Bangkok Post, 11 June 2017: A Thai kings gift of a Buddhist scripture to the Vatican is finally translated. The scripture, written in Old Khmer, will be displayed in the Vatican museums.
A mission to translate what is thought to be a two-century old scripture from Khmer to Italian, a gift to Pope Puis XI from the late King Rama VII during his trip to Italy, has been completed and is ready to be displayed at the Vatican museum, according to Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkhalaram.
Source: Mission to translate old Khmer scripture complete | Bangkok Post: news
In two separate events Angkorian jewelry was returned to Cambodia late last month. The first set was from a planned sale at a UK-based auction house which was listed lost November; the second was volunteered by a Hungarian art collector who said he had bought the pieces but “didn’t provide details on how they were acquired”.
Source: Collection of ‘Priceless’ Artifacts Given to National Museum – The Cambodia Daily (25 April 2017)
Ancient Angkorian Jewelry Set Recovered From UK Art Dealership – VOA Khmer (26 April 2017)
Ancient jewellery to return: ministry – Phnom Penh Post (24 April 2017)
Falling reservoir waters caused by the hot season periodically causes ruins to emerge from the ground. One recent example is Tapieng Roun (Khmer – Trapeang?) in Surin province.
Tapieng Roun revealed by drought in Thailand’s Surin province. Source: Bangkok Post 20160524
Khmer ruins revealed as reservoir dries out
Bangkok Post, 24 May 2016
The ruins of an ancient Khmer temple have been revealed by the receding water in a reservoir that has dried up in Buachet district near the border with Cambodia.
The temple is called Tapien Roun by the people of Otalan Pattana village in tambon Charat. “Tapieng Roun” in the Khmer language means a temple in a pond surrounded by indigenous trees called “roun”.
It is located close to the Thai-Cambodian border, about one kilometre from the village.
Full story here
Readers in London may be interested in Ashley Thompson’s lecture in early May. Booking required.
Prof. Ashley Thompson Inaugural Lecture – Double Realities: The Complex Lives of Ancient Khmer Statuary
Date: 5 May 2016
Venue: Brunei Gallery
Time: 6.30 pm
The Angkorian empire produced one of the most remarkable sculptural traditions in human history. Starting from Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist models, Khmer artists invented bold new techniques and sophisticated aesthetic principles that underpinned their exploration of anthropomorphic statuary. And yet the representational presuppositions of Western aesthetics only cloud our understanding of this innovation: perhaps art, in this context, does not stand in a mimetic relationship to the world, but rather itself constitutes an ‘original’, an embodied and multivalent reality that calls for a different relationship with its ‘viewer’.
This lecture will begin with a reflection on the Khmer ‘portrait statue’, considered in the traditional art history of ancient Cambodia to have been a late and peculiar invention of the reign of the last of the great Angkorian kings. However I will challenge this view, and indeed take the double ontology of these sculptures – embodying at once gods and people – to in fact constitute the baseline reality of essentially all Angkorian and post-Angkorian statuary.
Nothing is as it seems: even Angkor itself, this exemplary outlier of the Sanskrit ‘cosmopolis’ that flowered in the late first and early second millennia CE, is construed both as a fiercely singular local dominion and a universal kingdom. Microcosm and macrocosm are each set off against and magnified in the other. Within this context, a number of otherwise incongruous phenomena can be understood as manifestations of an underlying bifid structure: from the fluid ambiguity in the gendering of certain anthropomorphic representations to the determination with which religious practitioners, then as now, experience their own lives as participating in a larger cosmic life variously conveyed by art.
More details and booking information here.
Readers in Los Angeles might be interested in the colloquium by Dr Chen Chenratana on the rise and fall of Angkor.
The Rise and Fall of the Khmer Empire during the Angkor period, 9th to 15th century A.D.
Colloquium with Dr. CHEN Chanratana, University of Cambodia
Date: February 16, 2016
Time: 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Venue: 10383 Bunche Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles, CA
Archaeological research in Cambodia began in the late 19th century following the rediscovery of the lost jungle capital of the Khmer Empire by French explorers. The artistic and architectural magnificence of the Khmer civilization immediately attracted the greatest scholars of France and Europe. American and Asian scholars later joined the mission to better understand this brilliant culture. People from around the world participated in grand efforts to map, excavate and restore ancient structures and countless studies, articles and books were published about the Khmer.
