Cambodia is a country rich in culture, historical and natural diversity, and is starting to take its rightful
place as one of the leading tourism destinations in Asia. The Angkor Wat temple complex and the more
than a thousand ancient ruins that dot the countryside can take visitors back to the ancient times of the
great Khmer Empire. This charming land of gentle people has opened its doors to offer visitors a unique
experience, fascinating traditional dances, centuries of history and some of the world's most splendid
ancient temples. The architectural marvels of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, are proudly preserved as
world heritage sites.
Besides Phnom Penh, the capital city and hub of politics and business, another major tourist
destination is Siem Reap Province, which is rich in culture and history with well over a hundred ancient
temples.And the Royal Cambodian Government, through its natural and coastal resources, is now
actively promoting eco-tourism spots as alternative destinations for relaxation and adventure.
Indeed, Cambodia's coastal area has great potential as a major tourist destination with its pristine
beaches, underwater treasures and wide range of aquatic activities. Cambodia's eco-tourism sites
offer visitors exquisite landscapes, waterfalls, wildlife, tribal villages and rare species of bird, flora
and fauna that have fascinated explorers, naturalists and bird watchers for centuries. Moreover, the
range and quality of transportation, accommodation and infrastructure in the country is expanding to
meet the ever-growing numbers of visitors coming to Cambodia.
Cambodia is waiting to warmly welcome all foreign visitors to visit our world heritage sites,
particularly Angkor Wat, and to experience the true warmth of Khmer hospitality.
No one knows for certain how long people have lived in what is now Cambodia, as studies of its
prehistory are undeveloped. A carbon-l4dating from a cave in northwestern Cambodia suggests
that people usingstone t ools lived in the cave as early as 4000 bc, and rice has been grown on
Cambodian soil since well before the 1st century ad. The first Cambodians likely arrived long
before either of these dates. They probably migrated from the north, although nothing is known
about their language or their way of life.
By the beginning of the 1st century ad, Chinese traders began to reportthe existence of inland
and coastal kingdoms in Cambodia. These kingdoms already owed much to Indian culture, which
provided alphabets, art forms, architectural styles, religions (Hinduism and Buddhism), anda
stratified class system. Local beliefs that stressed the importance of ancestral dianized state in
South east Asia. It is from this period that evolved Cambodia's language, part of the Mon-Khmer
family, which contains elements of Sanskrit, its ancient religion of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Historians have noted, for example,that Cambodians can be distinguished from their neighbors
by their clothing - checkered scarves known as Kramas are worn instead of straw hats.
Funan gave way to the Angkor Empire with the rise to power of King Jayavarman II in 802.
The following 600 years saw powerful Khmer kings dominate much of present day Southeast
Asia, from the borders of Myanmar east to the South ChinaSea and north to Laos. It was during
this period that Khmer kings built the most extensive concentration of religious temples in the world
-the Angkor temple complex. The most successful of Angkor's kings,Jayavarman II, Indravarman I,
Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, also devised a masterpiece of ancient engineering: a
sophisticated irrigation system that includes barays (gigantic man-made lakes) and canals that
ensured as many as three rice crops a year. Part of this system is still in use todSpirits coexisted with the Indian religions and remain powerful today.
Cambodia's modem-day culture has its roots in the 1st to 6th centuries in a state referred to aFunan, known as the oldest.
