ANGKOR, an assemblage of ruins in Cambodia, the relic of the ancient Khmer civilization. They are situated in forests to the north of the Great Lake (Tonle-Sap), the most conspicuous of the remains being the town of Angkor-Thom and the temple of Angkor-Vat, both of which lie on the right bank of the river Siem-Reap, a tributary of Tonle-Sap. Other remains of the same form and character lie scattered about the vicinity on both banks of the river, which is crossed by an ancient stone bridge.
Angkor-Thom lies about a quarter of a mile from the river. According to Aymonier it was begun about A.D. 860, in the reign of the Khmer sovereign Jayavarman III., and finished towards A.D. 900. It consists of a rectangular enclosure, nearly 2 m. in each direction, surrounded by a wall from 20 to 30 ft. in height. Within the enclosure, which is entered by five monumental gates, are the remains of palaces and temples, overgrown by the forest. The chief of these are:—
(1) The vestiges of the royal palace, which stood within an enclosure containing also the pyramidal religious structure known as the Phimeanakas. To the east of this enclosure there extends a terrace decorated with magnificent reliefs.
(2) The temple of Bayon, a square enclosure formed by galleries with colonnades, within which is another and more elaborate system of galleries, rectangular in arrangement and enclosing a cruciform structure, at the centre of which rises a huge tower with a circular base. Fifty towers, decorated with quadruple faces of Brahma, are built at intervals upon the galleries, the whole temple ranking as perhaps the most remarkable of the Khmer remains.
Angkor-Vat, the best preserved example of Khmer architecture, lies less than a mile to the south of the royal city, within a rectangular park surrounded by a moat, the outer perimeter of which measures 6060 yds. On the west side of the park a paved causeway, leading over the moat and under a magnificent portico, extends for a distance of a quarter of a mile to the chief entrance of the main building. The temple was originally devoted to the worship of Brahma, but afterwards to that of Buddha; its construction is assigned by Aymonier to the first half of the 12th century A.D. It consists of three stages, connected by numerous exterior staircases and decreasing in dimensions as they rise, culminating in the sanctuary, a great central tower pyramidal in form. Towers also surmount the angles of the terraces of the two upper stages. Three galleries with vaulting supported on columns lead from the three western portals to the second stage. They are connected by a transverse gallery, thus forming four square basins. Khmer decoration, profuse but harmonious, consists chiefly in the representation of gods, men and animals, which are displayed on every flat surface. Combats and legendary episodes are often depicted; floral decoration is reserved chiefly for borders, mouldings and capitals. Sandstone of various colours was the chief material employed by the Khmers; limonite was also used. The stone was cut into huge blocks which are fitted together with great accuracy without the use of cement.
See E. Aymonier, Le Cambodge (3 vols., 1900–1904); Doudart de Lagrée, Voyage d’exploration en Indo-Chine (1872–1873); A. H. Mouhot, Travels in Indo-China, Cambodia and Laos (2 vols., 1864); Fournereau and Porcher, Les Ruines d’Angkor (1890); L. Delaporte, Voyage au Cambodge: l’architecture Khmer (1880); J. Moura, Le Royaume de Cambodge (2 vols., 1883).