Numerous magnificent and breathtaking places or items around the globe have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition to that, 8 prestigious Cambodian Heritage consisting of 3 tangibles and 5 intangibles are acknowledged by UNESCO. Cambodia is well-known to have a rich culture with traditional dances, monumental temples, sculptures, and so forth.

There are 3 historical sites: Angkor Archaeological Park, Preah Vihear Temple, and Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, as well as intangible cultural heritage such as Royal ballet, Sbek Thom, Teanh Prot Game, Chapey Dang Veng, and Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet, inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List.

Angkor Archaeological Park was inscribed as one of the prestigious world heritage sites in Southeast Asia. It was acknowledged by UNESCO in 1992. Angkor Wat served as the capital of the Khmer Kingdom for many years. Moreover, the magnificent Angkor Wat temple is recognized as Cambodia’s national symbol and crowning achievement. A major tourist destination in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat attracts millions of tourists every year from around the globe.

Preah Vihear Temple was declared a world heritage site in 2008. Preah Vihear Temple is situated on the summit of Dângrêk Mountain in Preah Vihear province, close to the Sisaket Province border with Thailand. The temple, which worshiped Shiva and the gods of Mount Sikharesvara, Bhadresvara, was constructed in the ninth century. The Temple of Preah Vihear, a distinctive architectural complex of sanctuaries connected by a network of walkways and staircases on an 800-meter axis, is a magnificent example of Khmer architecture in terms of its layout, ornamentation, and relationship to the surrounding breathtaking landscape.

Sambor Prei Kuk Temple was officially acknowledged in 2017 by UNESCO. The Sambor Prei Kuk temple is discovered in the Kampong Thom province’s Sambo village, Sambo commune, and Sambo district. According to UNESCO, the capital of the Chenla Empire, known as Ishanapura in the Khmer language, which flourished in the late 6th and early 7th century A.D., has been recognized as “the temple in the wealth of the forest”. Ten of the hundred temples are octagonal, making them exceptional examples of their kind in Southeast Asia.

The Royal Ballet, renowned as Khmer Classical Dance, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003. According to UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage website, traditional royal observances and festivities including coronations, weddings, funerals, and Khmer holidays would typically be accompanied by the performance of royal ballet. The Royal Ballet is renowned for its marvelous costumes and exquisite movements. In the classical repertory, there are four different character types: Neang the woman, Neayrong the man, Yeak the giant, and Sva the monkey. Only after years of rigorous training do the dancers’ movements and stances fully capture the range of human emotions, from fear and wrath to love and joy.

FiSbek Thom, a Khmer shadow theater performance, was considered sacred and was only permitted to perform three or four times a year on special occasions, such as the Khmer New Year, the King’s birthday, or the devotion of notable individuals. This performance was inscribed in 2008 on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in accordance with UNESCO. In fact, two narrators and an orchestra provide the performance’s musical accompaniment. The Reamker, the Khmer adaptation of the Ramayana, served as inspiration for the performances, which depict scenes from this epic over the course of several nights and with up to 160 puppets.

The inscription of Tugging rituals and games (Teanh Prot Game) on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritages in 2015. This form of game empowers community bonding, brings entertainment as well as celebrates the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. To ensure plentiful harvests and prosperity, communities in the rice-farming civilizations of East Asia and Southeast Asia engage in tugging rituals and games. Additionally, games and rituals that include tugging aid to foster a sense of community, belonging, and identification among the participants.

Chapey Dang Veng was acknowledged as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016. A Cambodian traditional music instrument known as Chapei Dang Veng is powerfully interconnected to the way of life, traditions, and beliefs of the Cambodian people. It includes singing and the chapei, a lute style frequently performed during cultural festivals. Songs may contain classic poems, folk tales, or Buddhist tales in addition to satirical, educational, and social commentary lyrics. A chapei player needs to have musical talent as well as intelligence, improvisational skills, and storytelling competency. There are no constraints on a person’s ability to play the chapei despite the fact that performers are often men.

Lkhon Khol Wat Svay Andet was registered on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2018. It is performed by men in masks to the accompaniment of a traditional orchestra and lyrical recitation in one area surrounding the Buddhist monastery Wat Svay Andet, which is situated on the Mekong River about 10 km east of Phnom Penh. Lkhon Khol is carried out for ritualistic objectives, most of which are connected to the rice-growing cycle and the need of farming communities. The tradition is passed down orally within the neighborhood, and the Head Monk, a retired primary school principal, recently started writing down scripts for some episodes according to the UNESCO website.

The heritage sites and intangible cultural heritages are the national pride we will never ever overlook. As Cambodian citizens, preserving and educating both tangible and intangible heritages to future generations plays an essential role in our lives. At the same time, it is an encouragement for the generation to learn how to improvise new perspectives embedded with cultural heritage in an innovative way. Not only do we remain to transmit such priceless knowledge, but we also motivate those who have a passion for history to keep on finding many effective methods or means to rigorously excavate other unknown archeological sites and prevent any illegal looting attempts that could be harmful to future research.

By: Marisa Seynavy