INTRODUCTION OF CAMBODIA

Want to know about Cambodia, start here !   Cambodia's modern-day culture finds its roots in the 1st through 6th century in the state known as Funan- the oldest Indianite state in Southeast Asia. Cambodia's language evolved during this time period and owes its origin to the Mon-Khmer family, which contains elements of Sanskrit, the ancient religion of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Funan gave way to the Angkor Empire with the rise to power of King Jayavarman II in 802. The next 600 years saw powerful Khmer kings dominate much of present-day Southeast Asia from the borders of east Myanmar to the South China Sea and north to Laos

During this time period, the Khmer kings built the most extensive concentration of religious temples in the world - the Angkor temple complex. The complex covers 400 square kilometers in the province of Siem Reap. The area contains more that 100 temples. In this empire's time, the most successful of the Angkor's kings, Jayavarman II and Jayavarman I, Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, devised a masterpiece of ancient engineering: a sophisticated irrigation system.The system included barays (gigantic man-made lakes) and canals that produced as many as three rice crops a year. Part of this system is still in use today.

When the Angkor period ended, Cambodia's capital moved south to Longvek, then to Oudong, and eventually to the present-day capital of Phnom Penh. Among the other main features of the post-Angkorean era was a widespread conversion to Theravada Buddhism, illustrated on temple carvings.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Cambodia was self-sufficient and prospered in many areas. However, the  growing war in Vietnam spread relentlessly, and in 1970, as war spilled over into Cambodia, Prince Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lon Nol.

On  April 17 1975, Lon Nol's weakened government was overthrown by the Khmer Rouge. They immediately emptied the capital of its residents and brought Prince Sihanouk back to hold him under house arrest. The next four years were known as the "Reign of terror" as Pol Pot's democratic Kampuchea resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people. In 1979, the Khmer Rouge was overthrown and the Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea was established. In 1989, the Vietnamese withdrew the last of their troops and the government renamed the country 'State of Cambodia' or SOC for short. The SOC ruled independently until the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991 created the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC). In May 1993, supported by the presence of approximately 22,000 UN troops, UNTAC supervised general elections in Cambodia. A second general election was held in 1998. Today Cambodia has a parliamentary system with one prime minister. The constitution was adopted in 1993, the same year King Norodom Sihanouk returned to the throne.

Cambodia is a country roughly the size of Missouri (69,898 square miles, or 181,035 square km). The nation is located in Southeast Asia on the Indochinese peninsula. It is bordered on the northwest by Thailand on the Indochinese peninsula and on the southeast by Vietnam. The gulf of Thailand lies to the southwest.

The population of Cambodia is 13, 388,910(2008 census). The average yearly population growth is estimated at 1.8 percent, one of the highest rates in Asia. The population density is 79 persons (204 per sq mi), with the densest concentration on the heavily cultivated central plain. The mountain regions of the country, where malaria is widespread, are thinly populated as is the poorly watered Northern Province. During the late 1970s, under the rule of the Khmer rouge, Cambodia town became depopulated and its residents were forcibly relocated to rural areas. Reorganization began in the 1980s.

Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is situated at the junction of the Mekong and tonal sup river. Other major cities are Kampong Charm, Campout and Cambodia’s only deep –water port, Kampong Samoa, which is located on the gulf of Thailand.

Ethnic Cambodia, or Khmer, constitutes 90 percent of the overall population. Seimnomadic tribal groups are concentrated in the mountainous northeast and account for the remaining 4 percent of the population. Cambodia’s official language is Khmer, or Cambodia, which belongs to the Mon Khmer family of languages. French was formerly an important secondary language in the country, but English gained considerable ground in the 1990s. Other spoken languages include Vietnamese and a variety  of south Chinese dialects.

