KHMER DANCE AFTER ANGKOR

In the popular imagination of today, of both Khmers and Thais alike, Angkor was completely razed in 1431 and the entire court, which included dancers, musicians, priests, and administrators, was carried off to the city of Ayutthaya.  Many people believe it is at this moment that Thailand receives Khmer influence, which then gave rise to the newly formed nation’s art and music, language and literature, religion and court ceremony, and of course, dance.  The cultural transmission that occurred as a result of this event is very real of course—texts, songs, dances, and people were indeed taken to Ayutthaya.  But the monolithic fall of Angkor and Cambodia is not.  Breaking this romantic historicalization is but one of the ways that I can, and will, establish a bridge between Khmer dance today and its ancient roots.

First off, by some accounts, Angkor actually fell into Ayutthayan suzerainty in 1351.  And, for almost a century after, the city continued to remain a prosperous economic and cultural center in the region.  That said, shifts in political centers were already starting to take place, ones that reflected a preference for the riverine areas of Ayutthaya and Phnom Penh as they were more conducive to trade with China.[128]  This shift is evidenced by a branch of Ayutthayan royalty who set themselves up in Phnom Penh in 1409.[129]  As this transition “was accompanied by so few supposedly Angkorean activities (such as stone temple construction, grandiose inscriptions, and expanded irrigation works), authors have often spoken of decline [in Cambodia] where change and transformation would be more appropriate terms.”[130]

Secondly, and very importantly, we must not look at the kingdoms of Angkor and Ayutthaya in the way that we understand our countries today.  Nations in mainland Southeast Asia have been described as mandala kingdoms, with the king’s power radiating from the center of his capital.[131]  His authority was strongest close to the center and weaker as it got further away.  As a result, some people and regions were subject to multiple kings and their customs at once.  Thus, there were no clean borders at this time, or not in the way that we tie a homogenous ethnicity or race to them today.  The reality in point is that people were politically and culturally bound by geographic proximity more than ethnicity.  A modern example of this scenario are the Japanese American soldiers who fought against imperial Japanese forces in World War II, even when their families and community members were unjustly displaced into internment camps in the United States.

A case in point, to this day, Thai scholars dispute the ethnicity of King U Thong, the founder of Ayutthaya.  Some believe he is Chinese in descent while others believe that he was a prince of Lavodayapura (also known as Lavo or Lopburi).[132]  In other words, he may have been Khmer.  What is for sure though, as Thai linguist Wilaiwan Khanittanan has argued, is that he was educated in the Khmer fashion at Lavodayapura, bilingual in both Khmer and Thai, married a Khmer princess of Lavo, and “seemed to have wanted to make Ayutthaya the center of the empire, replacing Angkor Thom, the Khmer center.”[133]  This statement suggests a sense of historical and cultural continuity to the Khmer legacy in the king’s perception, one not out of line with the way he adopted Khmer styles of kingship, including hierarchical reachasap (Thai: ratchasap, royal language), ceremonies, art forms, and culture.[134] 

Wilaiwan notes that Ayutthayan society, since its beginnings—as an outpost of the Khmer city of Lavo, and then as its own capital—was a multicultural society with villages for the many diverse ethnic minorities such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Mon, Arabs, and more.  Khmers, although always mentioned with these ethnic groups, were never mentioned to live in Khmer villages because “Thais and Khmers of Ayutthaya must have been living side by side . . . because the Thais could speak their language at the time.”[135]

 

Wilaiwan notes that there are “more than 2,500 Khmer-derived words in Thai” as a result[136]—more than those of Tai origin itself—of which words like phleng (music), chamreang (song), len (play), rabam (dance), rabeng (game), and praleng (dance overture) point to Khmer artistic traditions and performance conventions that were adopted.[137]  Names for musical instruments such as khluytro, ranat, pichhab, and chhing help indicate some of the Khmer instruments adopted, while words like phlom (blow), dom (hit), changwak (rhythm) and chaleang (sing) indicate the adoption of performance techniques.[138]  Beyond this, all Sanskrit and Prakrit words make it into the Thai vocabulary by way of Khmer, as well as words dealing with function (to be, if, can, or, by, because), emotional expressions, names of plants and animals, and more.  All of this, along with changes in pronunciation, word structure, grammar, and syntax of the Thai language, have led Wilaiwan to posit the notion of a “Khmero-Thai” language.[139] 

 

What I infer then is that Ayutthaya was a Khmero-Thai society and culture as well.  The basis for this is evident before the emergence of a Thai nation state as “every account of Thai cultural and artistic history finds room for a ‘Khmer period’, reflecting the extension of Angkor’s presence to the west, in the tenth and eleventh centuries.  Eventually there were groups of Khmers not only in the north-east of Thailand but in the Chao Phraya valley [where Ayutthaya was centered].”[140]  Supporting this, Chandler notes how Michael Vickery has illustrated that there later “came to be a mixed Mon-Khmer-Thai aristocracy, which provided some of the rulers on both sides; such a one was Baña Yat [Khmer: Ponhea Yat], who led Khmer forces against the power of Ayudhya in the fifteenth century. ‘The conquest of Angkor was not so much an international war as a conflict of rival dynasties for control of mutual borderland.’”[141]  David Chandler states further of this history:

“Phnom Penh (and other capitals nearby) and Ayudhya . . . were newly established trading kingdoms, respectful but perhaps a little wary of the idea of Angkor.  By the 1400s, Ayudhya and these Cambodian cities looked to each other rather than to a brahmanical past for exemplary behavior.  Until the end of the sixteenth century, moreover, Phnom Penh (or Lovek or Udong) and Ayudhya considered themselves not separate polities but participants in a hybrid culture.  The mixture contained elements of Hinduized kingship, traceable to Angkor, and Theravada monarchic accessibility, traceable to the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati perhaps, which had practiced Theravada Buddhism for almost a thousand years, as well as remnants of paternalistic, village-oriented leadership traceable to the ethnic forerunners of the Thai, the tribal peoples hailing originally from the mountains of southern China.  Throughout the fourteenth century and much of the fifteenth, the official language common to both kingdoms was probably Khmer . . . Brought into contact with each other through wars, immigration, and a shared religion, the newly established Thai and Khmer kingdoms blended with each other and developed differently from their separate forebears . . . The Thai would have learned from the Khmer, and vice versa, to a large extent via defectors and prisoners of war.”[142]

The Khmers who were taken to Ayutthaya in 1431 then were not entering a foreign land but rather a place where their language, religion, traditions, and administrative systems were already valued, in place, and further adopted.  Even more, they would have been met by fellow Khmers in all strata of society—from the royal family to nobility to traders to the most common of commoners to slaves.  The dancers who were brought to Ayutthaya, along with those who were already in residence due to the city’s relationship with the city of Lavo, would have performed works that were undoubtedly Khmer in origin and approach as these were the foundational values of Ayutthaya.

