Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Labels: Vann Nath
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Fighting for his life
Labels: Vann Nath
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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Monday, April 26, 2010
Shadow host Friday show
Take a moment 2
Pulling the plug
Labels: Bousra waterfall
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I had an interesting email recently that informed me that the dancer adjusting her crown on the front cover of the book is named Peow, and that she still dances for the Komar Angkor dance troupe in Siem Reap. The original photograph was taken by the Tewfic El-Sawy, who took all the pictures that will appear in the book. He's a freelance photographer who specializes in documenting endangered cultures and traditional life in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Labels: To Cambodia With Love
Friday, April 23, 2010
Book launch crazy
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
As part of the activities a panel discussion with 4 of the journalists who covered the conflict, will take place at the Himawari Hotel this Thursday, 22 April, at 7.30pm (free admission). The panel includes Sunday Times correspondent, Jon Swain, author of one of my favourite books, A River of Time, chronicling his experiences in Indochina, including the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975. Also T Jeff Williams is on the panel, he co-authored the book, A Cambodian Odyssey and the Deaths of 25 Journalists with Kurt Volkert.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Guardians and the like
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Doing what he does best
17th April 1975. Today is the 35th anniversary of the sad date when my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins, so many members of our family disappeared. I have never met my grandmother and only hear from my dad who she was. A strong and fierce lady who run the house and the family, of honor and dignity. She was a fine cook, he told me. And that's true, when we visited her native village, the population still remembers her skills. She was cooking French dishes, Khmer desserts and samlor as nobody else could. When the French delegation came in the village, she was called to manage the kitchen and cook for the dignitaries. She seems perfect to me. Strong in her heart, in her behavior. She was the last to die, witnessing her children, grandchildren, husband disappear. It always make me sad, we have only one photo left of her and grandpa. My younger brother is named after him, Panhlauv. Dad wrote the lyrics of the song "Neak Me" and it makes me want to cry each time I sing it.
Neak Me is the name of BosbaPANH's latest DVD release of a recent concert held at Chaktomuk Theatre as well as a behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals and the concert, which took place in September of last year. Find out more here.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
90 years old this month
A far less welcome anniversary, is the arrival in Phnom Penh 35 years ago today, of the Khmer Rouge to begin a period of Cambodian history that has affected every member of the population. Within days the city's inhabitants had been forced out into the countryside and Phnom Penh became a virtual ghost town. The rest is history of the worst possible kind.
Hevajra on display
Whilst I'm on the subject of King Jayavarman 7th, Peter Sharrock and the cult of Hevajra, I hope you caught sight of reports in the media last September that highlighted Peter Sharrock's amazing find in a forested area just outside the walls of Angkor Thom, of the massive legs belonging to a 3-metre statue that depicted Hevajra, a warlike tantric Buddhist deity that was crucial to the religious beliefs at the time of Jayavarman 7th. If you didn't, then here is a Q&A that Peter Sharrock sent me, just to put you in the picture.
1. Tell us why this find is so significant? How important is this to the world of archaeology?
Scholars are currently radically revising our understanding of the Buddhism of the ancient Khmers. The single most important icon informing this radical change of view is a large, broken sandstone image of the fierce, supreme tantric Buddhist deity Hevajra, whose bust stands in the
On a field trip to
The French, who pioneered the restoration of the vast medieval temple complex around Angkor Wat, thought the Khmers had venerated only the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, like many other peoples across the northern Buddhist world of Mahayana. They acknowledged that bronzes of Hevajra had been found but thought they must be minor. Eminent art historian Jean Boisselier for example wrote in 1951: ‘The [tantric] bronzes from the 12th and 13th centuries constitute a fairly considerable group but with no stone statue being reported for the same period, the importance of the role these divinities could have played in Khmer Mahayanist beliefs is strongly diminished.’
But a consensus is now forming for seeing the royal cult of Angkor in 1200 CE as centred on Hevajra, known mostly from
My earlier research had pinpointed two pieces of evidence that are crucial to the shift in evaluation: (1) the world's museums contain a large group of bronze Khmer consecration conches or conch stands which bear an image of the eight-headed, 16-armed god who dances on the corpses of Hindu deities. This indicates that the Hevajra-Tantra (translated by Professor David Snellgrove of SOAS) cycle of four consecrations, one possibly involving yogic sex, must have been key rituals in the Bayon state temple, famous for its mysterious giant face-towers, and in the other great temples Jayavarman built. (2) A second clue comes from a contemporary Chinese account (dated 1225) that says 300 women or 'blisses' skilled in such rituals were performing in the king's temples.
Recovering the legs of the statue and launching an archaeological excavation to possibly recover the other missing parts will hopefully enable us to reconstitute this Hevajra in his original three metre high form. I had earlier attempted a virtual reconstruction of the icon using the French archive photographs. The public re-emergence of this icon should attract resources to boost the radical revision of Khmer Buddhism that is underway. The scientific excavation in the forest may now also uncover clues as to the circumstances, reasons and timing of the way in which it was apparently broken and 'dumped' some 250 metres outside the fortified walls of the capital, Angkor Thom.
(My own hypothesis about the dumping is that these icons were probably caught up in a brief Brahmanical reaction against Jayavarman’s temples a century after he died when many Buddhist icons were destroyed and the Bayon converted to Hindu ritual. The Hevajra so important to Jayavarman’s cult was presumably removed from its sanctuary in the Bayon and paraded out of the city to have its power broken by being ritually smashed beyond the city walls).