HISTORY

Cambodian’s modern day culture finds its roots in the 1st to 6th centuries in a state referred to as Fuinan. Fuinan was the oldest Indianized state in Southeast Asia.  Cambodia’s language arose during this time period; it contains remnants of Sanskrit, the ancient religion of Hinduism, later transforming to Buddhism, and other cultural traditions. 
The period known as Angkor followed Fuinan. During the Angkor Empire,  a succession of powerful Khmer kings dominated much of Southeast Asia for over 600 years from the 9th to 13th century. The period began with King Jayavraman II’s seizing of the throne in 802.

At its height the Angkor Empire extended from the border of modern-day eastern Burma to the South China Sea and north to Laos. The Khmer kings marshaled forces to build the most extensive concentration of temples in the world, the Angkor complex. Among the many successes of the Angkor kings (Jayavarman II, IndravarmanI, Suryavarman II, and JyavarmanVII) were the construction of large barays, or man-made lakes, and a sophisticated a system of irrigation canals and kikes, which allowed Cambodia to grow two-threee rice crops a year.

As the Angkor period ended, Cambodia’s Capital moved south to Lovek, then to Oudong, and finally to the present-day capital of Phnom Penh. Among the main features of the post-Angkorean era was a widespread conversion to Theravada Buddhism. The beginning of this conversion has been recorded in temple carvings where Buddhist features replaced Hindu carvings. 

The 15th to 17th centuries then represented a time of foreign influence as the expansionist Siamese and Vietnamese fought over the country.

By the middle of the 19th century, Cambodia, like other countries in Asia, was under increasing pressure form European colonial expansion. In 1863, Cambodia agreed to France's protection. King Norodom signed a protectorate Treaty, which would lead to 90 years of French domination over the Khmer people.

The Kingdom has two branches of royalty. When King Norodom died in 1940, the branches switched. The Norodom, the heir apparent, was replaced with a Sisowath. In 1941, the throne switched back to the Norodoms with the crowning of Cambodia’s current king (then prince) Norodom Sihanouk. He was 18 when he took the throne.

In 1945, the Japanese briefly ousted the French protectorate. Having witnessed this independence, King Sihanouk campaigned tirelessly and in 1953, he succeeded in gaining independence from France. King Sihanouk abdicated the throne to his father and took the reins of government as head of state.

Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, Cambodia became self-sufficient and prospered in many areas. However, the quagmire of the growing war in Vietnam spread relentlessly, and in 1970, as war spilled over into Cambodia, Prince Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lon Nol. On April 17, 1975, Lon Nol’s weakened government was pushed out by the Khmer Rouge. They immediately depleted the capital of its residents and brought Sihanouk back to the deserted capital to live under house arrest. The ensuing four-year reign of terror under Pol Pot resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million Khmers.

In 1979, the Khmer Rouge were overthrown by the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea. Throughout the 1980s, Cambodia began rebuilding while retaining Vietnamese military and political protection. In 1989, Vietnamwithdrew the last of its troops and the government renamed itself the State of Cambodia (SOC). SOC ruled independently until the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991 created the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC). Supported by 22,000 UN troops, UNTAC  supervised free elections in Cambodia in 1993. Free elections were held again in 1998.

Today Cambodia has a parliamentary system with a prime minister.  A new constitution was adopted and in 1993, King Norodom Sihanouk assumed the throne once again.  King Sihanouk remains a symbol of national unity to his people.

The Khmer or Angkor Civilization came into existence between 802 and 1431 A.D. and stretched as far as the modern Thailand-Buddha Border in the west to Wat Phou of Laos in the north.

Its emergence lies in the Khmer rulers adoption of the political doctrine of its time, which enforced unity among the people. Moreover, they developed an intelligent irrigation system to control the water of the great Mekong River for agricultural development, which enhanced its prosperity. The Khmer Civilization  perished over five centuries ago, but it left outstanding monuments such as the great Khmer temples of Angkor Wat and Bayon and numerous sculptures such as Apsara.