Interestingly, there is a 1688 account of dance at the court of Ayutthaya by Simon de la Loubere that can help us establish those linkages:

“The Rabam is a double Dance of Men and Women, which is not Martial but Gallant . . . These Dancers, both Men and Women, have all false Nails, and very long ones of Copper: they sing some words in their dancing, and they can perform it without much trying themselves, because their way of dancing is a simple march around, very slow, and without any high motion; but with a great many slow Contortions of the Body and Arms, so they hold not one another.  Meanwhile two Men entertain the Spectators with several Fooleries, which the one utters in the name of all the Men-dancers, and the other in the name of all the Women-dancers.  All these Actors have nothing singular in their habits . . . The Cone and the Rabam are always call’d at Funerals, and sometimes other occasions; and ‘tis probable that these Shows contain nothing Religious, since the Talapoins [Buddhist priests] are prohibited to be present thereat.”[143]

Cravath has noted that Coedes interprets these “Men-dancers” as “female dancers costumed as men.”[144]  He then adds further:

“In seventeenth and eighteenth century Thailand the term robam referred to a genre of dance derived from the ritual dance[s] executed by the rmam, or dancers of Angkor, and Coedes believed that the robam—performed in the palace exclusively by women playing the roles of both gods and goddesses—was originally ‘a spectacle of pure dance given on the occasion of royal ceremonies,’ particularly ‘those ceremonies designed to hasten the coming of the rainy season.’”[145]

The royal ceremonies indicated by George Coedes may very well be the “other occasions” mentioned by la Loubere.  But I would like to offer my insight as a practitioner to further demonstrate the connections of this type of performance with that of dance performed at Angkor.

First off, this “Double Dance of Men and Women”—“gallant” and “very slow” with “a great many slow Contortions of the Body and Arms” and “nothing singular in [the dancers’] habits”—conjures the unison and harmony of Robam Tamng Buon.  The playful interaction between masculine and feminine contingents, at the core of the tantric Robam Tamng Buon, is made evident in the account by “two Men” who entertain “the Spectators with Several Fooleries” and “utter in the name of all” the male and female characters.  Without question, these men were clowns.  Their responsibilities were to contextualize the performance for the audience, a role that can still be seen in the shadow puppet theater of Cambodia and Indonesia even today.  Often of mundane and folk stock, these comic characters served to translate the royal language, culture, and drama for an audience of lay people.  This is significant as Saveros Pou has noted the offering of puppeteers in temple inscriptions during the time of Angkor.[146]  And, during that time, inscriptions indicate that clowns—sometimes noted in the Sanskrit term bhanta[147]—were offered alongside dancers as well.[148]

 

La Loubere then notes the dance genre’s performance at funerals.  This association of the dancer with funerals has existed long before Angkor and continues into our present day in Cambodia, with the prior mentioned funerary drums, images of dancing yogini, Reamker performances during the funerals of “eminent abbots,”[149] and dancers accompanying the funeral urns of kings and performing at their funerals in our modern era.  Ironically, and very importantly, it is la Loubere’s mistaking of the dance form as secular that reveals its true religious nature.  He mentions that there were no Buddhist monks present, but whom he was referring to were the monks of the Theravada Buddhism that came into vogue throughout Cambodia and Thailand around the thirteenth century.

 

Robam, as developed in Cambodia, even with its Hindu and tantric Buddhist overlays, was largely animated by ancestor worship and animism.  The dancers themselves were seen as efficacious mediums between the gods of heaven, spirits of the deceased, and our human world; they were also associated with possession.  Today, the only priest of any sort during dance ritual is known alternatively as an achar, tep robam, or hmathav, who is responsible for calling forth the spirits of teachers no longer living, those of the characters of the dance, and that of the gods.  He initiates each rite of the ceremony before an altar of crowns and masks that does not feature images of the Buddha.  Therefore, it is the older cultural and spiritual legacy of these performances, and the conventions of celibacy prescribed to monks of Theravada Buddhism that best explain the absence of monks who were “prohibited” to be near dancing women.

With all of this in mind, la Loubere’s account reveals an art form unquestioningly derivative of Khmer dance and performance, one with the latter’s movement quality, character types, dramatic devices, performance culture, and spiritual roots still visible more than 200 years after the fall of Angkor.  This is not surprising given the reverence of which Khmer art and culture was given during that time, of which the Khmer-style palace and Wat Chaiwattanaram built by King Prasat Thong (1630 -1656) are examples.[150]  Of course there were Khmer, Khmero-Thai, and Thai innovations that took place in Ayutthaya, something mirrored in the fact that, whether they were of Thai, Khmer, or other heritage, the people of Ayutthaya, in their latter days, came to only speak the precursor to the modern Thai language.  Whatever the case, aesthetic, linguistic, religious, and historical evidence makes clear how Thai court dance branched from the Khmer artistic legacy, of which some Thai practitioners and people continue to look to today even.  This said however, the tree and roots from which Thai dance grew did not die as the latter took life.

•••••

It is said that the victors of war write history, and the story of Khmer dance after the 1431 sacking of Angkor will make us more aware of this fact.  Furthermore, it will make us question the limitations of academic methodologies which—developed in our post-printing press age, in a time when the written word is deemed more credible than its oral counterpart—can serve to delete cultures and practices that are ephemeral, embodied, and passed on orally.  Khmer scholars have noted that the court chronicles “give virtually no clue as to the form, content, or importance of music and dancing at the court of post-Angkorean Khmer kings.”[151]  And Boreth Ly has said, “The scarcity of written sources makes it very difficult to establish a historical link between ancient and contemporary dance.”[152]  Allowing ourselves the use of logic, Khmer oral accounts, and the evidence available to us however, it is only clear that Khmer classical dance has been continually practiced in Cambodia since its inception.

