Monday, September 13, 2010

Lovingly compiled

I have just finished reading John Burgess' Stories in Stone: The Sdok Kok Thom Inscription & the Enigma of Khmer History, and enjoyed it immensely. In fact my overwhelming thought after reading the closing chapter was that every temple should have a book like this. A written record, lovingly compiled, that tells the story of each temple, in detail, from its inception and through the ages to the present day. Each temple deserves at least that in my opinion. Whilst Sdok Kok Thom has the added attraction of possessing a unique ancient testament chronicling the early part of the Khmer Empire, as a monument it pales against many others. Take Banteay Chhmar as an example, one of my very favourite temples. If someone like John Burgess could undertake the sort of in-depth investigation he did for Sdok Kok Thom then we would have a living, breathing history of a temple that would compare favourably against the big-hitters that lie within the main Angkor complex. The same for Preah Vihear, Koh Ker, Preah Khan, Phnom Chisor, Tonle Bati and so on. And that's not even starting on the temples of Angkor. Old yellowing photos, historical descriptions and insights, personal testimonies from locals who've lived their lives in and around the structures and more besides, would in my view really put each temple onto its deserved pedestal. Of course my dream is unlikely to take shape anytime soon, but Cambodian history and the temples left to us by the Khmer Empire deserve more than they currently have on record. They each deserve a book like Stories in Stone to be written about them and to bring them back to life. My hat is doffed to John Burgess for giving us such a wonderful gift, even if the temple is not strictly in Cambodia at this moment in time, it's a slice of Khmer history that needs exactly this type of testimonial. The book's website is at

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,
couldn't find Burguess' book neither in Amazon, nor in AbeBooks, pls wherefrom is it available? will your upcoming book bring a list of the 10 top Khmer temples in your view?
Thanks, Shandra

September 15, 2010 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Hi Shandra,
Actually you can find out where to buy the book by looking at the book's website here:
It certainly is available on Amazon.

My book, whenever it sees the light of day (I'm told its still at the printers), will not contain a personal Top 10 Khmer temples but you've given me a good idea for a Blog posting that's for sure.

Thanks, Andy

September 15, 2010 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

I love the idea of combining fact and fiction together to bring a temple alive. If someone could bring to life an historical figure associated with the temple, such as Geoff Ryman did so brilliantly with Jayavarman VII in The King's Last Song, and combine that with stories of the temple's discovery in colonial times and so on, that would be a great way to record a temple's past.
If only I had the time....

September 15, 2010 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear ANDY thanks for replying, and actually I have located the book in Amazon, only it will be available for sale from November on. Glad for collaborating in any way with your blog. Though I hadn't meant it, its indeed a very good idea for a posting, I'm very very curious to know which ones will make the TOP 10 KHMER TEMPLES in your personal view!!!
Best Regards - Shandra (= Moon, in Hindi)

September 15, 2010 at 10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi bong hopes your top list of Khmer temples will include also those one viharas Thailand subtrakted from Cambodia, the case being they match your personal liking like Phimai and Phanom Rung because Thai tourist guides all say they are Thai temples and the truth is all from the Khmer empire in the past - Samroeun

September 15, 2010 at 11:08 PM  

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