CULTURE AND TRADITION
The culture of Cambodia has had a rich and varied history dating back many centuries, and has been heavily influenced by India and China. Throughout Cambodia's long history, a major source of inspiration was from religion. Throughout nearly two millennium, Cambodians developed a unique Khmer belief from the syncreticism of indigenous animistic beliefs and the Indian religions of Buddhism and Hinduism. Indian culture and civilization, including its language and arts reached mainland Southeast Asia around the 1st century A.D. It is generally believed that seafaring merchants brought Indian customs and culture to ports along the Gulf of Thailand and the Pacific while trading with China. The first state to benefit from this was Funan.
The golden age of Cambodia was between the 9th and 14th century, during the Angkor period, during which it was a powerful and prosperous empire that flourished and dominated almost all of inland south east Asia. However, Angkor would eventually collapse after much in-fighting between royalty and constant warring with its increasingly powerful neighbors, notably Siam and Dai Viet. Many temples from this period however, like Bayon and Angkor Wat still remain today, scattered throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam as a reminder of the grandeur of Khmer arts and culture. Cambodia's unparalleled achievements in art, architectures, music, and dance during this period have had a great influence on many neighboring kingdoms, namely Thailand and Laos. The affect of Angkorian culture can still be seen today in those countries, as they share many close characteristics with current-day Cambodia.
Architecture and housing
The Angkorian architects and sculptors created temples that mapped the cosmic world in stone. Khmer decorations drew inspiration from religion, and mythical creatures from Hinduism and Buddhism were carved on walls. Temples were built in accordance to the rule of ancient Khmer architecture that dictated that a basic temple layout include a central shrine, a courtyard, an enclosing wall, and a moat. Khmer motifs use many creatures from Buddhist and Hindu mythology, like the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, use motifs such as the garuda, a mythical bird in Hinduism. The architecture of Cambodia developed in stages under the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 15th century, preserved in many buildings of the Angkor temple. The remains of secular architecture from this time are rare, as only religious buildings were made of stone. The architecture of the Angkor period used specific structural features and styles, which are one of the main methods used to date the temples, along with inscriptions.
Angkor Wat, The most Cambodian famous heritage.
Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist with 90% of the population being Theravada Buddhist, 1% Christian and the majority of the remaining population follow Islam, atheism, or animism.
Ways of life
Birth and death rituals
Childhood and adolescence
A Cambodian child may be nursed until he or she is between two and four years of age. Up to the age of three or four, the child is given considerable physical affection and freedom. Children around five years of age also may be expected to help look after younger siblings. Children's games emphasize socialization or skill rather than winning and losing.
In Cambodia, premarital sex is deplored. The choice of a spouse is a complex one for the young male, and it may involve not only his parents and his friends, as well as those of the young woman, but also a matchmaker. In theory, a girl may veto the spouse her parents have chosen. Courtship patterns differ between rural and urban Khmer; romantic love is a notion that exists to a much greater extent in larger cities. A man usually marries between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, a girl between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. After a spouse has been selected, each family investigates the other to make sure its child is marrying into a good family. In rural areas, there is a form of bride-service; that is, the young man may take a vow to serve his prospective father-in-law for a period of time.
Bride and groom at a Cambodian wedding
Khmer culture is very hierarchical. The greater a person's age, the greater the level of respect that must be granted to them. Cambodians are addressed with a hierarchical title corresponding to their seniority before the name. When a married couple becomes too old to support themselves, they may invite the youngest child's family to move in and to take over running the household. At this stage in their lives, they enjoy a position of high status.
The individual Khmer is surrounded by a small inner circle of family and friends who constitute his or her closest associates, those he would approach first for help. The nuclear family, consisting of a husband and a wife and their unmarried children, is the most important kin group. Within this unit are the strongest emotional ties, the assurance of aid in the event of trouble, economic cooperation in labor, sharing of produce and income, and contribution as a unit to ceremonial obligations. In rural communities, neighbors—who are often also kin—may be important, too. Fictive child-parent, sibling, and close friend relationships Cambodia transcend kinship boundaries and serve to strengthen interpersonal and interfamily ties. Beyond this close circle are more distant relatives and casual friends. In rural Cambodia, the strongest ties a Khmer may develop—besides those to the nuclear family and to close friends—are those to other members of the local community. A strong feeling of pride—for the village, for the district, and province—usually characterizes Cambodian community life.