There are little extant written records that describe dance from the fifteenth to eighteenth century.  This then, along with the popular, romantic, and emotional imaginings of Angkor’s downfall, have led many to believe and perpetuate that the tradition was carried off in its entirety to Ayutthaya.  But the lack of writing is not conclusive evidence for this claim.  Paul Cravath has noted that “[a]s  precedent, we should note that Zhou Daguan in the thirteenth century never mentioned court or temple dancers either, although we know from other sources that there were hundreds.”[153]

Taking a step back to Angkor before its sacking, Jayavarmann VII was known to have offered more than 1,615 dancers total to the temples of Preah Khan and Ta Prohm alone, this alongside 1,622 more that were installed at other temples, and not counting those already in residence at the palace and those patronized amongst the elite in homes and possibly schools before they were offered as acts of devotion.[154]  The aesthetic characteristics of Khmer dance as we know it today have even been depicted in carvings of daily life at Angkor Wat and the Bayon as well.  Therefore, as mentioned before, dance in Angkor would not have been just a court or noble tradition.  Rather, it was a philosophy given shape and movement that permeated and animated all levels of Khmer society.

B.P. Groslier makes this fact clear:

“The inscriptions [during the Angkor period] allow for no doubt on this matter: the dance and music . . . were an integral part of the Brahmanic and Buddhist ritual observances both at the Royal mountain-temples, and in most provincial fanes . . . [I]nstruction in these arts formed part of an upper-class education, while even humble slaves acquired proficiency in these artistic pursuits.”[155]

Detail of procession of King Suryavarmann II at Angkor Wat.  Notice how the dancers on the left have been caught mid-gesture, with the upper hand releasing a chib into a lea and the lower hand turning a lea into a chib.  This is still done by dancers today.  Photo: Prumsodun Ok.

The image of Ayutthayan forces successfully rounding up every one of these dancers and artists seems especially unlikely then.  As opposed to the ethnocide in the popular imagination—King U Thong merely wanted to shift the center of the empire; more than some Ayutthayans were Khmer; war as a practice was not for land but for human labor[156]—it seems even more unlikely that Khmer classical dance was completely uprooted from the people that gave it life.  With this in mind, it is important to note Chheng Phon’s statement that “when Angkor was captured, some dancers went to Ayutthaya and some came to the new Cambodian capital with the king.”[157]

These people carried with them an intact cultural heritage with its unique customs, values, and traditions.  As an example, between 1585 and 1588, Diogo do Conto witnessed a harvest festival in which “numerous boats go about the lake gathering the rice with merry energy, dances and musical contests.”[158]  The image of Cambodia as a society without art and culture becomes even harder to imagine then, especially since these things, much like dance, were deeply tied to the ways the people observed, understood, and constructed the world around them.  Through Diogo’s account we see that the arts, connected to harvest like robam was connected to rain and the rainy season itself, was integrally tied to the livelihood of the people and their rhythm of life.

 

Thus, it cannot be hard to believe Samdach Chavea Chhuon, the leading expert on Khmer dance in the 1930s, when he says:

“There always existed a more or less significant troupe of female and male dancers at the court of the various kings.  Furthermore, the worshippers in certain monasteries where manuscripts of the Ramayana were preserved formed troupes of male dancers from among the monks’ students to amuse themselves and the children, and the choreographic tradition had been preserved in part by this method.”[159]

This claim, a prime example of oral history that can be deemed as not credible, is supported by a French observer who wrote in 1910:

“In the large monasteries . . . troupes not only of women but of young boys dressed as women, or men with the costumes that we see on female dancers today [khaol], never ceased presenting the most easily performable plays and dancing the steps and mimes of the past.”[160]

But let us look at more examples from the period we speak.

According to Paul Cravath, Saveros Pou has “isolated a version of the [Reamker] evolved by a number of talented poets during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.”[161]  Through a linguistic analysis of the work, she notes that the poets had re-worked the traditional Indian epic into one that was Buddhist in character.  She writes, for example, that:

 

“Surely, after the introduction of Ramayana to Cambodia (the fifth century), many characters could have been reshaped by the ancient Khmers through the sheer process of natural adjustment.  Later on, Theravada introduced to Khmer people, and taught them, a new system of moral values that brought about many changes in society, in attitudes, and in behavior.  Therefore it was bound to remodel Ram and the other characters, too, along the lines of Buddhist tenets, at least as they were understood by the Khmer folk . . . The main protagonist in the epic, the royal prince of Ayodhya, was made to resemble Prince Siddharta.  He was explicitly called a ‘bodhisattva’ . . .  If we add up these different aspects of Ram’s behavior, we find behind them a firm and steadfast motivation made of metta (friendship), karuna (compassion), mudita (altruistic joy), and upekkha (equanimity), which together form the foremost and most sublime tenet of the Buddhists, called brahmavihara, of blissful state of mind.  This analysis illustrates the most important and effective contribution of Theravada, which taught an austere way to reach the ultimate goal of blissful arhatship.  In practical terms, it took care of the epic characters held sacred and rid them of those passionate, disorderly, turbid, and violent features that are commonly found in human beings.”[162]

Most importantly for us, Pou’s study reveals that “the structure of ‘Ramakerti I’ reveals it to be unquestionably a work meant for recitation in theatrical performance.”[163]  Citing Pou’s study as well, Chandler notes how the work’s “language is often terse, and the development of the action is occasionally obscure . . . partly because the poem has come down to us as a series of fairly brief episodes, each suitable for mime (with the verse to be recited) and geared to a performance by dancers or leather shadow puppets.”[164]  He adds that the poem’s “high artistic polish . . . would be difficult to associate with a period of intellectual decline.”[165]

The Reamker, or the “Glory of Rama,” is how we know the Khmer version of the Ramayana today.  It details the epic drama of Preah Ream (Prince Rama) who, after being exiled from the kingdom he was meant to inherit, must live in the forest with his wife Neang Seda (Sita) and brother Preah Leak (Prince Lakshmana) for fourteen years.  After Neang Seda’s abduction by Reab (Ravana), the demon king of Langka, Preah Ream and Preah Leak journey to rescue her.  With the aid of monkey generals and kings, bears, krut (garuda), and a host of other beings, they locate Neang Seda and defeat Reab.  Neang Seda is then forced to prove her fidelity to her suspicious husband through a trial by fire—in other words, by jumping into a pit of fire.  The princess emerges unscathed and the happy couple returns to the kingdom where they are welcomed as king and queen.  Things do not end so happily ever after though.

Through the devious trickery of a yeakanei (female demon), Neang Seda is exiled into the forest while pregnant (Preah Leak was actually supposed to kill her on the orders of his brother).   She bears a child who is then duplicated through the magic of the ascetic with whom she stays, and it is the proud boys who, by defeating Preah Ream’s most powerful monkey general Hanuman, connect the paths of the king and queen once more.  Amongst a happy retinue, Preah Ream asks Neang Seda to prove her purity once more before returning to the kingdom.  She agrees and asks that if she has always remained faithful to her husband that she be taken back to the earth from which she was born.  And so she was, taken by the land.

