Khmer Culture

Cambodian Arts

Traditional arts such as silk weaving, silverwork, sculpting, ceramics, murals, basketry, and kite-making have been practiced throughout Khmer history.

Stunning architecture and stone carving survive from the Angkorian period and a tradition of modern art began in the twentieth century. 

Many artists lost their lives during the genocide years in Cambodia resulting in the decline of traditional and modern arts.  Some nearly died out, but thanks to the great effort by the government, there has been a resurgence and the world is able to continue enjoying Khmer arts. Liturgical Smot songs can still be heard almost every evening. The National Museum hosts traditional Khmer plays and dance quite regularly.

Battambang, Cambodia’s second city, has developed a reputation as a hotbed for contemporary artists with several galleries displaying skillful and challenging works. It is also home to the famous circus school which has daily shows in Siem Reap and tours with international groups.

Traditional arts such as silverwork and silk-weaving have also seen a resurgence much to the delight of the many tourists that testify to the exceptional quality produced in Cambodia. There is a high demand for the Angkorian-style patterns and accuracy of Cambodian artisans. The Silk Island near Phnom Penh is home to many families who specialise in creating fine silk pieces.

When the Angkor temples started being restored, a new generation of stonemasons was created. Many now carve traditional or modern designs and some specialise in Buddha statues. Cambodian statues and stone work can be found in shops and yards all over the country.

Cambodian artists also make beautiful kites. Kite-making has a long history and it is most fortunate that this was revived in the 1990s. Cambodian Kite-makers cleverly attach a bow to the kites that vibrates in the wind making a musical sound. Many tourists take them home as gifts for loved ones.

The people from Koh Anlong Chen (Chinese Island) on the Tonle Sap Lake are renowned for their skill with silver and copper. It has been passed down through the generations and their decorative plates, bracelets and ornamental swords are popular items for Khmer weddings and often bought as tourist souvenirs.

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