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Bayon: New Perspectives

By: Expat Advisory Posted: January-01-2006 in
Expat Advisory

It is more than 30 years since the story was last told of the Bayon, the enigmatic state temple of Jayavarman VII, the greatest king of ancient Angkor. Recently, researchers from several disciplines have again been probing the mysteries of this extraordinary monument and its giant face towers. Under an eminent editorial team, Bayon: New Perspectives brings together for the first time leading scholars whose findings and insights challenge, not always in consensus, many of the earlier interpretations of the Bayon's art, architecture and inscriptions.

Claude Jacques distils decades of research in a close-up of Jayavarman's life, family and immediate successors. T.S. Maxwell conducts the first in-depth study of the Bayon 'short inscriptions' and through them the unique Buddhist-Hindu-ancestral religion imposed by Jayavarman. Olivier Cunin draws on new technology and sophisticated techniques for precisely tracking the temple's bewildering architectural design changes. Peter Sharrock uncovers clear signs of the Tantric Buddhism of the ancient Khmers and proposes we see the Tantric supreme Buddha Vajrasattva in the renowned face towers. Anne-Valérie Schweyer discovers how the inscriptions of the neighbouring Chams, among whom Jayavarman spent his early adult life, throw new light on the king's psychology and life - which Vittorio Roveda carefully tracks in the detailed political reliefs of the Bayon's outer gallery. Ang Choulean then paints the living Bayon in its vivid local folklore - the great monument as it is seen by the people who live in the villages around it today.

These intense engagements to unravel the meaning of the temple draw a masterly new preface from Hiram Woodward, who pioneered the current wave of reinterpretations of the Bayon a quarter of a century ago. Michael Vickery's rigorous scholarly imprint, alongside the sustained energy and commitment of editor Joyce Clark permeate every page of this volume, as it yields a more contoured and credible story of the king's remarkable career. The religion and mythology of the new Khmer Buddhist state are rendered with a more subtle brush and a new vision emerges of the historical and political significance of the Bayon.

Hardcover, 416 pages, 242 photographs, 37 diagrams and 3 maps. $75.00

Published by River Books, available at Monument Books in Cambodia


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