Angkor's 13th century Tourist

Time Magazine features an article on Zhou Daguan, the Yuan Dynasty official who visited Angkor in the late 13th century and penned his report entitled A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People.

Angkor Thom
photo credit: Jeremy Burgin

Angkor Thom
Time, 09 September 2009

As you stand atop elephant terrace and gaze east across the Royal Square of Angkor Thom — the last capital of the Khmer empire that dominated Southeast Asia for some 600 years until the Siamese sacked the city for good in 1431 — you feel a bit like Shelley’s traveler, standing before Ozymandias’ half-sunk, shattered visage. All around are lifeless things — retaining walls of blotchy laterite, and sandstone temples that speak little of Angkor’s former grandeur and its golden spires. There’s no hint of the regal festivals that once took place right here, viewed from this same vantage by mighty kings beneath parasols of red silk. But there is an eyewitness report of life at the gilded Angkor court. In fact, it is the only one: Zhou Daguan’s A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People.


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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.

One thought on “Angkor's 13th century Tourist”

  1. Thank you for leading me to this interesting Time article. But your feature is even better than the original in one important way: you have the professionalism to link directly to Peter Harris’ new translation of Zhou’s book that is the basis of the entire Time article. The Time piece does not mention the translator (whose work is liberally quoted), nor the publisher, nor that fact that this ancient book is actually in print.

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