As it was very likely performed in Cambodia before and during the time of Angkor, as evidenced by iconography and inscriptions describing daily recitations of the work from the sixth century, this story may have once had strong Brahmanic significance.  However, with the introduction of Theravada Buddhism, it increasingly became a moral tale exploring issues of leadership, uncontrolled desire, faithfulness and more, one which modeled appropriate images of husband and wife, man and woman, and inclusive of, to take after Saveros Pou, “indigenizations.”  David Chandler further highlights the significance of the reworked poem:

“An excellent way to enter the thought-world of seventeenth-century Cambodia is to look at the Reamker itself . . . Although its characters inhabit a recognizably Indian, brahmanical world (as well as half-mythical kingdoms far away, it seems, from Southeast Asia), their behavior, language, and ideals are very much those of the Cambodian people who assembled to listen to the poem or to watch it enacted by dancers, poets, and musicians.  These additional dimensions resemble the way in which medieval and Renaissance painters in Europe depicted Greek and Biblical figures wearing European clothes.”[166]

The existence of such a text in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, one made for dramatic performance, supports a history of continuity that has been passed on through body and spoken word amongst Khmer people.  And, given the way in which Khmer temples of the Angkor era were centers of religion, learning, and administration—places by which Khmer kings established and centralized their authority over a vast empire—it would have only made sense that the public came into contact with temple dancers during the process of worship, learning, and acculturation.  The prior mentioned French account then, although much later in time, illustrates the manner in which temples continued to serve the same function from the time of Angkor into our modern era.  It demonstrates how the art form would have been sustained by the people themselves, whether they were former dancers and teachers of the palace, dancers connected to the homes of elite families, or monks and village folk.

Given the presence of dance in popular society, it would only make sense that the kings had their own forms of ceremonial art and entertainment as well.  And, recently in 2014, Noel Hidalgo Tan published an article supporting this.  In it, he shares paintings, often faint and hidden, that have been rediscovered at Angkor Wat.  Featuring images of boats, architecture, and celestial deities such as apsara, many of them are red in color.  Many are considered to be graffiti but there are some that are detailed and believed to have come from King Ang Chan I’s restoration of Angkor Wat when “Theravada Buddhism had become the dominant religion.”[167]

Musicians in a pin peat orchestra in a wall painting at Angkor Wat.  Sixteenth century.  Image: Noel Hidalgo Tan.

Female figure.  Angkor Wat, sixteenth century.  Image: Noel Hidalgo Tan.

Figure in regalia.  Angkor Wat, sixteenth century.  Image: Noel Hidalgo Tan.

Figures, perhaps dancing, before a boat.  Notice how this image conjures the image of the harvest festival described by Diogo do Conto.  Angkor Wat, sixteenth century.  Photo: Prumsodun Ok.

These paintings, created between 1528 and 1566 during the reign of the king, serve as an invaluable testament to the endurance of court culture after the fall of Angkor.  In one image what seems to me as topless female musicians play in a pin peat orchestra.  They conjure the image of female music ensembles carved onto the reliefs of Angkor, even despite the differences in dress and instrumentation.  Although the image—with indiscernible figures in the background—does not clearly illustrate dance, the presence of such a sophisticated musical ensemble can only indicate that of dance as well.  After all, dance, which only requires the human body, is an art of primacy that is readily more sustained and created than paintings which require pigment and surface, sculpture which requires stone and chisel, and today, films which require film, cameras, processing chemicals, and projectors.

 

Concerning this image on a final note: it certainly debunks the notion that music did not exist because there are no written records of it.  And now, employing our logic, can you imagine a palace with musicians where no dancing takes place?  If the people have the time, skill, and resources to fashion sophisticated instruments, would they not have the ability to dance?  Because the body—medium in its act of dancing, instrument in its act of singing, narrator in its utterance of words, person, character, and storyteller with all of these elements together—requires minimal material resources to generate dance, drama, and performance. 

 

The human body is a total theater.

Female attendants carved onto a sixteenth-century bas-relief at Angkor Wat.  Notice the depictions of sbai.  Photo: Prumsodun Ok.

That said, the value of the apsara” or tep apsar, and by extension, their earthly counterparts, was certainly not lost amongst post-Angkorean Khmers considering the many depictions of celestial women in these paintings. Their importance can be recognized in the literature of the time as well, when Reab compares Seda to the apsara and when the latter descend with Indra's wives to help Seda deliver her child.[168]  And, despite no mentions of dance in the royal chronicles, we do know that “great numbers of women still surrounded the eighteenth-century kings Ang Ton and Chetta V.”[169]  No one would argue that these women would have been part of the kings’ harems.  And, using our logic once more, they probably did not just sit around all day doing nothing either.  That would be too costly for a kingdom mired in domestic and international struggle.  Neak Kru Sophiline shared with me an anecdote from Chheng Phon that reveals the role of the artists at this time, one that is the case before and after them, and one that mirrors the role of Indra's heavenly apsara in the Reamker: “The dancers were servants of the king.  The kings can change but the dancers still served the king.”[170]

 

In fact, the poem Lpoek Nokor authored by Neak Pang Tat carved onto the walls of Angkor Wat in 1620 CE​, provides a prime example of Khmer conceptions of heaven, and, in that, a reflection of Khmer ideals of kingship and court culture.  In his “sastra carved, along traces and trails, of Pali gatha, as from antiquity, truly so, without departure,” the poet likens Angkor to Indra’s Traitrimsa Heaven.[170a]  He uses the phrase “sros tong vong” (precious living gold) to describe the beautiful dancers of Traitrimsa as well as the human attendants surrounding Queen Daivatei, mother of Preah Ketumealea, the mythical founder of Angkor.[170b]  His poem, written as a form of prayer, invocation, and merit-making, details the richness of Indra’s court:

 

“Faintly carried in the breeze, melodious sounds rising from an ensemble, a dance of the kind by women, tep apsar re ram in offering.

 

Most exquisite radiant ones, all of beauty, kai kray without comparison, chhveal chhvat chhvay so easily without mistake.