The ancient Khmers were great masters of stone carving. Today we can see evidencs of various Angkor temples lying on the vast plain of Siemreap and beyond its present-day border to the Preah Vihear at Dangrek Mountains, Phnomrung Phimai in Thailand and Wat Phu in Laos. They were created and carefully crafted by the ancient Khmers in successive centuries, but appear to contradict the normal and easy-going lifestyle of the local Khmer people and villagers of their time. One must then ask, what drive them to put forth such extraordinary efforts and time?

An in-depth study of Khmer civilization is not easy and nor pain-free for historians and archaeologists. Most of the writings, found after the excavation of Angkor, were carved in stones which became  imperishable materials against time. Although this evidence is an important tool for us to understand the basic constituency of Khmer society, they were mainly concerned with religions rituals, the king’s praise, and the literature of India of “Ramayans ” and “Mahabbarata.’ 

We can learn about the daily way of life of the ancient Khmers, not from the Khmer themselves, but from the Chinese annals. In the middle of the 13th century during Chineses Yuan Dynasty, a Chinese ambassador named Zhou Daguan traveled to Angkor, stayed with the local villages, and explored this empire for a year. He wrote in his Chinese chronicle about the amazing empire, and explains vividly how the people live in a clear portrayal of the Khmer society during those days. 

The center of the Khmer Civilization is the Angkor Wat area, which is situated on the plain of the present-day Siem Reap province north of the Great Lake of Tonle Sap. There were successive capitals built by different kings in the region, not far from each others; these capitals are located in the area of Angkor Wat and Roluos with different names such as Harihalara, yasondharpurak, Jayendanagari, Angkor Thom and a few unknown names. Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom ad several other Khmer temples are undoubtedly the relics of the past Khmer Civilization.


 

GEOGRAPHY

Cambodia, also known as Kampochea, is a country located in Southeast Asia that is bordered by Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Covering an area of about 181,035 sq km and total land boundaries is about 2,572km (Laos 541 km, Thailand 803 km, Vietnam 1,228 km) including Coastline about 443 km. Especially, she also contains the scarcity natural resources such as: oil and gas, timber, gemstones, some iron ore, manganese, phosphates, hydropower potential.   

Cambodia locates in tropical area, consists of two reasons which rainy, monsoon season from May to November and dry season from December to April. There are two monsoons which make up Cambodia's climate a cool, dry, north-eastern one that is rather dry and comes from November to March and a south-western one which brings with it heavy rain, high winds and high humidity from May to early October. December and January are considered the coolest months and fall in the dry monsoon season. Annually, Cambodia receives about 1,400 mm (55 in) and the temperature averages 27 degrees C (80 degrees F).

The tenth largest river in the world, the Mekong River, is the longest river in Southeast Asia and the most important river in Cambodia. Cambodia is also home to the largest lake in Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), which connects with the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. The Tonle Sap enlarges to four times its normal size when the Mekong rises during the monsoon season thus causing the Tonle Sap River to flow northward into the Lake. During the dry season it reverses its flow and goes back into the Mekong River. As a result of this, The Tonle Sap Lake is a great resource for freshwater fish, actually being one of the richest sources in the world.


 

CULTURE

To know good culture, coming to Cambodia  
 
1.Material Culture
1.1 Art and Architecture
Legendary tales of dings and princes, wars, conquest, and unions with gods and goddesses are all portrayed in the spectacular frenzies, relief, and stone carvings for which Cambodia is renowned. The wide variety of styles and influences, both sacred and secular, that are expressed in Cambodian art make this one of the most surprising and rewarding of all Southeast Asian cultures.

Our understanding of the Khmers, whose kingdom dates back to the beginning of the first millennium, is drawn from written Chinese records, myths recorded in Sanskrit, and evidence revealed by research and exploration that continues to the present day. The profound and lasting influence of India on Khmer culture is evident in Cambodia’s religious architecture, principally Hindu and Buddhist temples; each faith is reflected in a work of remarkable vigor and exceptional grace and beauty.

2. Social Culture  
2.1. Kinship
Most Khmer genealogies extend back only two or three generations, which contrasts with the veneration of ancestors by the Vietnamese and the Chinese. Some noble and royal families can trace their descent for several generations.

