Khmer Art

Indochina refers to the fertile plain of Southeast Asia where the land divided the Bay of Bengal from the Gulf of Siam. Many assumptions about the origin and ethnography of the peoples who now live in the Indo-Chinese heartland are disputed. It is, however, certain that the related Mon and Khmer races put their stamp on the culture of the region. They were already living in what is now Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam at the birth of Christ. The principal cultural centres grew up here from early 6th century to 14th century.

The importance of religion in Southeast Asian culture has so far been hinted at. But essentially it is religion and religion alone that determined the content of these peoples’ art. Sculpture in particular is purely sacred art, and follows exclusively religious objectives. It is based on indigenous notions of belief as well as those incorporated into Southeast Asian culture with the Indian influence.

Inevitably, Indian culture has great influence on Khmer work of arts. Shivaism, Vishnuism and Saktiism had been the model for most of Khmer artifacts and stone sculptures.

Detailed Chronological Tables

Adapted from L'Art Khmer, les Grandes Etapes de Son Evolution by G. de Coral Remusat and Le Cambodge by J. Boisselier. Khmer arts can be traced back and grouped into the following period and styles, each with its own characteristics and distinctive styles:

Pre Angkor Period
    Styles. A.D
    Phnom Da 557-607
    Sambor Prei Kuk 607-657
    Pre Kmeng 637-707
    Kampong Preah 707-807
Transitional Period
    Style A.D.
    Kulen 827-877
Angkor Period
    Styles A.D
    Preah Ko 877-897
    Bakheng 897-927
    Koh Ker 922-947
    Pre Rup 947-967
    Bahteay Srei 967-1007
    Khleang 967-1017
    Baphuon 1017-1087
    Angkor Wat 1107-1177
    Bayon 1177-1237

3rd Century B.C. Trade in luxury goods existed between the commercial centres of Indus valley civilization and the ancient Near East, and between the Mauryan empire and Persia.

Indian emperor Ashoka sent two Buddhist monks to spread the faith in the region.

3 rd Century A.D. The first great Cambodian kingdom - Funan came into existence. The Kingdom was greatly influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism, which greatly reflected in many of the sculptures.

6th Century A.D. Phnom Da period. Supposedly the earliest Cambodian sculptures ever found. Highly praised as the golden era in Khmer art.

Year 790 King Jayavarman II ruled Cambodia and established capitals at various sites. He established what is known as "Angkor" today. And the art during this period are called "Kulen Style".

Year 1113-1150 During the reign of King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat was constructed.

Detailed Chronological Timeline


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