- Lao Tzu
Angkor Thom, literally translates into Khmer as 'Great City'. Certainly no understatement, Angkor Thom is undoubtedly one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world today. Spreading over 900 hectares, this incredible complex was Jayavarman VII's state capital. Unsurprisingly therefore one finds within the city itself some of the most impressive of all the Angkor Temples, most famously the Bayon, which was Jayavarman's state temple.
Following the symbolic style with which many of the temples and buildings of the period were built under Jayavarman VII, the city has four walls with four gates at the cardinal points, from which roads converge onto Bayon itself. The 8 meter high walls were built to defend the city, and following the parapet around the view across the moat is impressive. Of the cardinal gates, standing tall at 23 meters high, the South Gate is the most well preserved, and the juxtaposition of nagas, gods and demons which line the approach to the gate are very impressive and mystical as they watch your every move. The gates share a similarity with Bayon with their similar carvings of faces, posing the perplexing question to historians as to whether they are meant to be of Jayavarman himself or the God Lokesvara. A fifth gate is also present, Victory Gate, where Jayavarman's soldiers would enter and exit before, during and after battle.
At each corner of the city is a Prasat Chrung, a small Buddhist mini-temple built on top of the wall, the best-preserved of these is in the Southeast corner. Beautiful forest dominates much of Angkor Thom, and the wondrous temples are found scattered amongst forest and paths which lie within. The most magnificent of these is Bayon right in the center, with its signature giant carvings of heads representing the 'devaraja', or half god (Bodhisattva Lokesvara) half king (Jayavarman himself). Other important temples would be the three tiered mountain temple of Baphuon, famous as being the old state temple before the Bayon, and Phimeanakas, which was incorporated into the royal palace. For some real peace and quiet and a chance to see the smaller components of Jayavarman's state empire, there are the smaller temples of Tep Pranam, Preah Palilay, Preah Pithu, Suor Prat Towers, Mangalartha and The Khleangs.
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