 

Most exquisite desired ones, adorned in every accessory and jewel,​ as if precious living gold, all four most marvelous.”[170c]

 

This writing on stone, literally “hard evidence,” is uncommented upon by previous scholars of Khmer dance and dispels the myth that there are no written accounts of dance after Angkor.  It reveals the faults of relying solely on royal sources and circumstances in the construction of Khmer dance history, and ultimately the erasure of Khmer artistic, cultural, and political agency that results in that process.  It exemplifies how Khmer dance existed in the consciousness and way of life of Khmer people beyond the palace walls, in keeping with the Angkorean era and down to this very day.

 

It is important to note that the language used in Lpoek Nokor, which often employs consonance, alliteration, and rhyme, is still prevalent in Khmer speech, poetry, and dance lyrics today.  The phrase “char chol chap kap” (charge forward seizing and hacking) found in the poem can still be heard in Reamker performances, specifically describing Reab’s attack on Preah Ream.[170d]  The phrase “chap robam” (start dancing) also found in the poem,[170e] is heard in both ancient and modern works of the repertoire such as Robam Tamng Buon and Robam Tevet; the poem’s “rath neari” (jewel of a lady) can be heard in Robam Apsara, “rath pen poat” (gems snaking and encircling) in Moni Mekhala, and its “rung rith sithisak” (firm efficacious power) is close to the “roeung rith sithisak” (brilliant efficacious power) of Robam Tiyae.[170f]  Resulting from an unbroken linguistic culture and from direct inspiration and reference to old oral and written sources, these connections reflect Khmer poetry’s and dance’s connection to that of the early seventeenth century, to a poet who in turn modeled himself after the artists of antiquity. 

 

Importantly, terms such as re ram, kai kray, and chhveal chhvat can be heard in sacred dances such as Robam Tamng Buon and Moni Mekhala Ream Eyso.[170g]  Through linguistic analysis, for example Khmer chhveal chhvat to Thai chhawean chhawat as mentioned before, we know that these “words expressing feelings and descriptions . . . are difficult to translate,”[170h] conveying meaning, feeling, and power through sound, speed, and rhythm.  They were present in Khmer before being transferred into Thai by way of performance, literature, and speech, as well as other disciplines, habits, and customs.

 

King Vong Aschar, father of Preah Ketumealea for example, is described as wearing a khean (skirt) of chan floral patterns not unlike the kings of Angkor.[170i]  He receives offerings of gold and silver flowers “normally without end,”[170j] which likely has pre-Angkorean roots.[170k]  An “orchestra of horns and conches, drums and hand gongs, peat and kong​ whirring and clamoring, sralai and sampho, pin pet heard loud, with ceaseless steps, so grand” is described in his son’s procession, connecting the music to both that of the Angkor era and today.[170l]  Interestingly, the poem often describes the fresh, almost living qualities of the carvings—of the celestial women, of the mythical creatures, of “patterns rising into fruits and flowers, having transformed to fruits and flowers, becoming a human image re ram with arms extended”—which creates a striking relationship to Robam Tiyae (discussed later).[170m]

 

That said, the tep apsar are some of the most celebrated wonders of Indra’s heaven in Lpoek Nokor.  They are described as wearing sbai, braiding flowers, enjoying the pleasures of the divine garden, and “often enjoin one another, in sound and song, playing everything according to different characters.”[170n]  And, as the poem comes to a close, they and the kinnari are closely associated with dance, creating a direct relationship to both Robam Tamng Buon and the yogini-bird women of Banteay Chhmar.  The poet describes how the sculptors made:

 

“Images of kinnari too, going and leaning, re ram with their partner birds.

 

Elbows and wrists going in supple curves, with patterns guiding, hands and arms in ends and rows.

 

Made images of divine apsara ladies, excellently dressed, hands holding flowers and stems.

 

Re ram in beautiful grace, complete without fault, absolutely charming.”[170o]

   

The reality then is that dance and dancers were some of the things that made a Khmer king a king.  Traitrimsa’s human, historical counterparts then would have been valued for the entertainment, ceremonial, and political purposes of the monarch, who “presided over a series of partly brahmanical, partly Buddhist, and partly animistic ceremonies that . . . defined the boundaries of his merit and the limits of the agricultural year and were closely related to the success or failures of their harvests.”[171]  Thus, in their acts of dance, music, song, and performance, the dancers would have executed sacred works integral to securing the well-being of the land, people, and nation as their predecessors and divine models would have done.  In fact the dancer, whose body was seen as a medium between heaven and earth, would have been a most appropriate and powerful one to unite with.  And Khmer harems of the modern era, of which the dancers were a part of, were but vestiges of the nightly ritual at Phimeanakas required of past kings.

Indeed the enduring relationship between women, palace, and dance is emphasized further in the story of Preah Ko Preah Keo, a rich critique of Khmer society and Thai aggression that attempted to make sense of Cambodia’s decline.  The story was passed on and performed orally for generations before the first-known written documention by Gustave Janneau in the 1870s.[171a]  Kao, descendant of Chao Moeung from the province of Prey Kabbas, heard a bard named Chhaim relate the tale in a ceremony and authored another written version.[171b]  In his telling, Kao describes how:

 

“It was the lucky fate of Pov Thida, to have a royal husband [Preah Keo], leading her to meet him, who stayed in the forest near the pond. It led the hearts of the seven [princesses], to conceive and desire, to go play in the clear waters, where the waterfront was level. They said to all their lady servants, “There is a great pond far away, let’s go play in it, every kind of game and distraction. The deep pond is called the Mucilinda, the pure and cool water growing flowers. Come on, hurry up all let’s go! So that we can pick water lilies in joy!” So they invited their servants in haste, poking and pinching, teasing in play. The servants sang without a care, gracefully re ram in the procession forward.”[171c]

 

Shortly before this destined encounter, Kao tells how Meanop, father of Preah Ko and Preah Keo, was taken to heaven after his death and transformed into Preah Ketumealea:

 

“Lord Indra ordered him to stay in heaven, with ladies in service and in attendance, two chief queens in adornment, on both sides right and left.  With a magnificent towered palace, filled with ladies in wait and dancing robam.  They served him every day tam chamnam, the sound of their joy heard every moment.” [171c]

 

Tam chamnam can be translated as “according to memory, custom, or tradition.”  And, through this image of dancing lady servants, the writer has connected directly to the poets and patterns of the past while demonstrating the contemporary expectations and practices of his own court.  Kao, who likely authored the text in the late nineteenth century, illuminates the living continuities even further when he describes Queen Pov Thida, after her marriage to Preah Keo, as “ksatrei srei tong vong” or a “queen, woman of precious gold,” not so unlike the celestial dancers and human maidens in Neak Pang’s Lpoek Nokor.[171d]

It becomes difficult then to imagine a Cambodia without robam.  Available evidence reveals the way dancers continued to perform in all levels of society as they had during the time of Angkor: in the palace, at temples, in the homes of elite, and amongst the people alike.  Although civil war and strife during that period has left us with little written records, this history has survived to this day in the dancer’s body, from teacher to student, teacher to student, and by word of mouth.