Legally, the husband is the head of the Khmer family, but the wife has considerable authority, especially in family economics. The husband is responsible for providing shelter and food for his family; the wife is generally in charge of the family budget, and she serves as the major ethical and religious model for the children, especially the daughters. Both husbands and wives are responsible for domestic economic tasks.
In Khmer culture a person's head is believed to contain the persons soul--therefore making it taboo to touch or point your feet at it. It is also considered to be extremely disrespectful to point or sleep with your feet pointing at a person, as the feet are the lowest part of the body and are considered to be impure.
When greeting people or to show respect in Cambodia people do the "sampeah" gesture, identical to the Indian namaste and Thai wai.
Customary Cambodian teachings include: that if a person does not wake up before sunrise he is lazy; you have to tell your parents or elders where you are going and what time you are coming back home; close doors gently, otherwise you have a bad temper; sit with your legs straight down and not crossed (crossing your legs shows that you are an impolite person); and always let other people talk more than you.
Clothing in Cambodia is one of the most important aspects of the culture. Cambodian fashion is divided by the people's differing castes and social classes. Cambodians traditionally wear a checkered scarf called a "Krama". The "krama" is what distinctly separates the Khmer (Cambodians) from their neighbors the Thai, the Vietnamese, and the Laotians. The scarf is used for many purposes including for style, protection from the sun, an aid (for your feet) when climbing trees, a hammock for infants, a towel, or as a "sarong". A "krama" can also be easily shaped into a small child's doll for play. Under the Khmer Rouge, krama of various patterns were part of standard clothing.
The long-popular traditional costume known as the Sampot, a Chinese-influenced costume which Cambodians wore since the Funan era, has lost popularity. However, Khmer People’s clothing also changed depending on the time period and religion. From the Funan era back to the Angkor Era, there was a strong invasion of Hinduism which influenced Cambodian fashion to have upper naked, wear Sampot and wear their jewelry like bracelets and especially, collars like Sarong Kor, a symbol of Hinduism.
After the decrease in popularity of Hinduism, leading to Buddhism, Khmer People started wearing the blouse, shirt and trousers of Khmer style. Most important of all, Khmer people, both common and royal, stopped wearing the Hindu-style collars and began to adopt shawls like Sbai with beautiful decoration instead. This new clothing style was popular from the Chatomok region to Oudok period.
A Khmer lady habitually chooses the right colour for her Sampot or blouse, both to please herself and to follow the costume of good luck.
Some Cambodians still wear a religious style of clothing. Some Khmer men and women wear a Buddha pendant in a necklace fashion. There are different pendants for different uses; some are meant for protection from evil spirits, some are meant to bring good luck.
Otherwise, in the notable class people in Cambodia, especially the royal caste, have adapted a well known dress as well as expensive fashion style. Sampot is still well recognized among the royalty. Most royalty prefer Sampot Phamung, a new version of sampot adapted by Thai people in the 17th century. Since the Oudok period, most royalty have retained their dressing habits. Female royalty created the most attractive fashion. The lady always wears a traditional cape called sbai or rabai kanorng, which is draped over the left shoulder, leaving the right shoulder bare. Rarely was the cape worn over the right shoulder. The sbai or rabai kanorng would have been sumptuously fashioned in the old days in threads of genuine gold or silver. The cape in the old days would have hung down to the hem of the Sampot.
Dancers wear a collar known as Sarong Kor around their necks. Importantly, they wear a unique skirt called Sampot sara-bhap (lamé), made from silk inter-woven with gold or silver threads, forming elaborate and intricate designs that shimmer as the dancers move. This is held in place with a bejewelled belt. A multitude of jewellery is also worn by the female dancers. These include earrings, several pairs of bangles, a garland of flowers in the form of a bracelet, bracelets, anklets and an armlet that is worn on the right. Several body chains cross over the body like a sash. A circular or diamond shaped pendant is worn around the neck.
There are several different types of mokot worn by female royalty. The typical mokots that are worn are much similar to those of male royalty. Some crowns are just like tiaras where at the back of the mokot hair is let loose, cascading down the back. Other mokots have a few accessories such as ear pieces that would sit above the ear and help hold the mokot in place while a comb at the back is just an added accessory. Flowers are also worn on the mokot in the same style, but the hanging garlands of flowers are worn on the left and the bouquet is worn on the right. The best example of these royal clothes is illustrated by Khmer classical dance costumes, which are an adaptation of the beautiful royalty costume.