2. Why do you think nobody discovered the legs before?
The broken statue was first discovered by French archeologists in 1925. They took away the beautifully carved bust along with several other Buddhist sculptures apparently dumped together in an earthen mound, but they could not identify the 'giant' they found broken in two. The giant bust with multiple heads was taken to the conservation depot but the legs were apparently left at the site where I found them 84 years later.
Ten years after being excavated the 52-inch bust was sold as an Avalokitesvara by the
I’m sure that local villagers who live among the
3. What did the authorities say to you? What was the reaction like at the conference?
I announced my find a few days later at a large conference at Sisophon, near the modern Thai border, concerned with the current restoration of Jayavarman’s vast Banteay Chmar temple, the last great Khmer provincial temple to be excavated, restored and protected. In attendance were the province governor, top officials of Apsara and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Phnom Penh museum director Hab Touch, temple restorer John Sanday of the Global Heritage Fund, Dr Helen Jessup and Joyce Clark from the Friends of Khmer Culture International (FOKCI), whose support and organisation made the conference possible, and a large gathering of Khmer and international art historians and archaeologists – including Hiram Woodward. I spoke about the importance of the
4. So what next? Will the legs be reunited with the rest of the statue? Will you be helping to arrange this? Any other details you would like to add?
I am in touch with all parties involved, who are already in communication, to try to find a way of reuniting the pieces so that Jayavarman’s icon can be viewed in its original state. Meanwhile Apsara plans an excavation of the site in search of the missing eighth head, 16 arms and feet. It may prove to be a difficult negotiation, because
5. Did you feel like a modern-day
I don't know how he could wear that hat in a tropical climate. But there is a distinct feeling of the unreal or fictional about going into the jungle and actually finding something of such importance to my research and to
Friday, April 16, 2010
Spotlight on Banteay Chhmar
The Global Heritage Fund and its many partners are now trying to piece the temple back together again. Stone by stone, carving by carving. Last year they held their 2nd conference about the temple in Sisophon and you can find out much more about the project to renovate and restore Banteay Chhmar from the video-papers presented by various speakers here. One of the speakers was Dr Peter Sharrock, a scholar from the University of London, who had his own view on the identity of the giant face that stares out from the face towers of Banteay Chhmar, the Bayon and elsewhere. He discounts the possibility that it is the face of Jayavarman VII himself or the Avalokiteshvara, which is often stated in guidebooks and the like and instead suggests the face belongs to the tantric deity of Vajrasattva. "I think its the supreme deity presiding over a tantric cult of Hevajra. I said Vajrasattva in my chapter in Joyce Clark's book Bayon, New Perspectives in 2007 and nobody has yet argued against this analysis. Let's wait and see. Hevajra is a fierce emanation of Vajrasattva, who is more of a primordial conception than a god you could picture or address," he told me by email today. If that's the case, and proving it will solve one of the key mysteries that still envelope Angkor, then every book on Angkor will need to be updated.
Sharrock also highlights a carving at Banteay Chhmar that he believes is the first representation of Hevajra in stone, rather than the more common statues of the deity in bronze. This is of massive importance to understanding more of the Buddhism promoted by Jayavarman VII and is one way in which Banteay Chhmar can tell scholars so much more about that period of Cambodian history, which fascinates so many. The secrets of Banteay Chhmar are still waiting to be discovered. I've written an essay on the temple for my book To Cambodia With Love, which should be out in June, as it's one of the ancient temples that I have a close affinity with, after my first visit there in November 2001.
Early morning in Phnom Penh - by Helen Ibbitson Jessup
Before the dawn light strengthens, a stroll along the riverbank in
The riverside park in front of the National Museum and Royal Palace, the park at Wat Botum and the National Olympic Stadium have become magnets for Phnom Penh citizens who want to exercise at the start of the day, and as dusk falls over the city. The exercise bug has firmly struck the citizens of Phnom Penh.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Alleyways of PP
Phnom Penh's Alleyways - by Steve Goodman
As a photographer I enjoy going where other travelers do not tread, not only to witness and photograph everyday life, but also to meet and interact with everyday people and enjoy the surprised and delighted reactions of Phnom Penh’s denizens when they see a foreigner not only intruding into their private lives but demonstrating interest and warmth. I have never failed to be amazed at the almost uniformly friendly and warm greetings that I receive in long winding alleys and hidden side-streets that aren’t depicted on most maps.
Often people who are eating on their stoops offer me some of their food. Me, a total stranger whose only calling card is a smile and a few words of greeting in Khmer. Sometimes I meet folks who speak a bit of English, but just as often I meet people who seem to speak fluent French and are sorely disappointed when I let them know that I don’t speak the language even a little bit. Of course the children that I meet are the most amazing people I encounter… playing, laughing, and sometimes showing off their blossoming English language skills by saying, “hello, what is your name”. Sometimes the younger ones will proudly count to ten in English in an always successful attempt to impress and surprise the foreigner.
Most people are happy to permit a few photos if asked with a smile. Often times when someone is initially reluctant, after I show them the photo they enthusiastically invite their friends and relatives to come and have me take their pictures too. The only time I get a negative reaction to a photo request is when I ask people who are gambling huddled around a card game, so I’ve learned simply not to ask most groups of street-side card players.
Along many alleys are small cafes and pushcart vendors offering a wide range of snacks and beverages and the people milling about trying to beat the heat always have time for a brief interchange with a smiling camera wielding stranger.You'll also find businesses of all sorts in these mostly residential sidestreets; noodle factories, tailors, herbal medicine shops, and much more.
Free dengue for all
Labels: Dengue Fever
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Labels: Khmer New Year