Angkor Wat’s Deepest Roots Found

by hermes7 on October 6, 2012

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Ways that nature and culture converge to create a perspective of the world fascinate me.

In my return trip to Cambodia, I ventured into the jungle in the hills over Angkor. It was not only stunning–it allowed me to experience some of Khmer art’s deepest roots. There are no hungry tigers around, so come in and explore.

I was first transfixed by the profusion of colors and shapes. They merged into an exuberant landscape that was both joyful and forbidding.

No, I didn’t Photoshop this shot–as promised, I will never modify a pic. The explosions of colors really were this glorious. They seemed as supernatural as Cambodia’s monsoons.

Both converged to create a different way of seeing the world than the West’s love of clarity, linear relationships and ratio. Not much ratio in the jungles and monsoons–they envelop you, sometimes with enrapturing beauty and sometimes with explosive force. The basic aspects of nature are larger-than-life.

They’re larger-than-life in the Middle East too, but Southeast Asia’s natural and cultural patterns have their own type of glory.

The dense foliage surrounds you, and intertwines.

 

Like this frieze on a door lintel at Preah Ko. This art form endured throughout the Khmer empire–a twisting garland being vomited by a monster, with men and more foliage sprouting from both sides, and with a fantastic creature at both ends. But is it really so fantastic?

Twisting and intertwined branches and vines were everywhere in sight.

As above, so below–roots follow this pattern too. I always had to watch my step to avoid tripping.

The Khmers had to tame this wild growth when they cleared the jungles to plant rice crops. Like the monsoons, they represented the basic forces of nature. These forces dwarf the individual. They envelop instead–they can both nourish and vanquish.

So they shaped Khmer thought, and went into art forms they found most meaningful.

But cultures have many dimensions. Other features of the natural environment besides the jungle and monsoon converged, and all reinforced the Khmers’ basic assumptions about the world. We’ll keep exploring Angkor Wat’s deep roots soon.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Crm February 4, 2015 at 1:51 am

Thank for your website to have good docunemts for khmer to learn. I can learn alot from the book of khmer nation leaders1-2, which is necessary for all khmer about the leadership.

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