The husband is responsible for providing shelter and food for his family; the wife is usually in charge of the family budget and she serves as the major ethical and religious model for the children, especially the daughters. In rural areas, the male is mainly responsible for such activities as plowing and harrowing the rice paddies, threshing rice, collecting sugar palm juice, caring for cattle, carpentry, and buying and selling cows and chickens. Women are mainly responsible for pulling and transplanting rice seedlings, harvesting and winnowing rice, tending gardens, making sugar, weaving, and caring for the household money. Both men and women may work at preparing the rice paddies for planting, tending the paddies, and buying and selling land.

2.2. Family

Within the family unit are the strongest emotional ties, the assurance of aid in the events of trouble, economic cooperation in labor, sharing of produce and incomes and contribution as a unit to ceremonial obligations. A larger grouping is the personal kindred that may include a nuclear family with children, grandchildren, grandparents, uncles, aunts, first cousins, nephews, and nieces.
The individual Khmer is surrounded by a small inner circle of family and friends who constitute his or her closest associates--those he or she would approach first for help. In rural communities, neighbors who are often also kin and other more distant relatives and casual friends may play important roles in house-building. In rural Cambodia, the strongest ties a Khmer may develop besides those of the nuclear family are to close friends and other members of the local community. A strong feeling of pride for the village, for the district, and province usually characterizes Cambodian community life.

2.3. Marriage
Arranged Marriage
Arranged marriage has been the tradition in Cambodia for centuries and remains the norm practiced for Cambodians both at home and overseas. Marriage is a very important institution for Cambodians. The courtship practices and the marriage ceremony are very different from those practiced in Western culture.

Traditionally, marriages were always arranged without the knowledge or consent of the individuals to be married. Forced marriage was common. Many families arranged marriages while the betrothed individuals were still very young; friends made promises to each other that their children would marry. Today, marriage is still arranged, but individuals often are consulted about the choice of their spouse and rejecting the parents' arrangement is tolerated.  Arranged marriage has survived because of tradition.Traditional Cambodian culture also pressures parents to choose and arrange marriages for the child so that their family's pride and honor are retained. Children also have obligations toward their parents to do their utmost to maintain their parents' honor. In the old days, the marriage was an arduous and lengthy affair. It could take months to prepare for the marriage. Courtship involved many rituals to be followed and wedding ceremonies lasted three days. Today, because of the demands of modern living and the influence of other cultures, marriage is much simpler and less time consuming. Courtship and wedding ceremonies can be conducted in one day.
 
2.4. Gender Roles

The traditional role of Khmer women goes back to the Angkor era (802 - 1431 A.D.), when the "Apsara" or “goddess” was accepted as the embodiment of a virtuous, ideal woman and described in proverbs, folktales and novels as the example of how women should behave. 
Loyalty, Divorce, Polygamy
In times past, although Cambodian marriages were arranged, married life was good and love gradually grew between the couple after they married. Spousal loyalty was strong; it is a religious duty for husbands and wives to be loyal to one another. Divorce was low. Domestic violence was rare; usually the couple lived with parents and a large extended family that provided strong family support. A couple could turn to family in case of any marital problems, and family would often keep an eye on the couple. Thirty years of destructive wars and extreme violence took its toll on families and traditional behavior. Today, loyalty between husbands and wives is much looser. Economic hardship compounds the problem as many men leave the villages to look for work.Wars and the indiscriminate killing of men during the Khmer Rouge reign created a population imbalance between men and women. Social, financial and emotional pressures force widows as well as single women and girls to accept partners, even married ones.

3.Ideological Culture
3.1. Domestic Life
The dwelling of a Khmer peasant is made of wood or straw and is built on piles. Inside, it consists of one large central room, which is used as a living room, for receiving guests, and for eating and sleeping. Outside, a small veranda houses a stove and primitive cooking range. The furniture is very meager: often there is no cupboard and clothes are hung on the partitions. 

