Friday, December 25, 2009

Cambodia Chronicles One: Contemplating Eternity

Friday, December 25, 2009

The place was inundated with visitors, yet I felt the sweep of the centuries roll over me as we traipsed through the labyrinth of crumbling walls, ethereal bas reliefs, delicately carved apsaras and the inscrutable stone faces of the Bayon. In the middle of a monument built in the 12th century, I can’t help but contemplate eternity. In these times when nothing seems to last, the Angkor monuments attest that some things do endure.



Nothing I’ve read prepared me from actually witnessing the overgrown ruins of Ta Phrom, a temple slowly being devoured by centuries old trees. The tangle of dense undergrowth and seemingly endless roots of towering silk cotton trees have so seamlessly merged with the temple’s sandstone slabs, that they look as if they’ve been part of each other forever.



Following rigorous rules of order and symmetry, heavy with symbolism that honor both Buddhist and Hindu divinities and tradition, and “comparable to the most impressive of history’s architectural composition,” the Angkor monuments--the Angkor Wat in particular--“are a work of power, unity and style.” What puzzles me, however, is the reason behind the abandonment of Angkor. Is it really because of the Thai invasion, or is it something else? For a work of such colossal effort, what made the Khmer abandon it? While absorbing hundreds of years of history, I tried to find answers from the beauty and ruined grandeur surrounding me but ended up with more questions - questions that are devoid of answers.




"Khmer art is a concept in search for a form. The artist does not inspire himself from nature, does not compel himself to represent movement and life in order to create a 'work of art'. Without abstraction, he seeks real expression, but through the eyes of a visionary in accordance with the principle of static form so endeared by his race. His work is an act of faith--more collective than individual--where each can find his own emotion, and the masterpiece born from the intensity of the internal flame that inspires him, from his spiritual communion with the divinity." (Maurice Glaize, The Monuments of the Angkor Group, 1944)

8 comments:

unstranger said...

Terrific! Must have been a good break away.

Angeli said...

it was, unstranger. it really was.

Anonymous said...

where are the bakheng pictures? that is my favorite structure. :)

Angeli said...

that's the topic for the next post on cambodia. :)

witsandnuts said...

I liked all the shots! This is my kind of destination. I am more of a culture (specifically food hehe) person.

Angeli said...

hi wits. i took inspiration from your comment (see the post above). kakaiba ang food sa cambodia. you'll like it. :)

eks said...

maybe you need not question them... tanggapin na lang ang kagandahan at hiwaga ng mga istruktura. parang magic trick ba -- you'll appreciate it better if you don;t know the trick behind it. (house will kill me with this line of reasoning. hehehe.)

jacqueline said...

wonderful pictures!!! :) thank you for sharing them.

have a happy new year!

 
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