SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Monuments and sculpture of Angkor

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  •  give a reasoned account of the rise of early states in Southeast Asia and the pre-eminent role played by the Khmer peoples of Funan, Zhenla and Angkor in the 6th-13th centuries.
  •  give a critical account of how the art historical discipline has traced the emergence of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and temple structures in pre-Angkorian Cambodia and signalled the cross-cultural exchanges between Khmers and Mons.
  •  evaluate the impact of new helicopter ‘lidar’ archaeological technology is now making to our understanding of the temples and cities king Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer state on the Kulen mountains.
  • evaluate the contribution of French art historians to classifying the art styles in Koh Ker, Pre Rup, Bat Cum and Baphuon temples.
  •  engage in the current revaluation of the temples of the Mahidhara dynasty that brought Angkor to its apogee – the vast, walled temple complexes of Phimai, Angkor Wat and the Bayon.
  •  Identify some of the vast material resources available for future research and of the current trends in scholarship and connoisseurship in the study of the material culture of Angkor.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

The course focuses on the 1000-year artistic legacy of Cambodia, including some of the most beautiful works of world art and architecture, and critically examines the current historical account of how the powerful and creative empire of Angkor came into being. It studies major earlier art historical contributions to interpreting the site and introduces some of the remote-sensing technological techniques being used by archaeologists to advance our understanding the culture. The monuments and sculpture of Angkor rank with Central Java and Bagan as the major monumental sites of Southeast Asia and the world. The course is therefore an important integral Asian part of an MA in the Art and Archaeology at SOAS. Angkor was deeply influenced by the religions, art and architecture of India, and to a lesser extent by China, and yet is unlike any other monumental complex in the world. Studying the site therefore raises for thoughtful review the theoretical issues of how different cultures are interrelated by complex cross-cultural connections.

Week 1 – Introduction: the rise of early states in Southeast Asia and the stimulus of the maritime silk route, notably on the pre-Angkorian polities that Chinese accounts identify as Funan and Zhenla.
Week 2 – The sacred art of the early Khmer cities and their links with the neighbouring Mons.
Week 3 – The founding of the Khmer state with the devarāja cult of Jayavarman II at his Mount Kulen capital, which is now being elucidated by new ‘lidar’ helicopter-borne remote-sensing archaeological technology.
Week 4 -  The French legacy; Philippe Stern and Cambodian art style analysis.
Week 5 – Koh Ker and the preservation of Cambodia’s artistic heritage.
Week 6 – Rajendravarman’s rebuilt and unified Angkor and the revival of Buddhism.
Week 7 – Jayavarman VI brings the Mahidhara dynasty to power and constructs the esoteric Buddhist temple of Phimai.
Week 8 – Suryavarman II builds Angkor Wat and expands the empire into neighbouring Champa and the Dai Viet (Vietnam).
Week 9 – Jayavarman VII turns Cambodia definitively to Buddhism and constructs a monumental mandala of state based on the Bayon and Banteay Chhmar
10– Slide test

Method of assessment

  • One 2 500 words essay (worth 70%)
  • One slide test (worth 30%)