 

Khmer oral accounts of artistic and historical continuity, which can so easily be negated in today’s culture of the written word, is only supported by the literature of the time and by the findings of the paintings at Angkor Wat—paintings of which my late father once alluded to during my teenage years.  I remember watching a documentary about Angkor with my family, centuries after the paintings and a decade before Tan’s rediscovery of the images, when my father said, “The temples used to be painted.”  The fact of the matter is that Khmer people, even of humble roots like my father, have carried on our history, traditions, and culture into the modern day in a largely embodied and oral fashion; these things have remained intact despite a destructive legacy of war and the methodological limitations by which people and institutions “officially” construct, erase, and break our history and that of others.

The enduring trend has been to construct Cambodia’s people, culture, and spirit as broken and degenerate, the period after Angkor imagined as a backward wasteland by European colonials that was then transformed, sublimated, and perpetuated by modern “scholars” who sometimes do not even speak or study Khmer. In fact, an analysis of Middle Khmer language lets us know that artists of the time were known as silpi, some of whom were then specified as neak ram (dancer), neak pol (chanter), neak baeuk bot (“one who begins the song,” lead vocalist), puok chreang (“those who sing,” chorus), and neak leng (musician). These artists paid their respects to kru lakhaon during sampeah kru, haomrong, and buong suong ceremonies, in a stage and world guided by preay lakhaon (theater spirits) and the silpasastra (science of the arts). This association of artist with spirituality is emphasized further by their identification as neak sil, or as “connoisseurs of the arts, even the supernatural.” And, given the ancient way that art, religion, and magic were used as a form of spiritual technology—a heritage exemplified by the Middle Khmer word silpasay (Brahmanic [and tantric] arts of old)—one can be confident that the arts played a role in their birunasastra or “science of the rains.”[171e]

 

Beyond the dancers and musicians in the sphere of robam, the latter who played instruments and melodies recognized today, there were those who practiced native forms such as khaol, ayai, sbek, and phleng araks among others.  There were also foreign and Khmer artists who brought over and practiced imported forms such as sayam or chhayam (orchestra of long drums of Burmese origin, likely brought from Siam), kai leong (a form of Annamese theater), pa hi (form of Chinese theater), and klong khaek or skor jvea (double-headed Javanese drums).[171f]  This internationalism is not a reflection of a naïve Cambodia that lacks the ability to invent, that only knows how to absorb from the outside, from India, from Thailand, from the French, as enduring colonial attitudes have misled many to believe.  Instead it reflects Cambodia’s richness as the inheritor of Angkor’s imperial and cosmopolitan legacy, one compounded by its southward focus on trade afterwards, and the fact that art, ideas, and culture are the best at transcending obstacles of geography, community, space, and time.  Just as an example, Khmers of the Middle Period referred to their classical orchestra as both pin peat and pi phat,[171g] the presence of the latter Siamese word originally borrowed from the prior Khmero-Indic word reflecting options of styles, colorings, and approaches available to Khmer artists.    

The denial of the continuity of Khmer dance to its pre-classical and classical roots then is actually a reflection of a colonial and imperialist mindset, one in which Henri Mouhot’s “discovery” of Angkor—or as we would say today, columbusing of Angkor—allowed for the French to assert their power by painting Khmers as a people disconnected from our past.  This is a prominent strategy in contemporary Thai nationalist policy, and one that pervades the Khmer mindset when we choose to view the post-Angkor period as a “dark age.”  The fact of the matter is that dance remained alive and present in the courts even into the modern era of Khmer dance history, marked by the reign of King Ang Duong (1841 – 1860).

When the king arrived from the Thai court of Bangkok where he had been in exile (or held hostage), it is said that “he found classical dancing on the verge of total disappearance.”[172]  And today, King Ang Duong is often credited as being the savior of Khmer dance and culture, as well as the nation itself.  However, with closer scrutiny of this history, we will find that the prior statement was probably not the entire case.

 

First off, in subsequent examples, dancers were granted the opportunity to leave court with the death or transition of a monarch.  Any low numbers that King Ang Duong reports on his arrival may be a reflection of this custom.  Those who left would have probably contributed to the rich popular tradition that existed outside of the palace.  And when we look at things this way, we can understand how August Pavie’s account in the 1880s—only twenty years after the king’s passing—mentioned dancers at the palace, troupes of provincial governors, as well as traveling groups.[173]  It is very likely that a cycle such as this had existed for generations, one in which retired palace dancers enriched the popular sphere of dance while those in the popular sphere, with connections to the court by way of their teachers and families, were offered to the palace as well.  Very importantly, we must note that dancers serving the elite performed in a more stable environment than those of the court:

“At the same time, it seems likely that certain continuity persisted at the capital among the bureaucratic elite who, along with the Buddhist sangha, were the curators of Cambodia’s literate traditions.  Several inscriptions at Angkor from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries record the careers of important officials whose graceful rise to responsibility contrasts sharply with the jagged sequence of events related by the chronicles.”[174]

Secondly, and just as important, Trudy Jacobson has made note of King Ang Duong’s vested interest in negating the rule of his predecessor:

“The Cambodian chronicles written after Ang Duong came to the throne depict Ang Mei as a lesson, bitterly learned, in the consequences of women exercising direct power in the political arena . . . Historians ascertain their information from written records; the problem, however, is that the Cambodian sources for this period were written in the courts of Ang Duong and his descendants, in whose interests it was to represent Ang Mei as an ineffectual ruler.”[175]

Before the king’s coronation, the Khmer throne was occupied by his niece: Queen Ang Mei, who was installed by the Vietnamese.  The queen inherited her role during troubled times, one in which the Khmer nation and people came under the subjugation of Siam and Vietnam, and was constantly in danger of being subsumed by either.  The latter initiated a brutal regime to “decambodgienniser”[176] the country by destroying Theravada temples and enforcing Vietnamese clothes and language and more, so as to erase Khmer history and identity, and therefore Khmer sovereignty.[177]  Such oppressive violence resulted in a rebellion and the unpopularity of Queen Ang Mei amongst the people.

