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Archaeologists discover important religious relic in ancient Khmer temple in Laos

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Yoni found in Vat Phou in Laos. Source: Cultural Heritage Administration
Yoni found in Vat Phou in Laos. Source: Cultural Heritage Administration
Yoni found in Vat Phou in Laos. Source: Cultural Heritage Administration

via Aju Business Daily, 06 Mar 2019: Yoni discovered in Vat Phu by a team from South Korea.

South Korean archaeologists have discovered a gold and bronze religious relic called “Yoni” during an excavation at a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex in southern Laos that would become an important element in studying the history of ancient Khmer exchanges.

The relic in the form of pedestal was 63mm in height and 110mm in width, the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) said Wednesday in a statement. Its material was bronze with the outer surface gold-plated. There are five small holes with a diameter of 3.5 mm on the top with a water spout running along the side, the state body said.

It is presumed to be a religious relic related to Sadha Linga, and Laotian archaeologists confirmed that it was the first discovery of such a relic in the Southeast Asian country, according to the administration.

Source: Archaeologists discover important religious relic in ancient Khmer temple in Laos

Categories: Hinduism Laos


Khmer art exhibition in Berlin

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07 June 2007 (The Economist) – The Economist reviews the Angkor: Sacred Heritage of Cambodia exhibition in Berlin and also touches on looted Cambodian antiquities. The looting of Cambodia’s cultural heritage has been touched on many times in this site; you might want to look up our podcast featuring Heritage Watch, as well as the more recent news of Angkor Wat artefacts put up for sale on eBay.

Gods on display

There are two stories that unfold in the cool lofty rooms of Berlin’s 19th-century Martin-Gropius-Bau museum—a far cry from the sweaty heat of the National Museum of Phnom Penh, which has lent many of the exhibits. First, are the splendid sculptures dominated by a procession of the Hindu deities, Vishnu and Shiva, plus Harihara, who represents a mixture of both. One of the most striking is the serene face and upper body of Vishnu in a sleeping pose, an 11th-century fragment of what is believed to have been the largest bronze statue ever cast in Cambodia.

The second story is less obvious and probably unintended by the show’s organisers. It is to do with the wholesale looting of the temples that began when the French swept into Angkor 150 years ago. In the style of European colonisers of the period, acquisitive French explorers strapped prize statues onto the backs of locals for the trip out of the jungle, then loaded them onto rafts for the journey down the Mekong river for dispatch to Paris. Many ended up as the core of the collection of Asian art at Paris’s Musée Guimet.

Read about the Angkor: Sacred Heritage of Cambodia exhibtion at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum.

Books about the art and statuary of Cambodia and the Khmers:
Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art by E. C. Bunker and D. Latchford
Apsarases at Angkor Wat, in Indian context by K. M. Srivastava
Khmer sculpture and the Angkor civilization by M. Giteau
Art & Architecture of Cambodia (World of Art) by H. I. Jessup

Wednesday Rojak #60 – The Broken Pagoda edition

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It’s truly a rojak edition of rojak – I can’t find a theme to string all these posts through! We’ve got a little bit of stolen gold (photographs, that is), broken pagodas, evolutionists and a bit of twittering.
Chedi restoration - Wat Doi Suthep
photo credit: avlxyz
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Ancient artefact calls museum new home

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Source: Phnom Penh Post 20181224
Source: Phnom Penh Post 20181224

via Phnom Penh Post, 24 December 2018: The Suvarnabhumi inscription of Cambodia moves to its new home in the National Museum of Cambodia

A Sovannaphum inscription dating back 1,300 years arrived at the National Museum of Cambodia on Saturday, following the completion of a 19-day religious ritual by members of Kampong Speu province’s Kiri Sdachkong pagoda.

Ministry of Cults and Religion director Sam Sorpheann said 500 monks and 700 people in the province participated in the march of the Sovannaphum stone from Kiri Sdachkong pagoda to Phnom Penh, where a further 100 monks greeted it.

Sovannaphum is the modern Khmer iteration of Suvarnabhumi – the ancient fabled “Land of Gold” believed to have been somewhere in Southeast Asia, though its exact location still remains a mystery.

Source: Ancient artefact calls museum new home , National, Phnom Penh Post

Ancient Angkorian jewellery to go on show

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via Khmer Times, 04 January 2018:

The government will launch a special exhibition of old Khmer jewellery and ornaments, especially a set of ancient Angkorian gold jewellery that has been returned to Cambodia, to let the public see how beautiful these…

Source: Ancient Angkorian jewellery to go on show – Khmer Times

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The many lives of André Malraux

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via Apollo Magazine, 26 August 2017: A short biography of André Malraux, a Frenchman who was convicted of looting antiquities from Cambodia – from Banteay Srei! – and eventually became the French Minister of Culture! For more of his dastardly exploits in Cambodia, you should also check out this lecture by Dr Lia Genovese which was delivered at the Siam Society earlier this year.

