Angkor is a Living Site

Abandoned jungle complexes, once home of a great civilisation, deserted ruins… do these spring to mind when you think about Angkor? What about local, living culture? Perhaps it’s time to reassess the idea of Angkor as a long-past civilisation – much of the lifestyle depicted on the walls of the Angkor temples still continue on today. How would tourism be different today if Angkor was treated as a living site that shares a relationship with the people in the area rather than a collection of monumental temples?

Angkor strives to balance culture with tourism
The Phnom Penh Post, 04 December 2008

Lloyd gave a lecture on how intangible cultural heritage – or the knowledge, beliefs, rituals and traditional practices of a culture – are often ignored when a site is planned, restored, excavated and presented to tourists.

“There is a complex belief structure tied to Angkor and many local inhabitants believe that guardian spirits still reside in the temples today,” she said. “Yet there is a complete lack of awareness of the contemporary meaning of Angkor.”

Lloyd gave examples of tourists who, completely oblivious to the contemporary spiritual significance of Angkor, fail to remove their shoes and hats, and who step over Cambodians making offerings. “We know Angkor is not a dead site, so why should it be presented as the Angkor archaeological site,” she asked.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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