Rural dwellings have no doors inside, so do not be surprised if they leave doors open in Phnom Penh. Meals are taken on a mat, but everyone eats whenever he is hungry, especially the children. The Khmers sleep either on a mat spread out on the floor or on a wooden bed, usually without a mattress. In Cambodia, all the children slept side by side. Each day, even several times a day, the Khmer took a shower, a habit that was necessary because of the climate. Traditional family medicine comprises diagnosis and appropriate remedies. When a person feels unwell, a "wind" is said to have entered his body. To make it leave, the "wind" is "scratched" by rubbing the body with a coin, after smearing a little oil on the skin. This has the same effect as a repulsive or a cupping glass, but is more painful.

3.2. Making a Living
Previously, Cambodia was a land of plenty. Never, under normal conditions, did the people suffer famine. Their needs were limited, as the sun made up for a good deal. The main requirement was food: "to work" was "to seek food". Once this need had been met, there was no reason to go on tiring oneself unnecessarily. Workers were not annoyed to see people living without working: they were the lucky ones. One member of a family could, by his labor, feed the entire family. The peasant worked hard to till, plant out and harvest, and would then take a rest. The prestige conferred by knowledge made it difficult for a person who had studied to turn his hand to manual work again.
 

CUSTOM

DO
Respect Cambodian elders (they are older than and had more experiences in life than most).  Cambodians holding hands is considered friendship and not gays. 
When you walk between two Cambodians talking, bow a little as you across them (it is really rude to walk straight through them without bowing a little). 
Always greet your guest by a drink or place fruit or snacks for them if they are coming over to your home. 
When you are the bride and groom, at your wedding both families greet and welcome their friends and everyone. 
When you are engaged or married, sit bending your knees on the side and look down and not straight at your family in law (the parents) because it is respectful to do so. 
When you sit, women must sit knees bent and legs to the side. 
When you get into Temple you have to take off your hat, drive bicycle or motorcycle slowly. 
you have to take take off your shoes befor getting into Preah Vihea or get up/get into monk's Kuthi. 
You have to sompeah when you speak or listen to the monks. 
You have to reply to monks by using the word "kyom konaa" or "konaa 
You have to call monks "Preah Dekjakun" or "Dekjakun" 
You have to dress to cover most of your body when you go to a temple. Do not use much lipstick, much powder or most jewelry. 
If you are young, you have to be brave to speak with monks, because monks are not always self-centered with you and they will try to teach you how to speak and act politely. 
When you are sitting in front of monks or elders you have to sit bending you knees (bot jerng). Do not sit on places which are higher than them. 
When you come across a monk by the way, you have to take off your hat. Remove hats and shoes before entering home and holy places. 
Avoid public displays of affection: Cambodia society is conservative and traditional
Ask permission before taking photos, especially of ethnic minorities and religious sites
Try local specialities. 
Visit rural Cambodia and the local markets for a flavor of Khmer daily life.  
 

 

DON'T
Don't rub or touch a Cambodian's head. It is consider the most important part of the body.
Don't use your feet to point at someone.
Don't walk over a person's feet. 
Don't start to eat when you are a guest at the dinner table before your host has taken a bite. 
Don't burp while eating. 
Don't pick your teeth while eating. 
Don't touch people's heads.  The head is considered the holiest part of the body. 
Don't point or gesture with your feet or rest them on furniture.  Feet are considered the lowest and most unclean part of the body. 
Don't touch monks if you are female.  Any physical contact with the opposite sex is forbidden for ordained monks. 
Don't use expletives, shout or lose your temper.  No one will listen to an angry person. 
Don't remove stones from historical sites, no matter how small or undecorated. 

Don't consume illegal narcotics or use prostitutes.  both are illegal in Cambodia.

 

ART

The art shows us the lifestyle of Khmer people.  
 