All of this—along with her near forced marriage to a Vietnamese prince and rumors of her affair with a Vietnamese official—made the queen an easy scapegoat for the destruction and ruin Cambodia faced during this moment in time.[178]  King Ang Duong, not happy that his niece refused to abdicate the throne in his favor, made a conscious decision to devalue the contributions of Queen Ang Mei in order to assert his own authority, power, and validity to the point that “the reign of Ang Duong is a ‘golden age’ in Cambodian history.”[179]  Any mention of the dance’s near extinction by King Ang Duong then is actually a reflection of the king’s political erasure of his predecessor, one with a precursor in the destruction of Buddhist images following the reign of King Jayavarmann VII and subsequently in the Khmer Rouge’s destruction of pagodas built by King Ang Duong himself.

At the end of the day, we know clearly that Khmer dance survived intact into the modern era because the king sought the “old teachers’ advice in purging the dances of ‘unsuitable’ material that had been added over the years,” some of which may have reflected Vietnamese influence.[180]  And, when we understand the ways in which the art form is ultimately carried by practitioners—and not the sovereigns who sponsor them—it becomes easy to see how Khmer dance can survive such a history of war, destruction, and civil strife.  In fact, anyone who thinks that Khmer dance was lost after the fall of Angkor should consider a subsequent example from history.

 

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, an estimated ninety percent of Khmer artists died of disease, starvation, execution, and malnutrition.  The remaining masters and dancers—in an environment of devastation, without the patronage of royalty, under the oppression of a second communist regime—immediately worked together to revive the artistic tradition.  Within two years, a new generation of dancers was already performing around the world.  Today, nearly forty years since they began their efforts, Khmer artists have pushed dance to new heights.

 

Given all of this, it is my firm belief that Khmer classical dance has always existed in Cambodia.  I liken my argument to a method of karuda (deduction) based on the teachings of the Jain prophet Jinendra “on whose teachings Buddhist logic rests,” expounded to Manimekhalai so that she may reason her way to the ultimate truth and reality of existence.[181]  Aravana Adigal, a Buddhist teacher, provides the heroine with an example of karuda (Khmers use the same words for "reason," "example," and "conclusion" today):

“Given fact (paksha): There is fire on the mountain.

Reason (hetu): Because smoke can be seen.

Example (udaharana): As in a kitchen.

Particular case (upayana): It is the mountain that is smoking.

Conclusion (nigama): There is no smoke without fire.”[182] 

From our particular place in time, we may not be able to see the fire of Khmer dance in the post-Angkor era.  But we are left with adequate smoke on temple walls, in oral stories, in the written accounts of foreigners, and more. For Khmer poets of the Middle Period demonstrated a vitality of their dance form's ancient foundation in Lpoek Nokor and in the Reamker, the latter describing "nagas, swaying with dancing movements"[183] and referencing "hand movement[s]" in their words.[184]  The two Reamker texts, carrying on Khmer "indigenizations" from the Angkor era—Agni, the god of fire rides on a rhinoceros instead of a ram—mentions: 

 

"A person of prowess . . . the divine goddess who protects the great ocean.  She is powerful and has a host of attendants thronging round and sea dragons and nagas in great numbers . . . the sea-goddess has been extremely kind to the unnumbered sea dragons; she protects them and the nagas and the fish. She is mistress of all waters, of all rivers and lakes, countless myriads of them. Creatures of all regions and thoroughfares have lived together quite happily, maintained by the goddess, their patron."[185]

 

This universal reverence of Moni Mekhala clearly echoes her power and descriptions in the Manimekhalai, and therefore point to a continuous tradition of worship.  The Khmer poets demonstrated their long-standing understanding of the goddess in the story of the buffalo Dubhi, whose "two horns were like pikes, pointed like the mighty weapon of Isur."  He attacked the ocean causing "reverberat[ions] like thunder through all the ten directions" and Mekhala "tricked" him "into a mood of ignorant confidence" to eventually challenge and be killed by Peali.[186]  In this literary work that has always used frame tales to contrast and foil characters and narratives, one must wonder about Dubhi's relationship to Ramaparamasur, Paramasur, Ramesur—who we know today as Ream Eyso.  Regardless, a case can be made that tantric resonances of Moni Mekhala Ream Eyso were still palpable in post-Angkor Cambodia, when the poets likened Seda running away from Preah Ream to "Mekhalla when she tantalises Ramesur in the heavens."[187]  Interestingly, this gives the sea goddess a direct relationship to the apsara of Lpoek Nokor, those “bavar vora chuop chap” of the poem—translated above as “most exiquiste desired ones”—more literally meaning “exquisite blessed ones to be caught on encounter.”[187a] 

 

With all of this, the fire of Khmer classical dance grows undeniably clear.  And it has burned since it was first lit, continuing to burn in our dancing hearts and bodies today.

 

We should note that King Ang Duong merely redefined the artistic tradition in a manner that is more recognizable to people of our time.  First off, he separated male and female dancers into separate troupes and commanded that they each be able to enact dances and dramas without depending on each other.[188]  This has resulted in the modern female tradition we associate with the royal court today and the modern all-male masked tradition of khaol, which is associated with villages and only performs excerpts of the Reamker.  Secondly, he covered the half-clad bodies of the dancers with heavy costumes.  This decision reflected an interaction with “modern” French values as well as the conservative ideas of the Thammayut branch of Theravada Buddhism, which was developed by both Thai and Khmer monks in Bangkok.[189]

Some believe that this new costuming was an imitation of the Siamese court[190] while others have said, “It’s not Thai.  It’s Buddhist.”[191]  Given how misunderstandings of the dancing images of Angkor have caused some contemporary scholars and others to deem Khmer dance a “broken tradition”—an erroneous mindset of: dancers only strike one pose in the reliefs so that is probably all that they did, there are no written records of dance or music after Angkor so it did not exist—we must now analyze the stark differences in costumes displayed by relief carvings and those worn by dancers today to further establish Khmer dance’s linkages to its native roots.

 

NEXT

[128] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 92.

[129] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Page 128.

[130] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Pages 92 – 93.

[131] "Mandala (Southeast Asian Political Model)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala_(Southeast_Asian_political_model).

[132] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[133] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[134] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[135] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[136] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[137] Varasarin, Uraisi.  Les Elements Khmers Dans La Formation De La Langue Siamoise.  Societe D'etudes Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France, 1984. Pages 174 - 177.

