Lecture 6. The Khmer: The Kings of Rice

This lecture starts with a look at the larger role of SE Asia in the world economy. The drying out of Inner Asia and its depopulation meant the end of the Silk Route tradition. The energy moved to the south, to India and thus to SE Asia. This was one of the main contributing factors for while SE Asia prospered so much between 400 and 1200, but in particular after the 9th century. This lecture introduces the Khmer and their capital Angkor. It was a bold experiment in hydro-engineering mixed in with the design ex nihilo of a sacred landscape. The purpose of the creation of a sacred landscape was simple. To attract devotees into the remote forest to serve as rice farmers. Once again we see here the SE Asian temple city model, except that this time, a huge risk was involved since it was design to produce one thing. Rice - rice for the market place, not for local consumption. Hariharalaya, its first capital, though less well known than Angkor Wat, was really an amazing city and one of the great urban foundings of the century, on par with Baghdad, founded more or less at the same time, both cites in a sense reaching to the new economy of the south. At its center of the city was the temple known as Bakong, a mandala temple that tries to fuse different themes into a single design. There can be no doubt that Hariharalaya was one of the great urban foundings of the age.

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