1.1 Khmer Music
There are two kinds of traditional music: one is the Pin Peath with stringed and percussion instruments and the other the Mohory with only stringed instruments. The different instruments are: Pin Peath is a group of instruments which have Roneath (xylophone in metal or bamboo), Kong (percussion instrument surrounding the player), a pear of Skor Thom (a very big drum, which has two faces, for making the rhythm), Sampho (a big drum, which has two faces, for making the rhythm), Sro Lai (a big recorder),Chhoeng (percussion instrument hitting each other for making rhythm). This kind of music is used to accompany dances, praying to God or spirit and other ceremonies. Mohory is a group of instruments, which have Khoem (with 35 horizontal strings instrument), Ta Khe (with 3 horizontal strings instrument), Tro (with vertical strings instrument), Skor Dai (a small drum for making rhythm), Khloy (recorder) and Chhoeng. This kind of music is used to accompany dance, theatre, wedding and other ceremonies. There are 4 to 6 % of children attend these courses and they start learning all the traditional Khmer instruments, and choose one they prefer to form the group.

1.2 Thaun-Rumanea (Drum)
Thaun, a goblet drum, is similar to the skor arakk, except it has a shallower head and a slimmer body. The body is made of clay or wood. Its head or membrane made of calfskin, goatskin, or snakeskin, is laced to the body by means of leather thongs, rattan strips, or nylon. It is used as part of a two-piece drum set in the mohori ensemble. In performance, the player places it on his right lap and strikes it softly with his bare fingers and hand. The thaun carries alternate patterns to go along with those patterns played on the rumanea.

1.3 Khmer Dance
Classical Dance of Cambodia The epic poem of Rama (Ramayana) is believed to have been revealed to a Hindu holy man named Valmiki by Brahma, the god of creation. This religious literary work, dating from about ad 4, is known in various versions throughout India and Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, the story has been set to music and dance and performed by the Royal Ballet since the 18th century. Although the epic is also known in the villages, where it is translated orally or dramatized in the popular shadow puppet theater, the ballet was traditionally a courtly art performed in the palace or for princely festivals. The music of the ballet is performed by the Pinpeat orchestra, which is made up of traditional xylophones, met allophones, horizontal gongs, drums, and cymbals. Khmer classical dance derived from Indian court dance, which traces its origins to the apsarases of Hindu mythology, heavenly female nymphs who were born to dance for the gods. The traditions of Thailand and Java (in Indonesia) also influenced the music and dance of Cambodia. In classical Cambodian dance, women, dressed in brightly colored costumes with elaborate headdresses, perform slow, graceful movements accompanied by a percussive ensemble known as the pin peat. Pin peat orchestras include drums, gongs, and bamboo xylophones. In Cambodia's villages, plays performed by actors wearing masks are popular. Shadow plays performed using black leather puppets that enact scenes from the Reamkern, are also enjoyed. Folk dancing is popular in rural Cambodia and is performed spontaneously to a drumbeat.

1.4 Apsara Dance
At the heart of classical form is the Apsara, the joyful, almost wanton dancer whose images are everywhere. Princess Bopha Tevi, is a master of Apsara dancing, which dates to the 1st century. The graceful movements of the Apsara dancers, adorned with gold headdresses and silken tunics and skirts, are carved on the walls of many of the temples at Angkor. Estimates are that there were 3,000 Apsara dancers in the 12th century court of King Jayavarman VII. Over the centuries Khmer dancing lent its influence to the classical ballet of neighboring countries, and some of its postures and movements are similar to other Southeast Asian dance forms. But according to Princess Bopha Tevi, "The Khmer kingdom started its traditions in the 8th century, 500 years before Thailand." In 1400, with the sacking of the Angkor Empire, the Apsara dancers were seized and taken to Thailand. Apsara dancing is one of two elements of classical ballet, the other being "today" dancing, and the depiction of early myths. Many of the dances involve performing a fragment of the Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic that is one and a half times as long as the Odyssey. Others are based on the legendary battles and mythical sagas carved in bas relief on the walls of the temples of Angkor-including the Churning of the Sea of Milk, the great battle between gods and demons for the holy liquid that gives immortality. There are 100 dances and dramas.