[138] Varasarin, Uraisi.  Les Elements Khmers Dans La Formation De La Langue Siamoise.  Societe D'etudes Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France, 1984. Pages 174 - 177.

[139] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[140] Mabbett, Ian and David Chandler.  The Khmers.  Blackwell Publishers, 1996.  Page 103.

[141] Mabbett, Ian and David Chandler.  The Khmers.  Blackwell Publishers, 1996.  Page 214.

[142] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Pages 95 – 96.

[143] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 140 – 141.

[144] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Page 141.

[145] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Page 141.

[146] Pou, Saveros.  “Music and Dance in Ancient Cambodia as Evidenced by Old Khmer Epigraphy.” East and West Vol. 47, No. ¼ (December 1997): 229 - 248.  Electronic.  Published by: Instituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO).  Note: Trent Walker is not convinced that Pou's reading of the inscription as "puppets" is correct and that the use of the Khmer word sbek (leather shadow puppet) in Thai records is much more convincing.

[147] Pou, Saveros.  Lexique de Sanskrit-Khmer-Français (Sanskrit Utilise au Cambodge).  Editions Angkor, 2013.  Page 392.

[148] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Page 69.

[149] Pou, Saveros.  Selected Papers on Khmerology.  Reyum Publishing, 2003.  Page 336 – 337.

[150] Kasetsiri, Charnvit.  "Thailand and Cambodia: A Love-Hate Relationship." Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. http://kyotoreview.org/issue-3-nations-and-stories/a-love-hate-relationship/.

[151] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 134.

[152] Ly, Boreth. "Depictions of Dance and Drama on Ancient Cambodian Temples." Dance | the Spirit of Cambodia | Arts & Culture. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. http://sites.asiasociety.org/dancecambodia/depictions.htm.

[153] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 138.

[154] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 68.

[155] Shapiro-Phim, Toni.  Dance and the Spirit of Cambodia.  University Microfilms International, 1994.  Page 97.

[156] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 22.

[157] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 134.

[158] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 139.

[159] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 146.

[160] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 146.

[161] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 135.

[162] Pou, Saveros.  Selected Papers on Khmerology.  Reyum Publishing, 2003.  Page 332 – 333.

[163] Cravath, Paul.  Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 136.

[164] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 109.

[165] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 111.

[166] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 108.

[167] Tan, Noel Hidalgo.  “The hidden paintings of Angkor Wat.”  Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2014.  Pages 549 – 565.

[168] Translated by Judith M. Jacob. Reamker (Ramakerti) The Cambodian version of the Ramayana. Routledge, 2006. Pages 61 and 211.

[169] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 139.

[170] Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, direct communication.  August 2014.

[170a] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Pages 46 and 51.

[170b] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Pages 36 and 42.

[170c] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 42.

[170d] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 58.

[170e] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 51.

[170f] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Pages 47, 48, and 50.

[170g] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 42.

[170h] Wilaiwan Khanittanan. "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin." Papers from the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Ed. Somsonge Burusphat. 2004, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 375-391.

[170i] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 40.

[170j] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 39.

[170k] Jacob, Judith M.  "Pre-Angkor Cambodia: Evidence from the Inscriptions Concerning Common People and their Environment".  http://sealang.net/sala/archives/pdf8/jacob1993pre-angkor.pdf.  

[170l] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 63.

[170m] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Pages 46 and 49.

[170n] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 42.

[170o] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 66.

[171] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 135.

[171a] Khing, Hoc Dy. Preah Ko Preah Keo. Editions Angkor, 2012. Page 80.

[171b] Khing, Hoc Dy. Preah Ko Preah Keo. Editions Angkor, 2012. Page 150.

[171c] Khing, Hoc Dy. Preah Ko Preah Keo. Editions Angkor, 2012. Page 146.

[171d] Khing, Hoc Dy. Preah Ko Preah Keo. Editions Angkor, 2012. Page 213.

[171e] Please see Pou, Saveros. Un Dictionnaire du Khmer-Moyen. Sastra Publishing House, 2017.

[171f] Please see Pou, Saveros. Un Dictionnaire du Khmer-Moyen. Sastra Publishing House, 2017.

[171g] Please see Pou, Saveros. Un Dictionnaire du Khmer-Moyen. Sastra Publishing House, 2017.

[172] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 144.

[173] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 145.

[174] Chandler, David.  A History of Cambodia.  Westview Press, 2008.  Page 113.

[175] Jacobsen, Trudy.  Lost Goddesses.  NIAS Press, 2008.  Page 125.

[176] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 144.

[177] Jacobsen, Trudy.  Lost Goddesses.  NIAS Press, 2008.  Page 116.

[178] Jacobsen, Trudy.  Lost Goddesses.  NIAS Press, 2008.  Page 125.

[179] Jacobsen, Trudy.  Lost Goddesses.  NIAS Press, 2008.  Page 125.

[180] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 151.

[181] Merchant-Prince Shattan, translated by Alain Danielou.  Manimekhalai: The Dancer with the Magic Bowl.  New Directions Books, 1989.  Pages 152.

[182] Merchant-Prince Shattan, translated by Alain Danielou.  Manimekhalai: The Dancer with the Magic Bowl.  New Directions Books, 1989.  Pages 152.

[183] Translated by Judith M. Jacob. Reamker (Ramakerti) The Cambodian version of the Ramayana. Routledge, 2006. Page 112.

[184] Translated by Judith M. Jacob. Reamker (Ramakerti) The Cambodian version of the Ramayana. Routledge, 2006. Page 293.

[185] Translated by Judith M. Jacob. Reamker (Ramakerti) The Cambodian version of the Ramayana. Routledge, 2006. Pages 75 - 76.

[186] Translated by Judith M. Jacob. Reamker (Ramakerti) The Cambodian version of the Ramayana. Routledge, 2006. Pages 74 - 76.

[187] Translated by Judith M. Jacob. Reamker (Ramakerti) The Cambodian version of the Ramayana. Routledge, 2006. Page 287.

[187a] Pang Tat, transcribed into modern Khmer by Ham Chhayli.  Lpoek Angkor Vatt.  Editions Angkor, 2009.  Page 42.

[188] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987.  Pages 152.

[189] Jacobsen, Trudy.  Lost Goddesses.  NIAS Press, 2008.  Page 121.

[190] Cravath, Paul. Earth in Flower: An Historical and Descriptive Study of the Classical Dance Drama of Cambodia. University Microfilms International, 1987. Page 152.

[191] Name has been omitted for reasons of sensitivity. August 2008.