Kampong Preah

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Kampong Preah refers to a broad architectural style, corresponding to the pre-Angkor, late Chenla period of the 8th-century. It succeeds the Prei Khmeng period of Jayavarman I and precedes the turn of the 9th-century Jayavarman II, Kulen-style. This was a confusing and apparently troubled period in Khmer history with considerable internal strife as well as external threats, and about which little concrete information is known. Temple sites continued to be commissioned however but the art style is correspondingly eclectic and somewhat vague.

Upgrades were made at Sambor Prei Kuk and construction continued at sites such as Prasat Ak Yum to the west of modern-day Siem Reap and the presumed site of the 8th-century capital, Aninditapura. Elsewhere various random and scattered sites (or renovations of existing ones) are associated with the Kampong Preah style including Prasat Phum Prasat (Kampong Thom) and Prasat Wat Prasat in Phnom Penh, while the lakeside temple of Prasat Kampong Preah, in today's Kampong Chhnang Province, gives its name to the style.

The state religion was Hinduism - either Shivaism or related to the half Vishnu, half Shiva deity Hariharalaya - and Cham and possible Srivijaya influences can be perceived. Temple construction was brick with stucco and sandstone lintels and colonettes - usually in the form of towers although pyramid-style, e.g. Ak Yum, developed during this era. Colonettes are rounded with circular decorations and the sculpture style is of a generally stylized, unelaborate nature.

Lintels are somewhat more confusing with 2 distinct styles commonly found, perhaps representing early and late periods or regional influences. Both are in decorative styles comprising of carved foliage and vegetation and generally lacking figures. The first - seemingly a development of Prei Khmeng style - is more rigid and features an upper foliage band separated by foliage medallions with 2 large leafy knots on either side and the lower section divided by vertical segments. The 2nd - probably later - is a simpler style with a central leafy band separating sprigs of foliage on either side. Figures are notably absent in both styles - whether deities or mythical beasts.


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