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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.



  多年来,吴哥窟一直孤立于西方世界,她位于高棉的市中心且长期被丛林覆盖。直到西欧国家第一次到达吴哥窟。这些法国人从当地区民的传闻知道吴哥窟是由上帝所建造的。大部分的法国人认为这些是无稽之谈。但有些人士却认为这是个一度强盛而富裕的高棉,因政权没落而被遗忘的城市。吴哥窟的庙宇是在1860年由法国传教士所发现。由法国的植物学家亨利莫。哈特开始研究并揭开了这个古迹。这个研究持续到1968年因越南内战而结束。起初亨利莫。哈特认为这些庙宇并非由柬国所建造,只是在200年前同时被其它民族所占据。而他的理论被认为是错误,因后来的考古学家在庙宇墙上所发现的石雕及刻字,经整理后拼凑出高棉的历史后所证明。现在这个众所皆知的吴哥城,就是公元880年~ 1225年所建造最大的城市。

  吴哥窟的历史要追朔到扶南王朝,扶南王朝是由印度上层人士所建立的,公元200年印度商人开始定居,400年后这个国家成为一个繁荣的商圈。由于该地区位于中国和印度的英国清教徒中心,所以印度教和佛教也被移民者所接受。中国和印度也影响了高棉,因而吴哥庙宇的建筑也类似于在印度北方及尼泊尔所发现的佛教和印度庙宇。公元600年扶南王朝开始没落,新的首都成立于吴哥南方 40公里。这期间,雕刻精美的雕刻品和砂岩雕刻品是最受欢迎的。公元750年,一个好战的国王开始扩展版图。然而随着贸易的没落,取而代之的是武力。


  在 1200年初,吴哥和高棉政权开始没落,泰国政府的势力开始浮现并将首都移至吴哥附近的Ayudhya,威胁着高棉政府。1389年泰国征服了高棉放弃了吴哥城,并将政府移到现在的金边。奇迹似的,吴哥窟在经过了30年的内战,仅受到少部分的损害,而高棉的游击队仍继续对抗泰国政府。1975年住在吴哥庙宇的僧侣大量的被屠杀,即是改朝换代后的结果。然而吴哥窟仍是只有受到少数损害,现在许多的庙宇仍积极的修护中。失落的城市 吴哥窟的历史仍带有神秘色彩,但随着进入 可口可乐 及 柯达 的时代和高棉的发展,吴哥窟的神秘魅力也将逐渐消失。