Tragically, war in Southeast Asia during the 1970s stopped academic progress for nearly 25 years. Cambodia did not begin to recover until the early 1990s when the present government restored order in the nation. In 1994, Angkor Wat was registered as a World Heritage site attracting many international heritage groups to Cambodia and the Angkor region. Working with local experts from Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the APSARA Authority these organizations are once again continuing the mission to restore and preserve the legacy of Khmer temples and heritage.
The presentation will focus on the Rise and the Fall of the Khmer Empire during the Angkor period, from the 9th to 15th centuries A.D., drawing on the most recent research findings from local and international institutions.
More details here.
Readers in London may be interested in this talk by Prof Ang Choulean at SOAS.
Death-rebirth as represented in Khmer religious iconography
Professor Ang Choulean (Anthropologist)
Date: 29 September 2015
Time: 5:15 PM
For many cultures, it is commonplace to talk about death and rebirth as intimately linked one to he other, even as infinite cycles in Indian or Indianized cultures.
My aim here is to demonstrate how in Khmer contexts death-rebirth is iconographically symbolized by a demon called Reahu who is believed to cause eclipses. This demon is represented in various forms, especially in funerals. But it also appears that Reahu is quite often sculpted on monuments of ancient Cambodia, which may help us to better understand the meaning of the latter.
Phu Phra Bat Historical Park in Udon Thani Province Thailand is to be nominated at Thailand’s next World Heritage site. This ridge in northeast Thailand is reminiscent of Cambodia’s Phnom Kulen, and contains a long history of human occupation from prehistoric rock paintings, to remains of Dvaravati, Lopburi/Khmer and recently Lan Xang cultures. It is a beautiful landscape and I was really fortunate to have investigated some of the sites there as part of my PhD research.
U-sa’s Tower in Phu Phra Bat Historical Park. Source: The Nation, 20150127
Phu Phra Bat Park nominated for Unesco Heritage Site list
The Nation, 27 January 2015
Phu Phra Bat Park chosen for Unesco Heritage list
The Nation, 28 January 2015
The Culture Ministry has decided to nominate Udon Thani’s Phu Phra Bat Park as a Unesco World Heritage Site and will put the plan up for consideration at Parliament tomorrow.
Situated in Ban Phue district, the park features ruins and objects dating back to pre-historic times as well as to the Dvaravati, Lopburi, and Lan Xang periods.
The 1,200-acre site is located in the lush Phu Phra Bat Buabok Forest Park, where there are many peculiarly shaped rocks owing to slow-moving glaciers millions of years ago. Also, many of the ruins and objects – such as a rock shaped to look like a stupa and another chiselled to the shape of a foot – were not made entirely by hand.
Visitors can also admire the pre-historic paintings, sandstone images and idols. The Fine Arts Department declared the site a historical park in 1991.
Full story here and here.
The Cambodian request to inspect a trove of Khmer artefacts seized in Bangkok has been stalled indefinitely, with the Thai government citing ‘internal issues’.
Bangkok trove of artefacts. Source: Bangkok Post 20150101
Request for artefacts is postponed
Phnom Penh Post, 01 January 2015
P’Penh stalled over Pongpat antiques
Bangkok Post, 01 January 2015
Cambodian officials are seeking access to a seized trove of artefacts in Bangkok to determine if they were looted from Khmer sites.
Seized trove of artefacts in Bangkok. Source: Bangkok Post 20141217
Gov’t seeks access to Thai trove
Phnom Penh Post, 16 December 2014
Cambodia asks to see Pongpat trove
Bangkok Post, 17 December 2014
Cambodian PM asks Thai counterpart to allow experts to inspect seized artifacts
Global Times, via Xinhua, 21 December 2014
A blurb for an upcoming book, Finding Zero, about the origins of the numeral ‘0’. It seems that the oldest inscriptional evidence thus far comes from a Khmer stele K127.
K127. Source: Smithsonian 201411
The Origin of the Number Zero
Smithsonian Magazine, December 2014