Suggested reading

  • Selected reading
    Cœdès, George (1968) The Indianized States of Southeast Asia Honolulu, Hawaii University Press [pages 8-10, 14-35]
  • Taylor, Keith W. (1992) ‘The early kingdoms’ Cambridge history of Southeast Asia Vol. I, Ed. N. Tarling, Cambridge U.P. [pages 157-68, 185-202]
  • Vickery, Michael (1998) Society, economics and politics in Pre-Angkor Cambodia: the 7th-8th centuries UNESCO, Toyo Bunko [pages 33-46, 51-60]
  • Briggs, Lawrence P. (1951) ‘The Ancient Khmer Empire’ Transactions of the American Philosophical Society New Series Vol. 41, part 1 Reprint 1999 White Lotus press, Bangkok [pages 12-17, 37-41, 88-114, 178-90, 196-216, 228-36]
  • Guy, John (2014) Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia NY Metropolitan Museum
  • Evans, Damian 2013 ‘Beneath Angkor’s foliage’
  • Cromarty, Chris (2012) ‘Revealing secrets of the Angkorian civilization using airborne idar technology’ LiDARMagazine
    Moore, Elizabeth, Freeman, Tony & Hensley, Scott (2007:chapter 8) Spaceborne and airborne Radar at Angkor: Introducing new technology to the ancient site’ in Remote Sensing in Archaerology Springer
    Jessup, Helen and Zéphir, Thierry (1997) Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia:  Millennium of Glory RMN Washington and Paris
  • Bunker, Emma & Latchford, Robert (2004) Adoration and Glory: the Golden Age of Khmer Art
    Giteau, Madeleine & Guéret Danielle (1997) Khmer Art: the Civilization of Angkor Somogy Paris
    Jacques, Claude (2007) The Khmer Empire Bangkok, River Books [pages 49-65]
  • Miksic, John N. (2013) Singapore and The Silk Road of the Sea 1300-1800 NUS Singapore [pages 1-144]
  • O’Connor, Stanley J. (1972) Hindu Gods of Peninsular Siam Ascona, Artibus Asiae [pages 11-63]
    Piriya, Krairiksh (2011) The Roots of Thai art English edition Eds N.Chakrabongse & P. Sharrock, River Books, Bangkok
  • Higham, Charles (1989) The archaeology of mainland Southeast Asia CUP [pages 238-355]
    Jacq-Hergoualc’h, (2002) The Malay Peninsula: cross-roads of the Maritime Silk Road (100 BC – 1300 AD) Brill, Leiden [pages 74-80; 240-9; 267-70]
  • Brown, Robert L. (1996) The Dvaravati Wheels of the Law and the Indianization of South East Asia Leiden, E.J. Brill [pages 3-18]
  • Woodward, H. (2002) The Art and Architecture of Thailand from prehistoric times through the thirteenth century Leiden, Brill [pages 51-88, 105-16]
  • Woodward, H. (1997) The sacred sculpture of Thailand London, Thames & Hudson [pages 43-73]
    Bunker, Emma (2002:106-21) ‘The Prakhon Chai Story: fact and Fiction’ Arts of Asia March/April
    Stern, P. (1965) Les monuments khmers du style du Bàyon et Jayavarman VII Presses Universitaires de France, Paris
  • Sharrock, P.D. (2012:203-37) ‘Kīrtipandita and the Tantras’ Udaya 10, Journal of Khmer Studies Phnom Penh
  • Bunker, Emma & Latchford, Robert (2011) Khmer Bronzes: New Interpretations of the Past Art Media Resources, Chicago
  • Sharrock, Peter D. (2007:230-81) ‘The mystery of the Bayon face towers’ in Bayon, New Perspectives Ed. Joyce Clark, Bangkok, River Books
  • Maxwell, Thomas S. (2007:21.121) ‘Religion at the time of Jayavarman VII’ in Bayon, New Perspectives Ed. Joyce Clark, Bangkok, River Books
    Bhattacharya, Kamaleswar (1961) Les religions brahmaniques dans l’ancien Cambodge d’apres l’épigraphie et l’iconographie PEFEO, Paris
  • Jacques, Claude (2007:28-49) ‘The historical development of Khmer culture from the death of Suryavarman II to the 14th century’ in Bayon, New Perspectives Ed. Joyce Clark, Bangkok, River Books
  • Cunin, Olivier (2008:9-24) ‘How many Face Towers in the Bayon?’ in Interpreting Southeast Asia’s Past: Monument, Image and Text Eds E. Bacus, I. Glover, P. Sharrock, Singapore NUS
    Sharrock, Peter D. (2008:165-83) ‘The Yoginis of the Bayon’ in Interpreting Southeast Asia’s Past: Monument, Image and Text Eds E. Bacus, I. Glover, P. Sharrock Singapore NUS
    Sharrock, P.D. (2009: 49-64) ‘Hevajra at Banteay Chhmar’ A curator’s choice: Essays in Honor of Hiram Woodward, Jr The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery
  • Sharrock, P.D. (2014) Banteay Chhmar: Forest Citadel of the Khmer Empire River Books Bangkok
    Boisselier, J. (1965:73-89) ‘Précisions sur quelques images khmères d’Avalokiteśvara, les bas-reliefs de Bantãy Čhmàr’ Arts asiatiques tome 11.fascicule 1
  • Woodward, Hiram (1981:57-67) ‘Tantric Buddhism at Angkor Thom’ Ars Orientalis 12
  • Woodward, H. (2001:249-61) ‘Practice and belief in ancient Cambodia: Claude Jacque’s Angkor and the Devaraja question’ Journal of SEA Studies 32 (2) June
  • Lobo, W. (1997:71-8) ‘The image of Hevajra and tantric Buddhism’ in Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia:  Millennium of Glory Eds Jessop and Zéphir, RMN Washington and Paris
    Linrothe, Rob (1999) Ruthless compassion Serindia, London
  • Dowling, Nancy (2000:122-55) ‘New light on early Cambodian Buddhism’ The Journal of the Siam Society Vol.88 Bangkok
  • Boeles, J.J. (1966; 14-29) ‘Two Yoginis of Hevajra from Thailand’ in Essays offered to G.H. Luce Eds Ba Shin and J. Boisselier, Ascona, Artibus Asiae
  • Snellgrove, D. (1959) The Hevajra-Tantra, a critical study London, OUP
    Maxwell, T. S. (1997) The Gods of Asia: Image, Text and Meaning Oxford, OUP [pages 3-29, 41-95,120-87]
  • Boisselier, Jean (1989) Trends in Khmer Art NY Cornell
  • Snellgrove, D. (2001) Khmer civilization and Angkor Bangkok, Orchid Press
  • Mannika, Eleanor (1996) Angkor Wat: Time Space and Kingship Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press [pages 27-58, 106-19, 125-54]
  • Chutiwongs, Nandana (2002) The iconography of Avalokiteśvara in Mainland South East Asia, Aryan Books, Dehli
  • Kulke, Hermann (1978) The Devarāja Cult Data Paper 108 Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York [trans. I.W. Mabbett]


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules