17th and 18th century images of the Buddha from Ayutthaya and Lan Xang at Angkor Wat

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Accomplished scholarship of Cambodian history after Angkor seeks to interrogate the established characterisation of the period as a time of absence, defeat, retreat and instability. Traits that had defined the great Angkorian civilisation: enormous agro-urban cities, monumental stone architecture, landscape-scale infrastructure, specialised craft production, and epigraphy had diminished to a skerrick of their former significance. It is thought that at roughly the same time, members of the sangha travelling from the Khorat plateau introduced a form of Theravada Buddhism. While the notion of decline at Angkor is contested, a more challenging task is filling the purported blank space of the Cambodian early modern period with knowledge about its material world. New studies on material culture and texts, in addition to new themes of investigation, are recasting this period as complex and vibrant, and help to define the transformations of Cambodian Theravada.

Many sources of knowledge regarding the emergence of Cambodian Theravada in the early modern period remain unstudied. Examining the historical sources, which were composed centuries after the events they allege to recount and often sire factually unreliable information, has necessarily been the first task to appraise the Cambodian early modern period, but a great deal of information also resides in its material culture. Significantly, the known historical narratives do not correspond with the material culture of the early modern period, and specifically, the sculptures of Angkor Wat. This chapter focuses on 17th- or 18th-century sculptures related to the present-day territories of Thailand and Laos found in the galleries of Angkor Wat. Historical research of this period is difficult because of the paucity and complexity of sources. Art historical and archaeological studies are equally challenging.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEarly Theravadin Cambodia
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from Art and Archaeology
EditorsAshley Thompson
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherNUS Press
Number of pages37
ISBN (Print)9789813251496, 9813251492
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameArt and Archaeology of Southeast Asia: Hindu-Buddhist Traditions
PublisherNUS Press


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