Khmer cuisine is similar to that of its Southeast Asian neighbors. It shares many similarites with Thai cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine and Teochew cuisine. Cambodian cuisine also uses fish sauce widely in soups, stir-fried cuisine, and as dippings. The Chinese legacy of Stir frying can be noted in the use of many variations of rice noodles; while Curry dishes known as kari that employ dried spices such as star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and fennel were borrowed from the Indians and given a distinctive Cambodian twist with the addition of local ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, shallots and galangal. Pork broth rice noodle soup known simply as ka tieu is one of Cambodia's popular dish. Also, Banh Chiao is the Khmer version of the Vietnamese Bánh xeo.
Khmer cuisine is noted for the use of prahok, a type of fermented fish paste, in many dishes as a distinctive flavoring. When prahok is not used, it is likely to be kap«? instead, a kind of fermented shrimp paste. Coconut milk is the main ingredient of many Khmer curries and desserts. In Cambodia there is regular aromatic rice and glutinous or sticky rice. The latter is used more in dessert dishes with fruits such as durian. Almost every meal is eaten with a bowl of rice. Typically, Cambodians eat their meals with at least three or four separate dishes. Each individual dish will usually be one of either sweet, sour, salty or bitter. Chili is usually left up to the individual to add themselves. In this way Cambodians ensure that they get a bit of every flavor to satisfy their palates.
Otherwise, Cuisine of Cambodians also become unique depend on some area of different ethnics. In Kampot and Kep, famous for its cuisine known Kampot Pepper Crab or Kdab Cha Mrin Kyai in khmer.With its name Kampot Pepper crab, this cuisine is mostly cooking with kampot famous crap fried with the pepper from pepper field in the area. While in Pailin, Mee Kola is was born in that place, create by Kula people who is one of ethnic groups in Cambodia. In southern Cambodia, most of Vietnamese cuisine had been found especially Bránh tráng which is so famous dish in southern Cambodia but just few people from Central, had ever eat this meals.Look forward to The area between Siem Reap to Kampong Thom, a village with full of Chinese Cambodia.A lot of deilicious dishes from China in Khmer version explored for the guest in family as well as its urban restaurants.
Arts and literatureVisual art
The history of visual arts in Cambodia stretches back centuries to ancient crafts; Khmer art reached its peak during the Angkor period. Traditional Cambodian arts and crafts include textiles, non-textile weaving, silversmithing, stone carving, lacquerware, ceramics, wat murals, and kite-making. Beginning in the mid-20th century, a tradition of modern art began in Cambodia, though in the later 20th century both traditional and modern arts declined for several reasons, including the killing of artists by the Khmer Rouge. The country has experienced a recent artistic revival due to increased support from governments, NGOs, and foreign tourists.
Especially in the 60s and 70s, the 'big two' duet of Sinn Sisamouth and Ros sereysothea had been a large hit in the country. However after their deaths, new music stars have tried to bring back the music. Cambodian music has undergone heavy westernization.
The Cambodian pinpeat ensemble is traditionally heard on feast days in the pagodas. It is also a court ensemble used to accompany classical dance for ritual occasions or theatrical events. The pinpeat is primarily made up of percussion instruments: the roneat ek (lead xylophone), roneat thung (low bamboo xylophone), kong vong touch and kong vong thom (small and large sets of tuned gongs), sampho (two-sided drum), skor thom (two large drums), and sralai (quadruple-reed instrument).
Cambodian Dance can be divided into three main categories: classical dance, folk dances, and vernacular dances.
Khmer classical dance is a form of Cambodian dance originally performed only for royalty. The dances have many elements in common with Thai classical dance. During the mid-20th century, it was introduced to the public where it now remains a celebrated icon of Khmer culture, often being performed during public events, holidays, and for tourists visiting Cambodia. This classical Dance is famous for its using of hands and feet to express emotion which known as there are 4,000 different gestures in this type of dance. Provided as repeating a golden age in 1960s, Khmer Classical Dance which know as The Royal Ballet of Cambodia after select as UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, has lead one of its dance to be a outstanding dance of all for culture and society. Reamker, a khmer version of Indian, Ramayana had influced strongly to Khmer classical dance. It involved in khmer gesture, movement and story line.The dance that divided from Reamker Dance known as robam sovann macha and robam moni mekala. In Facts, all of Dance reminded the audience of celestial dance which is an angel or Apsara in sansrit mythology in goal of bring the good luck and success to the viewer. The Classical dance is create by the heart of high art as the performer is decorated with themselves with a branches of jewellry.
