Monday, September 13, 2010
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 www.stories-in-stone.net.