Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple
Date:                                   Built in late twelfth century
Religion:                             Buddhism
King:                                   Jayavarman VII (1181-1221)
Posthumous name:             Mahasangatapada
Bayon was constructed for nearly 40 years from late 12th century to early 13th century by the most famous Angkor king, Jayavarman VII. Bayon is the second main temple of Cambodia after Angkor Wat and is considered as a window to the past of Khmer history as its gallery has remarkable carvings about daily lives of ancient royal family, dignitary, ordinary people, the sea trade of Chinese merchants to Cambodia, and also about the war against Cham Invaders who invaded Angkor in late 12th century.
The carving of three Apsaras, on pillars, dancing on blooming lotuses in a form of a triangle is exceptionally beautiful and unique style of Bayon. Some visitors like Bayon temple, in the way its plan looks very mysterious with many gloomy and secret rooms.
Tower: Bayon was designed with 49 towers, but there are 54 towers in total if we include five more towers of the gates built by the same king at the same time. Each tower comprises four giant faces of Buddha, giving this temple a majestic character.
Mr P Jenerat de Beerski wrote in the 1920s when he looked at the faces wrote that:
The faces with slightly curving lips, eyes placed in shadow by the lowered lids utter now a word and yet force you to guess a lot. Godliness in the majesty and size, mystery in the expression”
Mr, Chou Ta Koun, a Chinese diplomat who lived in Angkor Thom city for one year in 1295 called this temple as a Golden Tower, becauseits central tower was gilded with gold. He said “every city sent around Khmer Kingdom sent the best Buddha statue to keep in every tower. Besides this, he also mentioned about dozens of gold Buddha statues in the main shrine in the center.
Plan: Bayon comprises three levels. The first and the second level are galleries of bas-relief or low carving. A circular central sanctuary dominates the third level. The plan of Bayon is very complicated as it has a maze of dark galleries; low ceiling and narrow passages connected in a way that is indistinguishable.
First explorer: in 1860AD, Mr. Henry Mouhout, a French naturalist, was the first explorers who arrived in Angkor and made the European know this place. He accidently found Angkor temples which were overgrown by dens forest when he was catching butterfly in a deep jungle around here. When Henry Mahout discovered Bayon, he tried to climb up to the top. Because he was very exhausted of climbing, he had a rest up there. He looked all around him, to the front, the back, the left and the right, a lot of scary faces were looking at him from anywere and he was very very scared.Then he decided to stop exploring flora and funa and stayed in Angkor Wat for one week. He hired local people to take him further into the jungle. He was extremely surprised to find more and more temples. Henry Marhout stayed one week in Angkor Wat. He did a survey on the local people and he painted pictures of those beautiful temples. He mentioned in his book that (It is unbelievable to have such a remarkable civilization like Angkor on the earth......regrettable, most of the beautiful temple structures havecollapsed and covered by dense forest....he continued that he hope one day the powerful people in the world will come here to help and to learn when and who created this great civilization because the local people who lived nearby the temple were full of hardship. they could not be able to preserve the temple at all since they faced poverty, disease, warfare and they just practiced animism and Buddhism). One year later, Henry Mahout died in Laos, because he was very sick of Malaria when he was just 35 years old. his brother went to Loas and collected Henry’s book to publish a French book called Voyages in Siam, Cambodge and Laos.The French administration was very interested in that book, and then they sent two explorers, Delarport and Delagre, to explore Angkor and the countries along the Mekong River from South China Sea to China border. After the exploration mission had been finished, Delaport and Delagree suggested French administration to colonize Indochina region as earlier as possible because the British had already arrived in Asia.The French helped to protect Cambodia from the invasion of Siamese and Vietnamese from 1863-1884, but then they colonized Cambodia until 1953.

The French established Angkor Conservation Department for restoration, preservation, and discovering Angkor site in 1908. The first job of the French in Angkor site was to clear forest away from the temple structures and to pave road to access the most important temple site. Then from 1916 to 1972 the temple structures in Angkor archaeological Park were cleared and restored with a big project of 1000 Cambodians and a dozen of French explorers.

Angkor began to open for its first tourist to visit in 1920. since then the numbers of tourists kept increasing. In 1970 Angkor received about 60 000 foreign tourists.

The gallery
The first gallery of Bayon is 160m by 140m. This gallery originally had stone dome roof, but it has completely collapsed.

Eastern gallery:
Military Procession: the soldiers looked smiling as they got victory over Cham invaders who conquered and occupied Angkor Thom from 1177-1181AD.  The ancient Khmer armies had short hair and long ears. They used armor, shell, and spear as weapons. There’re some high flags here in the front of the procession. The commander sat on the elephant and he was shaded by some umbrellas. They were Chinese armies who came to assist the Khmers.There were soldiers who did not wear armor, but they wore lucky strings to fight. There’re two soldiers blowing horns here and another man was beating the bell. on the top, there is a figure of king Jayavarman VII ridding on a horse and there’re a lot of women of the palace following him. Musician accompanies the warriors. Refugees were following the armies to the city transporting food with carts pulled by ox. There’re figures of two dogs walking in a shade under the cart. One cart was too heavy, so a man was assisting to push it. A man was leaning to blow to make fire for cooking. There’re two people sitting down and drinking. There is a turtle figure bitting a man’s bottom and his wife was pulling the turtle away. There was a man sharing fruit with his wife. On the top of the tree, there’re two men hunting the bird with crossbow, one guy was shooting while another one was pointing to tell where the bird was.

Buffalo scarifying
:  up there, you could see the ancient Khmer armies killing a buffalo to scarify to the god of fire.

China Town:
this is an interesting carving of the ancient Chinese residence that was traditionally decorated with red lanterns and umbrellas. Chinese were having a party; they were cooking; smoking, drinking, and dancing. on top, the Chinese leader was talking to his people who were bringing offerings like Chickens to give him.

Southern Gallery:
King Jayavarman VII: He was in a court as he was a judge. The king was carrying a knife. The people who were on trial were sitting in the front of the king.
Gladiators: There were two gladiators performing.
Navy:  below the king’s figure, there were Khmer navies who used Naga boats to fight against the Cham invaders who came along the Mekong River and Tole Sap Lake.
People around the lake: beside this, there’re also carvings about daily live of the people who lived around the lake.
Falling soldier: there is a soldier who fell down from the boat and he was being attacked by a crocodile.
Tiger: there is a man who was climbing up the tree because a tiger was following to attack him.
Hunter: this is a hunter who was hunting a deer with crossbow and he did not know that another tiger was attacking him from the back.
Cham: these were Cham Navies. They had long hair, and their hats look like upside down lotus flower.
Crocodile: this is another navy who was attacked by a crocodile.
Cock fighting: Khmer and Chinese were gambling with cock fighting.
Arm Wrestling: Two people were gambling with arm wrestling.
The second and the third level: the second level has its galleries with carvings about traditional ceremonies in the royal palace, the excursion of the pilgrims, daily practice of hermits, Buddhist and Hindu legend stories.

Buddha figures:
The Buddha figures were found at the pediments of the second level, and then French decided to open the stone floor from this third level so that he visitors can see those figures.
Central base:  the central sanctuary of this temple is circular, a shape that is uncommon in Khmer art. Small porches with pediments provide the bases for the monumental faces while windows with window bars keep the diffusion of light.

The central tower:
the central chamber was excavated in 1935. After it was dug for 10m deep, a huge Buddha statue was discovered down there .it was well repaired and in 1937 king Monivong requested to take it to install in Vihear Prampi Loveng temple, locating in the road to the victory gate.

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