Travel Photo Thursday: Cambodian Temple Art

Today I continue sharing my photos of Cambodia, even though A Traveler’s Library is in the midst of England week. The truth is, I have very few pictures of England because I have spent such brief periods there.

Asparas at Bayon
Asparas at Bayon

Additionally, I want to continue with Cambodia and show you some of the carvings that amazed me when I was visiting the Bayon Temple at Siem Riep, not far from the more famous Angkor Wat.  To put this in perspective, you have to remember that the art was created during what was known as the late Middle Ages in Europe (in the 12the and 13th centuries). At that time, Europeans had no knowledge of the cultures of southeast Asia and vice versa. Each thought, as people tend to do, that they were the center of the universe and the height of civilization.

What the art of the two countries have in common during that period is that most  art was created to tell religious stories to people who could not read. At Angkor Wat the carvings depict wars and one particularly graphic wall depicts what your life will be like in hell. That one reminded me of the Christian paintings of suffering souls burning and being tortured by Satan. However, I was particularly drawn to the bas reliefs at the Bayon that showed every day life–some of which has changed very little over the centuries. The Christian paintings and carvings of Europe and the temple bas relief carvings of Cambodia–which were indeed the height of civilization?

Bayon bas relief- Barbeque
Preparing for a barbeque?


Bayon bas relief: Baking
Baking the bread


Bayon Temple Bas Relief- Brewery
Let's have a brewski with that barbecued pork.


Bayon Temple Bas Relief, Pregnant woman
Midwife massages back of pregnant woman


Bayon Temple bas relief, Midwife and pregnant woman
Giving Birth


When you visit Siem Riep you are confronted with an array of art that rivals the Louvre or the Hermitage in quantity, if not variety (although with both Buddhist and Hindu art in most temples, you get quite a bit of variety, too.) I could have taken pictures of these bas reliefs for weeks. “Oh, look at this one!” “Oh, look here!” As a traveler–you know the feeling, I’m sure.

These photos are part of Travel Photo Thursday, and to see more travel photos, click over to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox. There you can see photos from around the world from a great variety of travel writers and photographers.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

17 thoughts on “Travel Photo Thursday: Cambodian Temple Art

  1. This was a very informative post! It’s interesting how art from different cultures are similar since they depict similar subjects, such as religion. Nice photos too!

  2. I’ve probably told you that I have been to Angkor Wat twice, and want to go back again. This was one of my favorite temples. You have captured the reliefs beautifully.

    1. Nancie: Did you also visit Banteay Srei? Because once I had seen that, everything else paled in comparison.But, yes, Bayon is spectacular.

  3. I would have spent the whole day taking pictures of such interesting subject too. These are so wonderful to see and I love seeing their depiction of everyday life. Haven’t been to Cambodia but would love to visit it someday.

  4. Being a citizen of Nepal, where Hinduism and Buddhism are the most popular religions, I can relate the arts with the ones that are found in the temples in my country.

  5. Enjoyed your carvings! It is fun trying to decipher the story the picture is trying to tell. I never get it quite right but I will have a brewski with the BBQ pork 🙂

    1. Who knows, Debbie. Maybe you were right and I was wrong about what the scenes are. After all, I got my information from my guide, and guides are notorious for making things up. There are many scholarly studies of the Temples, but I didn’t do in depth research.

  6. Angkor Wat was always on my list now thanks to you Vera, I’ll add Banyon Temple.
    I love these carvings, their depiction of everyday life is so sweet. I can see why it was hard to stop taking photos of each and every one.

  7. I like the description and selection of photos of everyday life. It looks to me like they are in fantastic condition. You’ve got me thinking I need to get to Cambodia one day.

    1. Leigh, these particular ones do seem to be in good condition. I don’t know if they’ve been cleaned, but I do know there was a lot of restoration work going on at most of the temples we visited. The saddest thing is to realize that despite the huge amount of art there, probably 10 times as much has been stolen over the years.

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