April 3, 2014

0092, 0171, 0534, 1004, 1005, 1044 CAMBODIA (Siem Reap) - Angkor (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 06.01.2012, 14.04.2012, 02.03.2013, 16.02.2014 and 03.04.2014
Subjected to the Indian influences, passed through filters Thai or Lao, for more than 1,000 years, the Khmer have created firstly kingdoms of Funan and Chenla, to achieve peak during the Khmer Empire (centuries 9th-15th), of which greatest material legacy is Angkor, the site of the capital city during the empire's zenith. The spiritual legacy is Theravada Buddhism, introduced to the area through monks from Sri Lanka in the 13th century, considered for centuries an esential element of the khmer's ethnic and cultural identity. If about the early days of the empire we don't know too much, after the 13th century Angkor was visited by many travelers, starting with chinese Zhou Daguan and continuing with Portuguese and Spanish missionaries. The Khmer already constructed the most important architectural masterpieces in the area known as Angkor, the largest preindustrial city in the world, with more than one million inhabitants. .Angkor, located to the north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site from 1992.

The principal temple, Angkor Wat (in the first three postcards), was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II, as his personal temple mausoleum. It’s the world's largest religious building and it has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag. Very well preserved, it’s the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation - first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The most comprehensive presentation of the temple and the most easily accessible to a wide public seems to be that of The Monuments of the Angkor Group by Maurice Glaize, published in 1944 in Saigon. I will quote only a few short, but representative fragments, a "snack" if you like:

"Angkor may be visited in all seasons. However the most favourable period extends from November to March, during the first months of the dry season, when the temperature is particularly clement. […] It is preferable, particularly in the hot season, to leave early in the morning and to return before eleven o'clock, and not to revisit in the afternoon until three or four o'clock - the light at the end of the day being generally more favourable. The majority of the monuments - and in particular Angkor Wat - lose much in being viewed against the light. […] We would especially recommend the setting of the sun at Angkor Wat, where sometimes the spectacle will include the flight of the bats in the fading light, or from the top of Phnom Bakheng or Phnom Krom, or the terrace of the Srah Srang - or else from the beach of the baray, where the bathing is delightful. Finally, if you have the opportunity, do not miss, by the light of the full moon, the second level courtyard of Angkor Wat at the foot of the central tower, or the upper terrace of the Bayon."

"Constructed to the south of the capital (Angkor Thom), Angkor Wat is sited in the south-east corner of the ancient city of Angkor - Yasodharapura - built by Yasovarman I, centred on Phnom Bakheng and which stretched between the Siem Reap river to the east and the dike of the baray to the west. […] Isolated from the forest by its moats, Angkor Wat was, of all the monuments of the group, the best placed to escape the invasion of the jungle and hence ruin. Moreover, following the establishment of Buddhism of the small vehicle, it has always sheltered pagodas, as a place of pilgrimage for the Khmer, within its enclosure - though at one time partially masking the main façade these had to be re-sited in order not to detract from the overall perspective."


Another very interesting work that talks also about Angkor is Voyage dans les royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos et autres parties centrales de l'Indo-Chine (Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China, Cambodia and Laos During the Years 1858,1859, and 1860), by Henri Mouhot, published in 1863 in Paris. Mouhot is the one who popularized Angkor in the West, naming it "the work of the King of Angels."

In the fourth postcard are two Apsaras, females spirits of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology (also known as Vidhya Dhari or Tep Apsar in Khmer, which means "nymph" or "celestial maiden"). Beautiful, youthful and elegant, often the wives of the Gandharvas (the court musicians of Indra), Apsaras are superb in the art of dancing, seducing equally gods and men. As caretakers of fallen heroes, they may be compared to the valkyries of Norse mythology, and as ethereal beings often depicted taking flight, to angels, but sometimes are also compared to the muses of ancient Greece. Probably due to the association with water, they are able to change their shape at will. Apsaras represent an important motif in the stone bas-reliefs of the Angkorian temples, but not all female images are considered to be apsaras, the ones who have static attitude being called devatas. Angkor Wat features both apsaras and devatas, but the devatas are the most numerous. Khmer classical dance, the indigenous ballet-like performance art, is frequently called "Apsara Dance" and reflects one of the origin myths in Cambodia, depicting the union of Mera, a celestial dancer, and Kambu, a wise man.

Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon Temple (in the fifth postcard) stands at the centre of Jayavarman's capital, Angkor Thom, meaning the intersection of heaven and earth. Following Jayavarman's death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious preferences. Bayon is known for its huge stone faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, with one facing outward and keeping watch at each compass point. The curious smiling image, thought by many to be a portrait of Jayavarman himself, has been dubbed by some the "Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia." There are 51 smaller towers surrounding Bayon, each with four faces of its own. The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. I have to appeal again to the book The Monuments of the Angkor Group, comprehensive and accessible:


"Separated by less than a century, the Bayon is the antithesis of Angkor Wat. While this latter sits at ease in its successive enclosure walls, realising according to a spacious plan a vast architectural composition through the harmonious equilibrium of its towers and its galleries, the Bayon, enclosed within the rectangle of 140 metres by 160 that constitutes its third enclosure (the gallery of the bas-reliefs), gives the impression of being compressed within a frame which is too tight for it. Like a cathedral built on the site of a village church, its central mass is crammed into its second gallery, of 70 metres by 80, in a jumbled confusion of piled blocks."[…]

On this postcard can be seen also two Theravada monks who wear very similar robes in the style of early Buddhist monks' robes, saffron color. Theravada Buddhism is the religion of virtually all of the ethnic Khmer, who constitute about 90 percent or more of the Cambodian population. The robe symbolizes the vow that the monks have taken to live a simple life, but also their connection to the Buddha and their willingness to follow in his footsteps. The material and dyes for their robes are usually donated by the laity. As for their shaving heads, it symbolizes the renunciation of worldly things. It helps monks overcome vanity to embrace the simple life of a monk.

About the stamps
On the first postcard
The first stamp on the top belongs to a set of five with fish, issued on 2011 and consists of:
• Barbonymus scwanenfeldii (500 KHR) - it’s on this postcard
Hypsybarbus lagleri (1500 KHR)
Puntioplites falcifer (2800 KHR)
Osteochilus melanopleurus (3000 KHR)
Hampala macrolepidota (3500 KHR)

The second, the green one, is part of Historic Sites set, issued on 1998 and consists of:
• Prasat Suor Prat (300 KHR)
• Preah Kumlung (500 KHR)
• Prasat Bapuon (1200 KHR)
• Palilai (1500 KHR)
• Prasat Prerup (1700 KHR)
• Prasat Preah Khan (2000 KHR) - it’s on this postcard
• Prasat Bayon (3000 KHR)

The third, the red one, (300 KHR) is part of a series of 6 stamps issued in 2001 (hence the words in French) picturing different temples in the country, including the Thonmanom's one here.

On the second postcard
The stamp is part of a series of four dedicated to rice cultivation and issued in 2013.

On the third and on the sixth postcard
The stamp is part of a series of four, Khmer Culture III - Temples, issued in 2013.

On the fourth postcard
The first stamp depict Prasat Neak Pean and belongs of a series issued on 1999. The second is part of a series devoted to the Cambodian water lilies, issued on July 25, 2005. Actually all the five stamps show varieties of color of the same species, Nymphaea lotus L:
• lilac (100 KHR)
• white (500 KHR)
• blue (1200 KHR)
• yellow (2000 KHR)
• red (2500 KHR) - it's on this postcard

On the fifth postcard
The stamp is part of a series of two, issued on 2011, 20eme anniversaire du retour a la patrie de Sa Majeste le Roi-Pere et la Reine-Mere (20th anniversary of the return to the homeland of His Majesty the King-Father and Queen Mother).

Cambodia - Wikipedia
Angkor Wat - Wikipedia
Angkor Wat - The Monuments of the Angkor Group, by Maurice Glaize, 1944, Saigon
Cap XVIII - Voyage dans les royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos et autres parties centrales de l'Indo-Chine, by Henri Mouhot, 1863, Paris 
Apsara - Wikipedia
The Apsara Dance - Angkor Dance Troupe official website
Bayon - Wikipedia

sender 1: Zarah (direct swap)
1: sent from Phnom Penh (Cambodia), on 13.12.2011
sender 2, 3: Marius Vasiliu
2, 3: sent from Siem Reap (Cambodia), on 31.01.2014
photo: Chan Dara
sender 4, 5: Zarah (direct swap)
4: sent from Phnom Penh (Cambodia), on 27.12.2012
photo: Chan Dara
5: sent from Phnom Penh (Cambodia), on 02.04.2012
photo: Chan Dara
sender 6: Marius Vasiliu
6: sent from Battambang (Cambodia), on 09.02.2014
photo: Chan Dara


  1. Thank you for featuring the postcard here! I just want you to know that I love the postcards you sent me. Yes, the second one has already arrived and I shall be sending you another one. No worries, no obligations to send another one again :) I'm just a happy swapper :)

    Postcards Crossing