In 1923 André Malraux (1901–76) was a young dandy with few achievements to his name, but he was already circulating in Parisian high society on the strength of his personality. To his new wife Clara Goldschmidt, he suggested an adventure in the Far East, which would allow them ‘to live to our standards, at least for a few years’. And so the young couple set off for what was then Indochina, travelling along the Mekong Delta to Cambodia, and the 10th-century Hindu temple Banteay Srei in Angkor, where Malraux and his old school friend Louis Chevasson walked in as curious tourists and walked out with Khmer-era sculptures under their arms. They pried them loose from the temples using chisels and picks with a plan to sell the stolen goods on the art markets in London or New York. But it was foiled before they could return to Europe. The French colonial police promptly arrested the pair and put them on trial in Phnom Penh. Malraux received a three-year prison sentence and Chevasson 18 months.

Source: The many lives of André Malraux | Apollo Magazine

Backyard looting in Cambodia

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Pottery at the Angkor Borei museum. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150808

The Phnom Penh Post has a feature on how looting of artefacts in Angkor Borei has become a cottage industry. It is heartbreaking to see on many levels – first, the locals do it in order to earn a bit of extra case but the cash isn’t that much at all. Secondly, this is a reminder to not buy artefacts, even from ‘reputed’ dealers in Thailand. They are almost certainly looted, and contributes nothing to the local economy.

Pottery at the Angkor Borei museum. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150808

Pottery at the Angkor Borei museum. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20150808

Ancient treasures in the backyard
Phnom Penh Post, 08 August 2015

Angkor Borei – about 70km south of Phnom Penh – is thought to be the location of one of Southeast Asia’s earliest cities. But rather than being protected and studied, looting of the remaining artefacts has become a subsistence-level cottage industry for the current residents.

Cambodian antiquity and land laws deem all ancient artefacts state property, though Savorn said police turn a blind eye provided he keeps the digging on his own land.

While Sambath said most artefacts found their way to the global antiquities market via Thailand, Savorn said he had no idea who ultimately bought his wares. All he knew, he added, was that he sold the items to Khmer middlemen.

“The things that I find are not really valuable, only tiny bits of gold, and jars and pots I sell cheaply for around 3,000 to 4,000 riel,” he said, adding that the most he ever made was 50,000 riel ($12.50) from a gold piece.

Full story here.

Categories: Cambodia


A historical guide to one of Bangkok’s canals

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Wat Yuan Saphan Khao. Source: Bangkok Post 20150423

A Bangkok Post feature on the historic Krung Kasem canal, which is quite near my workplace, and all the notable sights along it. At the end of the canal is the 600-year-old Wat Thewarat Kunchorn, which is just outside my workplace!

Wat Yuan Saphan Khao. Source: Bangkok Post 20150423

Wat Yuan Saphan Khao. Source: Bangkok Post 20150423

Streaming with history
Bangkok Post, 23 April 2015

Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is likely to become one of Bangkok’s major transportation routes once again due to government support, and this may also benefit tourism. Building of the canal was commissioned by King Rama IV in 1851 to serve as the outer city moat. It runs in parallel with the first and second tiers of the city moat — Khlong Khumuang Doem and Khlong Rob Krung.

Wat Thewarat Kunchorn was a civil temple built during the Ayutthaya period and called Wat Samor Khraeng, or Thamor Khraeng. The word Thamor is a Khmer word meaning stone. In the reign of King Rama IV, the temple was renamed after the name of Prince Phitakdeves, who restored it. Its ordination hall houses the principal Buddha statue, Phra Phutthadevaraj Patimakorn, which is in the posture of subduing the Mara. Made in the Dvaravati period, it consists of metal and is covered with gold lacquer. On the interior walls are beautiful murals including the gathering of the Deva (guardian spirits), the Lord Buddha’s previous life as Phra Suvarnasam and monks looking at dead bodies. Behind the principal Buddha statue is the painting of this temple in the past before this ordination hall was constructed. Phra Vihara (prayer hall) enshrines nine Buddha statues of nine periods.

“This canal was dug with the aim of expanding the city,” said Rapeepat Ketkosol, an official at Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) tourism division. According to him, the canal is about 6km long. It was 3m deep initially, but grew shallower over time. It is now just over 2m deep.

On April 1 this year, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the BMA to seek to develop Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem as a transportation and tourism route.

Full story here.