee. They all were joyful and know well about the International Children’s Day.

During the summer vacation, the children in SOS Children’s Village Angkor Siem Reap visited Kamping Pouy lake which located about 35 killometre western of Battambang Provincial town and about 215 killometre from Siem Reap Province. Kamping Pouy is the site of both recreational lake and a massive hand-build stretching between two hills. As the value of nature we can see the lotus and the rice field gathering around it. Moreover, they could relax with a traditonal hut and arranged the picnic food. Fifteen minute after finishing lunch, they took daved and threw the water each other. Therefore all the children and mothers were really enjoyed with thier value vacation and kept all memories along with them back home. they wish to visit there again in the nearest future.

Your kind help enables us to do work. Therefore on behalf of all us I would like to thank you and convey our gratitude and appreciation.

Yours Sincerely

Mrs. Meas Mala

Senior Co-worker Sponsorship

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PAD: Karun's arrest purely political

The arrest of People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) key member and former senator Karun Sai-ngam has other yellow-shirt leaders wondering just what the Democrat-led government is really about.

Mr Karun was arrested on Wednesday as he arrived back from Cambodia, on an old arrest warrant in connection with the PAD's blockade of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in late 2008.

"We can't help but notice the timing of his arrest," PAD spokesman Panthep Phongphuaphan said on Thursday.

"The government has had lots of time to seize him earlier, but did not.

"We wonder if they are just playing politics, because Mr Karun is a member of the legal team of the Thai Patriots Network (TPN) assigned to assist the two Thais jailed in Cambodia."

PAD co-leader Chamlong Srimuang said that the group's key members and spokesman have taken full responsibility for the ongoing rally, so the yellow-shirt supporters should listen only to them about what action should be taken next.

He said a House dissolution was not part of the PAD’s demands and would not help lower the rally's intensity.

Another yellow-shirt core member Praphan Khoonmee said speakers at the rally will not address not only issue of national sovereignty, but also the corruption in the government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva - such as in the palm oil industry.

"The Democrat Party is not the same as it was. It has discarded its political ideology," Mr Praphan said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Mr Karun's arrest should not fan the ongoing protest by TPN demonstrators near Government House.

Mr Suthep said Mr Karun was arrested in connection with the airport blockade case.

He said most of the other suspects in this case had earlier surrendered to fight charges levelled against them. Seven had not, including Mr Karun, and were liable to arrest under a court warrant.

Mr Suthep hoped the TPN - a yellow-shirt splinter group - would not take this matter as a reason to step up their pressure for the government to take action to bring home TPN coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who were sentenced to eight and six years in jail respectively by a Cambodian court for espionage.

The deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs said he did not understand why the PAD had set a Feb 5 deadline for the government to bring home the two convicts.

"Instead of raising the pressure, the PAD should come and offer advice about what should be done to secure the release of the two activists," Mr Suthep said.

He insisted that the government had done what it could to help them and the public was aware of this.

On Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's trip to attend the 7th Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission meeting for bilateral cooperation in Siem Reap today, Mr Suthep said he believed Mr Kasit, who was well-versed in the current situation, would be able to convey a message to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that Thailand wants peace, not war.

Asked whether a control control drill by the metropolitan police using real tear gas canisters was intended to send a signal that the protesters would be dispersed, Mr Suthep said the police were only making themselves fully prepared.

They were duty-bound to protect important locations, including Government House, parliament, the Foreign Ministry and the Cambodian embassy.

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Chinese traditional lion dances performed at Cambodia to celebrate Spring Festival

Chinese traditional lion and dragon dances were performed at Cambodia's Royal Palace and the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to celebrate the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) starting Feb. 3.

Six groups of lion and dragon dances from Chinese community in Cambodia performed at the Royal Palace in order to bless King Norodom Sihamoni and his subjects with happiness and prosperity in the Lunar New Year, Lao Shi Heng, vice-president of Chinese Association in Cambodia, said.

The groups were welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister Kong Sam Ol, minister of the Royal Palace.

Then, the groups performed at the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh.

The ambassador Pan Guangxue said that the Lunar New Year is the most important festival in China. In Cambodia, most people also celebrate it.

"It reflected good linkages of people and cultures between Cambodia and China," he said.

Chinese New Year is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia, up to 80 percent of Cambodian people celebrate it every year, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said recently.

According to the figure from the Chinese Association in Cambodia, there have been some 700,000 Chinese-blood descendants living in Cambodia.

Traditionally, Lion Dance is invited by traditional Chinese families to perform as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Spring Festival and to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.

Source:Xinhua.
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