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  Angkor Wat, one of the most beautiful and mysterious historical sites in the world. Located over 192 miles to the North-West of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, Angkor has been protected from tourism, and the customs and the cultures of the people living there have not changed much. However, intense internal warfare for over fifty years has impacted on the people and to an extent on the physical structure of the temples at Angkor.

  In 1991, the Khmer Rouge, the guerrilla movement, controlled the area. It was then very difficult to visit the area, and the only way to get there was by Helicopter from Phnom Penh. I will never forget when I first got out from the Helicopter, and stepped into the land of history, a land which the western civilization had forgotten. In this paper, I would like to discuss the history of the great temples of the lost city of Angkor Wat, but I would also like to describe some of my own observations from the summer of 1991.

  For many years, Angkor Wat was totally isolated from the Western World. Large, thick jungles covers the area, and it is located in the center of Cambodia. The French colonialists were the first westerners to get exposed to Angkor. They heard rumors from the local population about temples built by gods or by giants. Most of the colonialists referred these rumors to folk tales, but some believed that there really was a lost city of a Cambodian empire , which had once been powerful and wealthy.

  The temples were first discovered by French missionaries in 1860. Henri Mahout, a French botanist started intensive research and restoration programs. These research efforts continued until 1968, when the Vietnam war disrupted the studies. Initially, he did not believe that the temples were built by Cambodians, but by another race which had concurred and occupied Cambodia for over 2000 years ago. His theory would later be proven to be incorrect, after that researchers discovered scripts on the walls of the temples, and stone sculptures, that have made it possible for archeologists to piece together the history of Cambodia. Now it is known that Angkor, was the great capital city of the Khmer empire from the city's founding in about AD 880 until about 1225.

  The history of Angkor Wat dates back to the kingdom of Funan. This kingdom was established by an Indian Brahmin, and in AD200, the country was peacefully settled by Indian traders. Four hundred years later, the kingdom had become a prosperous trading region. As the area was located on the Pilgrim rout between China and India, Hinduism and Chinese Buddhism was adopted by the new settlers. The Indian and Chinese influence can still be felt in Cambodia, and the temples of Angkor Wat closely resembles Hindu and Buddhist temples that can be found in Northern India and in Nepal. In the end of AD600, the Funan Empire lost much of its power to the kingdom of Chenla. The capital of this new empire, Sambor, was located about 40 miles to the Southeast of Angkor. During this time, beautiful sculptures and carvings in sand-stone was popular. In AD750, a king with a reputation of being a war-like person, who was able to expand the Chenla kingdom. However, trade with India stopped, and the Indonesian Empire raised to power.

  Massive expansion of the city continued throughout the next 200 years, and ambitious building programs expanded the city. Many temples were built. The temples are spread out over about 40 miles around the village of Siem Reap. Temples and similar structures to the temples that can be found in the city of Angkor are common sights in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and in China. Perhaps the most famous temple, Angkor Wat, is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu was built during this period.

  Angkor Wat is the highest achievement of Khmer temple architecture, and is today the flagship of the temples at Angkor. The temple is a huge pyramid structure. The compound at Angkor Wat covers an area of 1,500 by 1,300 m (4,920 by 4,265 ft) and is surrounded by a vast moat 180 m (590 ft) wide. Along the causeway leading to the enormous entrance gate are balustrades shaped as giant serpents, which are believed to represent emblems of cosmic fertility. The temple consists of a towering complex of terraces and small buildings that are arranged in a series of three diminishing stories and surmounted by five towers. The roofed and unroofed structures are covered with bands of finely carved stone sculptures. The walls are covered with carved reliefs that illustrate Hindu mythology, principally scenes relating to the god Vishnu, to whom the temple was dedicated. The mass of bas-relief carving is of the highest quality and the most beautifully executed in Angkor. All the temple mountains of Angkor were filled with three-dimensional images and every inch of the walls are covered by sculptures.

  In the beginning of AD1200, the Angkor and the Khmer empire started to decline. When Jayavarman VII died, the Thai Empire in the West emerged as a major power in the region. The Thai capital was moved to Ayudhya, near Angkor, and obviously threatened the Cambodian kingdom. In AD1389 the Thais attacked Angkor, and the city fell into the hands of the Thais. The 15th-century conquest of the Khmer kingdom by the Thais resulted (1431) in the final abandonment of Angkor. The city was deserted and the capital was moved to Eastward to the region of the present capital Phnom Penh.

  Miraculously, very little damage has been made on the Angkor region as a result of the bloody civil that has terrorized the Cambodia for over 30 years. The Khmer Rouge, an extreme-left organization has actively organized guerrilla activities against Prince Sihanouk's government. In 1975, many Buddhist monks who lived in the Angkor temples were massacred along with the majority of the Buddhist population as a result of a social reorganization . However, Angkor Wat suffered very little structural damage in that attack. Today, archeologists from all over the world are actively involved in the restoration process of the temples. Much of the history of the Lost city of Angkor is still a mystery, but Angkor has entered the Coca Cola and Kodak age, and as Cambodia is becoming more developed, the mystical atmosphere at Angkor will disappear.



  多年來,吳哥窟一直孤立于西方世界,她位于高棉的市中心且長期被叢林覆蓋。直到西歐國家第一次到達吳哥窟。這些法國人從當地區民的傳聞知道吳哥窟是由上帝所建造的。大部分的法國人認為這些是無稽之談。但有些人士卻認為這是個一度強盛而富裕的高棉,因政權沒落而被遺忘的城市。吳哥窟的廟宇是在1860年由法國傳教士所發現。由法國的植物學家亨利莫。哈特開始研究并揭開了這個古跡。這個研究持續到1968年因越南內戰而結束。起初亨利莫。哈特認為這些廟宇并非由柬國所建造,只是在200年前同時被其它民族所占據。而他的理論被認為是錯誤,因后來的考古學家在廟宇墻上所發現的石雕及刻字,經整理后拼湊出高棉的歷史后所證明。現在這個眾所皆知的吳哥城,就是公元880年~ 1225年所建造最大的城市。

  吳哥窟的歷史要追朔到扶南王朝,扶南王朝是由印度上層人士所建立的,公元200年印度商人開始定居,400年后這個國家成為一個繁榮的商圈。由于該地區位于中國和印度的英國清教徒中心,所以印度教和佛教也被移民者所接受。中國和印度也影響了高棉,因而吳哥廟宇的建筑也類似于在印度北方及尼泊爾所發現的佛教和印度廟宇。公元600年扶南王朝開始沒落,新的首都成立于吳哥南方 40公里。這期間,雕刻精美的雕刻品和砂巖雕刻品是最受歡迎的。公元750年,一個好戰的國王開始擴展版圖。然而隨著貿易的沒落,取而代之的是武力。


  在 1200年初,吳哥和高棉政權開始沒落,泰國政府的勢力開始浮現并將首都移至吳哥附近的Ayudhya,威脅著高棉政府。1389年泰國征服了高棉放棄了吳哥城,并將政府移到現在的金邊。奇跡似的,吳哥窟在經過了30年的內戰,僅受到少部分的損害,而高棉的游擊隊仍繼續對抗泰國政府。1975年住在吳哥廟宇的僧侶大量的被屠殺,即是改朝換代后的結果。然而吳哥窟仍是只有受到少數損害,現在許多的廟宇仍積極的修護中。失落的城市 吳哥窟的歷史仍帶有神秘色彩,但隨著進入 可口可樂 及 柯達 的時代和高棉的發展,吳哥窟的神秘魅力也將逐漸消失。