Preah Khan - Filip Šubrt Photo

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment."

Ansel Adams .


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Preah Khan

Preah Khan (Royal Sword) is a temple at Angkor, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father. It is located northeast of Angkor Thom and just west of the Jayatataka baray, with which it was associated. It was the centre of a substantial organisation, with almost 100,000 officials and servants.

The temple is flat in design, with a basic plan of successive rectangular galleries around a Buddhist sanctuary complicated by Hindu satellite temples and numerous later additions. Like the nearby Ta Prohm, Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.

Originally dedicated to Hindu deities, it was reconsecrated to Mahayana Buddhist worship during a monumental reconstruction undertaken by Jayavarman VII in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The central structure, which included libraries and a pond for ablutions, has been devastated by looting in recent years.

As recently as the mid-1990s, it was thought to be in reasonable shape, but some time in the second half of the decade thieves arrived seeking buried statues under each prang (temple tower). Assaulted with pneumatic drills and mechanical diggers, the ancient temple never stood a chance and many of the towers simply collapsed in on themselves, leaving the depressing mess we see today.

Once again, a temple that had survived so much couldn't stand the onslaught of the 20th century and its all-consuming appetites. Among the carvings found at Preah Khan was the bust of Jayavarman now in Phnom Penh's National Museum and widely copied as a souvenir for tourists. The body of the statue was discovered a few years ago by locals who alerted authorities, making it possible for a joyous reunion of head and body in 1999.