Thursday, January 13, 2011

About Cambodia Culture

Cambodian culture and artistic expression were overshadowed by the greatness of the past. Although the Khmer empire owed much to Indian influence, its achievements represented original contributions to Asian civilization. The magnificent architecture and sculpture of the Angkor period (802–1432), as seen in the temple complexes at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom (see photograph), marked the apex of Khmer creativity. Following the capture of Angkor by the Thai (15th century) and the crumbling of the empire, the region underwent four centuries of foreign invasions, civil war, and widespread depopulation. It was not until the establishment of the French protectorate in 1863 that internal security was restored, the country's borders were stabilized, and efforts were undertaken to revive traditional Khmer art form.



At varying times, Cambodian culture also absorbed Javanese, Chinese, and Thai influences. Between the 9th and 15th centuries, a prosperous and powerful empire flourished in northwestern Cambodia. The Khmer kingdom of Angkor, named for its capital city, dominated much of what is now Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. The kingdom drew its religious and political inspiration from India. The literary language of the court was Sanskrit; the spoken language was Khmer. Massive temples from this period, including Angkor Wat and the Bayon at Angkor Thum, testify to the power of Angkor and the grandeur of its architecture and decorative art. The unparalleled achievements in art, architecture, music, and dance during this period served as models for later cultural development in Cambodia.


Music occupied a dominant place in traditional Cambodian culture. It was sung and played everywhere—by children at play, by adults at work, by young men and women while courting—and invariably was part of the many celebrations and festivals that took place throughout the year at Buddhist temples in the rural countryside. Instruments used in full orchestras included xylophones with wooden or metal bars, one- and two-stringed violins, wooden flutes, oboes, and drums of different sizes. The players followed the lead of one instrument, usually the xylophone, and improvised as they wished.

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