1.5 Drama
Drama is a kind of Khmer story that always inflect about the society, poor, joke, ghost, love, crime thriller, that are mainly sentimental to make enjoy at the ceremonies by Pagoda. The original of this story come from China.

1.6 Sculpture
Most Khmer sculptures were most likely made in what we know today as Cambodia and most of those pieces represented either Buddhist or Hindu philosophies. As early as the 10th Century in Cambodia, we see the style of the Buddha image changing from the classic Buddha images of India. The Buddha image’s faces were flatter than those in India, representing the flatter features of the Cambodian people.


1.7 Textiles
Textile is one of Khmer traditional sewing which produce long last clothes called “ Hool and Pamoung”; it is Khmer tradition costume to be polite way to join any occasion such as wedding ceremony, Bonn Dak Ben and Bonn Pchum Ben.

1.8 Storytelling
Storytelling was an important way of passing on knowledge and beliefs from one generation to the next. Often the stories took the form of myths which explained mysteries of nature, such as the origins of thunder. Ancient peoples told stories about gods and goddesses, and about human heroes with special powers.  

1.9 Cambodian literature
From the earliest times in Cambodia, epic poems and folk tales were transmitted orally; spontaneous literature of this type may still be found today amongst certain ethnic minority communities of the north and north east of the country. The earliest written works took the form of Sanskrit verses inscribed on palm leaf manuscripts during the Angkorian era (9th-13th centuries). By the 11th century Buddhist treatises and jataka were being produced on a regular basis. The oldest work written in Khmer is the Reamker, the Cambodian version of the ancient Ramayana epic, which appears on bas-reliefs and frescos at temples and pagodas throughout the country. For centuries it has provided the raw material for many traditional performance genres and it is taught in high schools to this day. The earliest extant versions of the Reamker date from the 16th to the 18th centuries, though these are believed to originate from manuscripts of the early Angkorian era. From the 17th century onwards poems known as chbap (‘codes of conduct’) were written by Buddhist monks to teach novices about morality. These poems, written in the precise meter demanded of Khmer poetry with colorful compounds and complex rhyme patterns, subsequently became set texts in wat schools. The same period also witnessed the appearance of satra lbaeng (‘works for pleasure’), lengthy verse-novels which recounted the ancient jataka stories. Some of these works, written on palm-leaf manuscripts, were cleaned and microfilmed with aid funding for the National Library in the early 1990s. Many popular folktales were not formally recorded, but are well-remembered and re-told; these include stories with a moral, animal tales such as those about Judge Rabbit, traditional riddles and sayings.  

1.10 Cambodian literature in the French colonial era
Cambodian literature based on the contemporary world, though still inspired by classical themes, began to emerge in the mid-19th century. However, not until 1908 - with the publication of Pantan Ta Mas (‘The Recommendations of Grandfather Mas’) - did the Khmer script appear in print. Opposition from monks to mass production of Cambodian texts – thought to be a desecration of the written word, with its magico-religious powers – meant that Cambodian writing was slow to appear in its own country, and was first published in other French colonial centre before Phnom Penh. Literature was not considered an art form until the 1930s and 1940s, when short stories, plays and novels began to appear, most of them published on the pages of magazines. Around this time the Khmer term for literature, aksar sastr, began to come into use. Modern Cambodian novels of this period included Rim Kin’s Sophat (‘Name of the Hero’), which in 1938 was turned into a popular modern theatre play, and Kim Hak’s Tek Tonle Sap (‘The Waters of Tonle Sap’), published in serial form in Khmer and French in Kambuja Surya Magazine, the Journal of the Buddhist Institute. This organization, initially called the Royal Library of Cambodia, was created by the École Française dextrose-orient (EFEO), and French academics were much involved in the choice of published material and in Khmer language scholarship in general. Other leading novelists of this pre-war period included Nhok Those, Mith Sokhon and Nou Hach, whose works still remain popular today.  

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