Top Ten Kings Of Angkor
A mind-numbing array of Kings ruled the Khmer Empire from the 9th century to the 14th century. Many of the names are difficult to pronounce for foreigners but all include Varman, which means 'armour' or 'protector'. Forget the small fish and focus on the big fish in my page to the most powerful kings of Angkor, the dates they reigned and their most important archievements:
- Jayavarman II (802-850) Founder of the Khmer Empire in 802
- Indravarman I (877-889) Builder of the first Baray (reservoir), and of Preah Ko and Bakong
- Yasovarman I (889-910) Moved the capital to Angkor and built Lolei and Phnom Bakheng
- Jayavarman IV (928-942) Usurper king who moved the capital to Koh Ker
- Rajendravarman II (944-968) Builder of East Mebon, Pre Rub and Phimeanakas
- Jayavarman V (968-1001) Saw construction of Ta Keo and Banteay Srey
- Soryavarman I (1002-1049) Expanded the Empire to perhaps its greatest extent
- Udayadityavarman II (1049-1065) Builder of the pyramid Baphuon and the Western Mebon
- Suryavarman II (1112-1152) Legendary builder of Angkor Wat and Beng Mealea
- Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) The king of kings, building Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm
The race which produced the builders of Angkor developed slowly by the fusion of the Mon- Khmer racial groups of Southern Indochina during the first six centuries of the Christian era. Under Indian influence, two principal centers of civilization grew up. The older in the extreme south of the peninsula was called “Funan” (the name is a Chinese transliteration of the ancient Khmer form of the word “Phnom”, which means “hill”), a powerful maritime empire which ruled over all the shores of the Gulf of Siam. In the mid-6th century, the Kambuja, who lived in the middle Mekong (north of present day Cambodia), broke away from Funan. Within a short time, this new power known as Chenla absorbed the Funanese Kingdom. In the late 7th century, Chenla broke into two parts: land Chenla (to the north) and water Chenla (to the south along the Gulf of Thailand) dominated by the Chinese. Land Chenla was fairly stable during the 8th century, whereas water Chenla was beset by dynastic rivalries. During this period, Java probably invaded and controlled part of the country.
At the beginning of the 9th century, the kings set up their capital in the present province of Siem Reap. For nearly six centuries, they enriched it by temple after temple, one more sumptuous than the other, in the Angkorian area of some 400 square kilometers in the Siem Reap Province. Evidently, two hundred temples as well as their sanctuaries are best known for their architecture and sculpture.
The first founder of Angkor was King Jayayarman II (802-850), who built one of his residences on the plateau of the Kulen in 802. Jayavarman II’s nephew, Indravarman I (reigning 887-889), constructed a vast irrigation system at Lolei, and then built the tower of Preah Ko in 879 and Bakong in 881. Indravarman I’s son, Yasovarman (reigning 889-900), dedicated the towers of Lolei to his memory in 893 and founded a new capital to the northwest which was to remain the very heart of Angkor. The Eastern Baray, an artificial lake of 7-km length and 2-km width, was being prepared.
Yasovarman’s son, Harshavarman I (900-923), who was at the foot of the Phnom Bakheng, consecrated the little temple of Baksei Chamkrong, and built Prasat Kravan in 921. Harshavarman I’s uncle, Jayavarman IV (928-941), reigning in the northeastern Cambodia, near the present town of Koh Ker, erected several majestic monuments. King Rajendravarman (944-968) returned to Angkor in 952 and built the Eastern Mebon and Prè Roup in 961. In 967, the Brahman Yajnavaraha, a high religious dignitary of the royal blood, erected the temple of Banteay Srei, about 20 km northeast of the capital. King Jayavarman V (968-1001) founded a new capital around Takeo Temple.
In the 11th century, King Suryavarman I (1002-1050) seized Angkor and founded a glorious dynasty. It was at this time that the Gopura of the Royal Palace of Angkor Thom was finished with the sober pyramid of the Phimeanakas at its center. He also erected the temple of Phnom Chiso, some part of Preah Vihear, and Preah Khan in Kampong Svay District.
Suryavarman I’s son, Udayadityavarman II (1050-1066), built the temple mountain of Baphuon and Western Baray. Udayadityavarman’s brother, arshavarman III, succeeded him in a periodof 1066-1080. But violent strife soon led to the fall of the dynasty. King Jayavarman VI (1080-1113) continued to build Preah Vihear Mount in Vat Po and Phimai.
King Suryavarman II (1113-1150) extended his power from the coast of the China Sea to the Indian Ocean and built the temples such as Angkor Wat, Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda, Preah Palilay, Preah Pithu, and Banteay Samrè. After these dazzling achievements, Khmer civilization appears to have begun to decline accompanied by internal strife and an attack by the Chams.