Apsara Dance, a Khmer dance that has survived since the Angkor Era, has been singled out to attract foreign tourists and to make the richness of khmer culture known to the world. Apsara Dance was promoted by Princess Norodom Bopha Devi before the Khmer Rouge times and recently has received an award as one of the main symbols of Cambodia.
Khmer folk dances, which are performed for audiences, are fast-paced. The movements and gestures are not as stylized as Khmer classical dance. Folk dancers wear clothes of the people they are portraying such as Chams, hill tribes, farmers, and peasants. The folk dance music is played by a mohori orchestra.
Cambodian vernacular dances (or social dances) are those danced at social gatherings. Such dances include ram vong, ram kbach, ram saravan, and lam leav. Some of these dances have much influence from the traditional dances of Laos. But rom kbach, for example, take heavily from the classical dance of the royal court. Other social dances from around the world have had an impact on Cambodian social culture include the Cha-Cha, Bolero, and the Madison.
A testimony of the antiquity of the Khmer language are the multitude of epigraphic inscriptions on stone. The first written proof that has allowed the history of the Khmer Kingdom to be reconstructed are those inscriptions. These writings on columns, stelae and walls throw light on the royal lineages, religious edicts, territorial conquests and internal organization of the kingdom.
Following the stone inscriptions, some of the oldest Khmer documents are translations and commentaries of the Pali Buddhist texts of the Tripitaka. They were written by the monks on palmyra palm leaves and kept in various monasteries throughout the country.
The Ram Ker (Rama's fame) is the Cambodian version of the Ramayana, the famous Indian epic. The Ram Ker comes in rhymed verses and is staged in sections that are adapted to dance movements interpreted by local artists. The Ram Ker is the oldest form of Cambodian theatre.
Cambodia had a rich and varied traditional oral literature. There are many legends, tales and songs of very ancient origin that were not put into writing until the arrival of the Europeans. One of the most representative of these tales was the story of Vorvong and sorvong (Vorvong and Saurivong), a long story about two Khmer princes that was first put into writing by Auguste Pavie. This French civil servant claimed that he had obtained the story from old Uncle Nip in Somrontong District. This story was put into writing in Battambang. In 2006 the Vorvong and Sorvong story was enacted in dance form by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.
Tum Teav which has been compared to a local version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is a khmer famous literature,originally based on a poem written by a Khmer Monk named Sam.The story is took place during Lovek era, about tragic love story that has been told throughout Cambodia since at least the middle of the 19th century.The story has been portrayed in many forms including oral, historical, literary, theatre, and film adaptions.The story also have a role in Cambodia’s education in the 12th grade as a topic for Khmer language examination for several times. Although its first translation in French had been made by Etienne Aymonier already in 1880, Tum Teav was popularized abroad when writer George Chigas translated the 1915 literary version by the venerable Buddhist monk Preah Botumthera Som or Padumatthera Som, known also as Som, one of the best writers in the Khmer language.
The notable people especially in royalty caste which in attraction and talented in khmer literature known as King Ang Duong (1841-1860) and King Thommaracha II (1629-1634). King Thomaracha had reserved for Khmer young generation with a well loved poem and a educated poem while King Ang Duong famous for his novel called Kakey , an inspiration from Jataka tales about an unfaithful woman and a female law which now become a notable law, used to teach the young khmer girl in some notable famil today.
Nang sbek (shadow theatre) (or Lkhaon Nang Sbek) is closely related to the Nang Yai of Thailand, Wayang of Malaysia and Indonesia like the Islands of Java and Bali, thus implying that nang sbek may have came from an Indonesian or Malaysian origin from many centuries ago. Nang sbek is also a dying art form and may disappear because of the decline in popularity over the years with the introduction of modern entertainment. Before the spread of modern technology such as movies, videos and television the Khmers enjoyed and watch shadow theatre apart from the other sources of entertainment available around during that time. There are three kinds of shadow theatre in Cambodia:
Cinema in Cambodia began in the 1950s; King Norodom Sihanouk himself was an avid film enthusiast. Many films were being screened in theaters throughout the country by the 1960s, which are regarded as the "golden age". After a decline during the Khmer Rouge regime, competition from video and television has meant that the Cambodian film industry is relatively weak today.
Cambodia has increasingly become involved in sports over the last 30 years. Football is popular as are martial arts, including Bokator, Pradal Serey (Khmer kick boxing) and Khmer traditional wrestling.
Young Cambodian boxers