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Cambodia – Siem Reap – Day Tour – Baphuon Temple

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The Baphuon (Khmer: ប្រាសាទបាពួន) is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia. It is located in Angkor Thom, northwest of the Bayon. Built in the mid-11th century, it is a three-tiered temple mountain built as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is the archetype of the Baphuon style. The temple adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace and measures 120 m east-west by 100 m north-south at its base and stands 34 m tall without its tower, which would have made it roughly 50 m tall. Its appearance apparently impressed Temür Khan’s late 13th century envoy Chou Ta-kuan during his visit from 1296 to 1297, who said it was ‘the Tower of Bronze…a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base.’ In the late 15th century, the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple. A 9 meter tall by 70 meter long statue of a reclining Buddha was built on the west side’s second level, which probably required the demolition of the 8 meter tower above, thus explaining its current absence. The temple was built on land filled with sand, and due to its immense size the site was unstable throughout its history. Large portions had probably already collapsed by the time the Buddha was added.


By the 20th century, much of the temple had largely collapsed, and restoration efforts have since proven problematic: a first effort begun in 1960 was interrupted by the coming to power of the Khmer Rouge, and records of the positions of the stones were lost. A second attempt started in 1995 by a team of French-led archeologists as of 2005 was still ongoing, restricting visitor access. As of November 2010, partial visitor access was once again allowed, though not to the central structure.

In April 2011, after 51 years, the archaeologists finished the restoration of the temple. King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia and Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France were among those who first toured the renovated temple during the inauguration ceremony on July 3, 2011.


Baphuon Temple (c. 1060)


Baphuon was erected in the reign of Udayadityavarman II, who ruled from 1050-1066. It served as the state temple of Yasodharapura, the capital city of the Khmer empire in the 11th century.

Zhou Daguan, a Chinese ‘ambassador’ in the 13th century, speaks glowingly of the temple, describing it as a ‘copper tower’. This suggests that the entire temple may have once been sheathed in bronze plates.

As with Angkor Wat, the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 16th century. This involved the demolition of the outer galleries, causeway stones, and other structures to reuse the material for construction of an enormous reclining Buddha statue on the west side of the temple. The work was never completed, however, and the half-finished Buddha is only barely distinguishable.

As the Baphuon was built on unstable soil it has not proven as durable as other nearby temples. As early as the 1960s the EFEO (École française d’Extrême-Orient) decided to begin restoration of the temple using the anastylosis technique, which involved disassembly of large portions of the temple and reconstruction using the original stones and replacements as needed. However, this work had to be abandoned in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge came to power. By that time, the EFEO had completed the disassembly phase of the reconstruction. Over 300,000 stones were laid out in a 10 hectare area surrounding the temple. The EFEO maintained careful records of the original position of each of the stones, but the records were lost or destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period. In spite of this, archaeologists working from 1995-2002 were able to reassign the locations of most of the stones, and reconstruction was carried out from 2002-2011. The reopening of the temple took place on July 3, 2011.


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