Jayavarman VII (1181-1220) was the most fascinating personality in Khmer history. He reestablished his rule over all southern Indochina. He has been best known for his huge building program. Firstly, he built Ta Prohm (1186) and Preah Khan (1191) to dedicate to his parents. Secondly, he erected Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, the Terrace of the Leper King, the Terrace of the Elephants, Neak Pean, Ta Saom, Ta Nei, and some others in other parts of the country. Thirdly, he founded his great capital, Angkor Thom. Finally, in the center, he built the Bayon temple with its two hundred stone faces.
It is understandable that the country was exhausted after these enormous efforts. The decline of the Angkor era began after the death of King Jayavarman VII in the early 13th century. Due to the Siamese invasion and the limitation of the irrigation system, Khmer power declined so much that the king was finally obliged to move to the vicinity of Phnom Penh in 1431. Resulting from a series of Siamese and Cham invasions, the country was put as a French protectorate in 1863.
By 1884, Cambodia was a virtual colony; soon after it was made part of the Indochina Union with Annam, Tonkin, Cochin-China, and Laos. France continued to control the country even after the start of World War II through its Vichy government. In 1945, the Japanese dissolved the colonial administration, and King Norodom Sihanouk declared an independent, anti-colonial government under Prime Minister Son Ngoc Thanh in March 1945. The Allies deposed this government in October. In January 1953, Sihanouk named his father as regent and went into self-imposed exile, refusing to return until Cambodia gained genuine independence.
Sihanouk’s actions hastened the French Government’s July 4, 1953 announcement of its readiness to grant independence, which came on November 9, 1953. The situation remained uncertain until a 1954 conference was held in Geneva to settle the French-Indochina war. All participants, except the United States and the State of Vietnam, associated themselves (by voice) with the final declaration. The Cambodian delegation agreed to the neutrality of the three Indochinese states but insisted on a provision in the cease-fire agreement that left the Cambodian Government free to call for outside military assistance should the Viet Minh or others threaten its territory.
After regaining Independence in 1953, the country has had several names:
- The Kingdom of Cambodia (under the Reachia Niyum Regime from 1953 to 1970);
- The Khmer Republic (under the Lon Nol Regime from 1970 to 1975);
- Democratic Kampuchea (under the Pol Pot Genocidal Regime from 1975 to 1979);
- The People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989);
- The State of Cambodia (1989-1993);
- The Kingdom of Cambodia (1993 until now).
- AD100 - AD600: The Kingdom of Funan that rules over a vast land of Indo China and part of now South East Asia covers part of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the whole Cambodia.
- AD600 - AD800: The Kingdom of Chenla still rules part of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the whole Cambodia.
- AD800 - AD 1400: The Kingdom and Khmer Empire. The Kingdom starts to crumble thereafter AD 800. The peripheral areas of the Kingdom falls into the hands of the Thais invading from the West and the North and the Vietnamese from the East.
- AD1400 - 1860: The erosion of the Khmer Empire. More and more peripheral lands are occupied by the Thais and the Vietnamese.
- 1860 - 1953: The French colonize Indochina and rule Cambodia as protectorate.
- 1953: Cambodia gains independence from France.
- 1975: Cambodia falls into Communism ruled by Khmer Rouge supported by China
- 1979: Cambodia is invaded by Vietnamese that in turn drive Khmer Rouge regime out of power.
- 1991: Cambodia holds a democratic election administered by the United Nations.
The Rise and the Fall of Angkor
- AD900 - AD1200: The development of the City of Angkor
- AD1200 - AD1400: The Decline of Angkor and Khmer Empire
- AD1400 - 1860: The Khmer Empire is in disarray. The peripheral land of the empire is lost to the invading Thais from the West and the Vietnamese from the East.
|Reigns of Khmer Kings: 8th century to early 14th century|