A Daily Life of Water in the Angkorian World


Miriam Stark 米瑞安•斯塔克
University of Hawai'i at Manoa 夏威夷大学马诺分校


Cambodia’s Khmers blended practical and cosmological considerations in their hydraulic projects for more than 1,400 years throughout the Lower Mekong Basin: in the city and in the countryside, in the temple and at home. The earliest documented Khmers, in the mid-first millennium CE, built villages along the edges of the Mekong Delta’s river and its tributaries to farm receding floodwaters. They surrounded their shrines with moats, dug ponds in every hamlet, and supplemented their riverine network with canals to connect communities and facilitate commerce. In the following centuries, Angkorian Khmers cultivated arable lands surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake, engineered drainage systems surrounding their capital to protect their city, filled vast reservoirs, and re-directed a river. The 9th-15th century CE Angkorian king was the mouthpiece of dharma who took his responsibility to his subjects seriously. Primary among these was the construction and maintenance of great reservoirs to buffer periods of water shortage, and the sponsorship of state temples to his ancestors, many of which were surrounded by grand moats.

Water sources were not only salubrious for Angkorian Khmers, whose annual cycle revolved around a largely unchanged monsoon rainy season and subsequent dry season. It was deeply sacred. They crafted their homes and ritual places around water to honor its centrality in their world. Khmer origins lie deep within oral traditions of the nāga serpent princess and her father’s water kingdom. Angkorian inscriptions record the king’s nightly liaison with the serpent princess, and every traditional Khmer wedding re-enacts the marriage of this princess to her groom today. Water sources were holy; consecration rituals employed water; and every monumental work of labor in the Angkorian world was linked to water.

This presentation examines a daily life of water in 9th – 15th century Greater Angkor: its cosmology, its structure, and its use in ritual and secular practices. Archaeological field investigations from 2010-2015 examined residential patterning in Angkorian temple enclosures, with a focus on 12th-13th century monuments of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. This work on residential patterning also provides a springboard for discussing broader issues concerning urban water in Angkor: its distribution, history, and implications for scale. Water shaped ritual as much as it shaped agricultural practice, and its study offers a lens through which to study the daily lives of Angkorian Khmers.


水资源对于吴哥高棉人不只有益更是非常神圣的:水资源的年度周期是以基本上稳定的季风雨季并接著旱季为主。他们使水圍繞自己的家园和礼仪场,以表彰其在世界的中心地位。高棉人的起源深深地结合了纳加蛇公主以及其父亲之水王国的口传传统。吴哥的铭文记录了国王与毒蛇公主的夜间联络,而当今每一次的传统高棉婚礼都是再次重现这位公主与她的新郎的婚姻。水资源是圣洁的:奉献仪式中运用到水; 而吴哥世界中每一项重大的劳动工作都与水有关。

这个报告检视了公元9至15世纪间大吴哥区域内水的日常生活:水的宇宙观、结构、以及它在仪式和世俗习俗中的运用。从2010至2015年的考古田野调查了吴哥窟寺庙的住宅格局,并特别专注于12至13世纪的吴哥窟和塔普伦纪念碑。 这个关于住宅模式的研究也为更为广泛地探讨吴哥城市用水提供了一个跳板,例如:它的分布、历史、以及其对规模的影响。 水对于仪式活动的影响就如同其对于农业实践的影响,因此通过对于水资源的研究能够提供一个視角来研究吴哥高棉人的日常生活。

Biographical Sketch

Miriam Stark is a Professor in the Anthropology program at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She has worked since 1996 on multiple collaborative research projects in Cambodia: first in the Mekong Delta through the Lower Mekong Archaeological Project, and since 2010 in the Siem Reap region through the Greater Angkor Project. Her interest in political economy has included research on settlement and early state formation, agrarian strategies, urban settlement patterns, and craft production. Some of her recent publications focus on Southeast Asian urbanism, Angkorian residential patterning, and the organization of Khmer stoneware production. Professor Stark recently completed service as the Associate Editor for Archaeology for American Anthropologist, as an Executive Committee member for the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (IPPA), and on multiple international heritage committees for the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).