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Khmer Empire(kəmĕr`), ancient kingdom of SE Asia. In the 6th cent. the Cambodians, or Khmers, established an empire roughly corresponding to modern CambodiaCambodia
, Khmer Kampuchea, officially Kingdom of Cambodia, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 13,607,000), 69,898 sq mi (181,035 sq km), SE Asia. Cambodia is bordered by Thailand on the west and north, by Laos on the north, by Vietnam on the east, and by the Gulf of
..... Click the link for more information. and LaosLaos
, officially Lao People's Democratic Republic, republic (2005 est. pop. 6,217,000), 91,428 sq mi (236,800 sq km), SE Asia. A landlocked nation, Laos is bordered by China on the north, by Vietnam on the east, by Cambodia on the south, and by Thailand and Myanmar on the west.
..... Click the link for more information. . Divided during the 8th cent., it was reunited under the rule of Jayavarman II in the early 9th cent.; the capital was established in the area of AngkorAngkor
, site of several capitals of the Khmer Empire, north of Tônlé Sap, NW Cambodia, for about five and a half centuries (9th to 15th), the heart of the empire.
..... Click the link for more information. by the king Yasovarman I (r. 889–900). The Angkor period (889–1434), the golden age of Khmer civilization, saw the empire at its greatest extent; it held sway over the valleys of the lower Menam (in present-day Thailand) and the lower Mekong (present-day Cambodia and Vietnam), as well as N into Laos.
The Khmer civilization was largely formed by Indian cultural influences. Buddhism flourished side by side with the worship of Shiva and of other Hindu gods, while both religions coalesced with the cult of the deified king. In the Angkor period many Indian scholars, artists, and religious teachers were attracted to the Khmer court, and Sanskrit literature flourished with royal patronage.
The great achievement of the Khmers was in architecture and sculpture. The earliest known Khmer monuments, isolated towers of brick, probably date from the 7th cent. Small temples set on stepped pyramids next appeared. The development of covered galleries led gradually to a great elaboration of plan. Brick was largely abandoned in favor of stone. Khmer architecture reached its height with the construction of Angkor Wat by Suryavarman II (r. 1113–50) and Angkor Thom by Jayavarman VII (r. 1181–c.1218). Sculpture, which also prospered at Angkor, showed a steady development from relative naturalism to a more conventionalized technique. Bas-reliefs, lacking in the earliest monuments, came to overshadow in importance statues in the round; in the later stages of Khmer art hardly a wall was left bare of bas-reliefs, which conveyed in the richness of their detail and vitality a vivid picture of Khmer life.
The Khmers fought repeated wars against the Annamese (see AnnamAnnam
, historic region (c.58,000 sq mi/150,200 sq km) and former state, in central Vietnam, SE Asia. The capital was Hue. The region extended nearly 800 mi (1,290 km) along the South China Sea between Tonkin on the north and Cochin China on the south.
..... Click the link for more information. ) and the Chams; in the early 12th cent. they invaded ChampaChampa
, the kingdom of the Chams, which flourished in Vietnam from the 2d cent. A.D. until the 17th cent. At its greatest extent it occupied Annam as far north as central Vietnam. Its culture was strongly affected by Hindu influences.
..... Click the link for more information. , but, in 1177, Angkor was sacked by the Chams. After the founding of Ayuthia (c.1350), Cambodia was subjected to repeated invasions from Thailand, and the Khmer power declined. In 1434, after the Thai captured Angkor, the capital was transferred to Phnom PenhPhnom Penh
or Phnum Penh
, city (1994 est. pop. 527,000), capital of Cambodia, SW Cambodia, at the confluence of the Mekong and Tônlé Sap rivers. Phnom Penh was founded in the 14th cent. and was made the Khmer capital after the abandonment (1434) of Angkor.
..... Click the link for more information. ; this event marks the end of the brilliance of the Khmer civilization.
See L. P. Briggs, The Ancient Khmer Empire (1951); J. Audric, Angkor and the Khmer Empire (1972); J. R. Coburn, Khmers, Tigers, and Talismans (1978).